Live production has the potential to be incredibly complex. Just look at any of the stadium tours that are currently out and you’ll find intricately choreographed lighting, automated rigging, LED video walls, media servers, and ProTools rigs playing back a dozen backing tracks. Teams of seasoned pros keep all this equipment up and running in sync night after night. Often, the result is an amazing and exciting show that thrills audiences. As technical artists in the Church, we are called, not to produce the most technically amazing services, but to point people to our Almighty God through worship and teaching. We still desire quality, but for a different reason and with a different goal.
At my church, like most, I rely on the skills and passions of volunteers to execute our services. These are people who invest their time and energy to build into the Kingdom. They are doctors, salesmen, I.T. professionals, but they are not production professionals. So how do I as their leader set them up to succeed at executing great worship services? Maybe you are on staff at a church and want to empower your volunteers. Maybe you’re a volunteer tech leader who wants to help your team grow in confidence and consistency. The answer may not lie in more gear or better gear or different volunteers. I’ve discovered that it’s much simpler than that. Since I came on staff at my current church, we’ve been making our production positions and processes simpler.
Simpler? Yes, simpler. There was a time when late lyrics, missed audio cues, clunky lighting changes, and missing video clips were common. Dedicated volunteers showed up week after week to fill positions and week after week there were issues. What was the problem? Systems and processes were too complex. One person managing too many details results in frustration and mistakes. So in order to take the quality of our services to the next level, we didn’t need to do more tech or add more gear. Instead, we had to do the opposite.
First, we simply eliminated some processes. If something was not clearly contributing to our goal we just stopped doing it. Second, we streamlined processes. Does the computer graphics operator need two computers, or can we streamline that position down to just one machine? Does the video director need to be responsible for video content playback or can he be freed up to just focus on directing? Third, we divided some positions into two separate positions, allowing each person to focus their attention more specifically on the task.
The same approach applies to actually operating in various technical positions. I would rather have a lighting operator who programs a handful of well-timed cues and can hit transitions with precision than one who programs twenty cues per song and then gets lost halfway through. I would rather have an audio engineer who has the right microphones on at the right times than one who is so busy adjusting the acoustic guitar reverb that he doesn’t notice the pastor taking the stage.
Once I began to implement this concept and communicate these values, a different pattern began to emerge. Videos played at the right times, mics were on when needed, lighting transitions were seamless. Volunteers who had been serving in the same positions for years expressed how they’ve never had so much fun serving. The stress was off, the objectives clear, the task attainable. Success boosted confidence, which in turn generated more success. By simplifying, we actually enabled our team to accomplish more than ever before. As technical leaders in the Church, whether we’re paid staff or “volunteer staff”, part of our role is to help our volunteers succeed in this ministry. And when that happens, our entire body of believers reaps the benefits.
What are ways you’ve found to help volunteer teams succeed? Join the conversation.