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Church Sound Files: Training Audio Volunteers
It can take a year to learn to mix FOH, but it takes a lifetime to get good at it. Don’t rush the process, and have a plan.
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Use Milestones, Not Time
Everyone learns at their own pace, and it’s important to not force people into the next level if they’re not ready for it.

It’s also important to not hold people back. Some volunteers will pick this up really quickly and can move on to the next level sooner than others. Let them. Holding them back will frustrate them and you.

It’s important to have a series of milestones that can be agreed upon as points to move forward.

For example, when someone can set the entire stage by themselves, they can move on to basic training on the SD8. Some people will get that in a month. Others will take 6 months; either is OK.

I promise every prospective sound volunteer that I will stick with them as long as it takes. It’s important to be in this for the long haul.

Now, some people are just not going to get it, and we need to deal with that separately. And we may find that some will never get to full-fledged weekend FOH engineers.

But we’ll find people who can be great A2s or set up/tear down folks, and we’ll find people that can handle simple events, like our mid week service.

Don’t Train On Weekends
The weekend service is perhaps the worst time of all to train anyone.

There is a lot at stake, we have deadlines to hit and if anything goes wrong, it’s bad. Plus it’s really hard to stop and talk during the service.

I always prefer to train during the week. We spent a few thousand dollars pulling together the equipment we need to do a virtual soundcheck so I can train people whenever.

It sounds like a lot of money, but if you want well-trained audio volunteers, it’s worth it. Smaller churches can do this on a smaller scale, though it takes a little more work. I’ll work on a post covering that topic.

In our process, trainees will spend time behind the board with me getting to know it during the week. We’ll spend as much time as necessary for them to feel comfortable.

They can ask questions, twist knobs and move faders to their heart’s content without fear of consequence.

Remember, this is a tough position. As my friend Van says, “It can take a year to learn to mix FOH, but it takes a lifetime to get good at it.” Don’t rush the process, tempting as it may be. In the long-run, everyone will be better off.

Mike Sessler is the Technical Director at Coast Hills Community Church in Aliso Viejo, CA. He has been involved in live production for over 20 years and is the author of the blog, Church Tech Arts . He also hosts a weekly podcast called Church Tech Weekly on the TechArtsNetwork.


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