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Church Sound: When To Hire A Technical Arts Director

Are your volunteers stretched thin? Here's how to know when making that jump is a necessity.

By Mike Sessler May 21, 2019

Image courtesy of StockSnap

Many years ago I wrote an article on ChurchTechArts on which the following question was posed. I seem to get asked this question a lot and it’s a great way to lead into this article:

“How do you keep your volunteers sticking around? We are a large church approx 3000 members running 5 services and everything is volunteer run.”

“The engineer that runs the services that weekend is there for about 20 hours on the weekend, and the schedule has them running every other weekend.”

“At what point does a church hire a position to “lead” a technical group in scheduling and training?

Not surprisingly, I have some strong opinions on the topic. But before I share my thoughts, I have to admit a certain amount of confusion when this question comes up.

This article is provided by ChurchTechArts.

The question is often phrased similarly to the above question and I’ll translate what I think the question really is;

“We’re a good-sized church that places a high value on our production values. We want good sound, good lights and good presentation.”

“We’re not getting it however, because our volunteers don’t seem to have the skills or desire to learn or stick around. How can we fix this (without spending any money)?”

Often, the church in question is pretty well endowed technically. I’ve talked to one church that has a PM5D, a big Strand lighting console and some high-end video gear, yet no staff dedicated to technical leadership.

And yet, for some reason, the volunteers either don’t really know what they’re doing or burn out and quit.

Pardon the touch of sarcasm…

Here’s where my confusion comes in. Does this church rely strictly on volunteers for their kids ministry department? Nope. Youth ministry? Nope. Adult ministry? Nope.

Do they have a full-time worship leader/music director/worship pastor? Yup.

Why? Because these are important ministries that require the attention of a staff member to keep on track. And yet, I find church after church expecting great things from their technical volunteers without providing them any leadership.

The results are predictable. They don’t show up when scheduled. They get tired. They don’t do a good job. Or, worst of all, they quit.

Now, keep in mind, this is not a ding on volunteers. The ones I know are dedicated, and really want to do a good job.

Just as you would never send an infantry unit into battle without someone in charge to say, “Here’s our objective and here’s how were going to achieve it,” you can’t tell a volunteer, who already has a full-time job, that you expect full-time performance out of them.

Well, you can, but you’ll be disappointed in the results.

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About Mike

Mike Sessler
Mike Sessler

Maker of Magic for Velocity Pro Systems
Mike has been involved with church sound and live production for more than 25 years, and is the author of the Church Tech Arts blog. Based in Nashville, he serves as the Maker of Magic for Velocity Pro Systems, which provides design-build production solutions for churches and other facilities.


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TAD Dave says

You raise some excellent points, Mike! Permit me to share an additional perspective:

Stipulations: I happen to be a Christian and my experiences involve that Faith. The following are comments based upon "Job Interviews" for full-time Technical Arts Director positions at Houses of Worship who have acknowledged the need for such a role.

Scenario 1: A rather loosely written job description, heavy on Evangelism. Phone interview after exchanging qualifying emails with the Minister to which this position reports. Technically-related questions asked and answered. Then came the personal and religious questions that most Employers in the U.S. are not permitted to ask (I acknowledge it comes with the territory). In closing, the Minister asks if he can pray for me, to which I respond; "Absolutely.". In hindsight, that is apparently not a good sign...

Scenario 2: A really well written job description, heavy on Technical Details. Phone interview after exchanging qualifying emails with someone in their HR Department. ZERO Technical questions. Interviewer kept prodding me to "testify" about my Faith. I politely told her I am not comfortable doing that, given the Church background in which I was raised, that I prefer to lead by example and have standing offers to return to any of the HOWs I have served in the past. Got the impression some "rock bottom to salvation" story (genuine or fabricated) was required to make the next round.

In summary, yes, HOWs need to acknowledge this pivotal role, but also must decide whether they're seeking another Minister or someone who can be an effective TAD. Can someone be both? I'm sure a rare few exist. And, certainly, all Staff should project an appropriate image as representatives of that Congregation. But, once the Technical need is recognized, Proficiency and Leadership should be the driver, IMHO.

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