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Shutting Down The Self-Destruct Sequence That Can Plague Church Techs

Confronting the problems and solutions that accompany overworked, over-stressed tech team members.

By M. Erik Matlock September 3, 2019

There’s is not a nerd known to humanity with a deeper sense of responsibility than the sound and production crews within houses of worship. However, along with that noble character trait, there lies an equally significant flaw: We don’t know how to rest.

We laugh about it like there’s a prize for whoever sleeps the least or stands behind the board the most Sundays in a row. Sometimes our rest is traded for a bit of delusional pride. But none of us would ever fall for that, right?

For a group of people who have essentially built careers around people of faith, we often become intertwined with the most critical hours of their social engagement every week. We want to rise to the level of expectation and beyond, but we have to set a realistic pace that we can run for years – or it goes downhill quickly. Do you know anyone who’s ever burned out? It’s not socially endearing. We have to take time to rest.

Down time doesn’t make appointments with us so we have to schedule it. (Write that down.) If you’ve created some life-consuming monster out of a position where plates are spinning as far as the eye can see, your best bet is to develop some recruiting and delegation skills.

If you’re trudging the same hamster trails, carrying more and more weight each year, you’re digging a rut. Keep it up and it could get too deep to escape. Then it’s a grave. What do you want on your tombstone?

Pedal To The Metal

At one point in my life, while employed at one of the three churches on my resume, I realized I had been clocking 80 or more hours each week for almost three months. We’d been preparing for a major facility upgrade and several large projects fell directly into my lap.

During a push to prepare for an international conference we were hosting for the first time, we painted everything in multiple buildings, replaced almost all the carpet on the property, upgraded the sound system in each building and added a multi-camera video recording system including the lighting rig from hell. All done in less than three months, with a dozen or so volunteers and me.

My position encompassed managing the property itself as well as production crews and systems, all under the formal title of media director. Basically, anything involving sound or maintenance required me to be on the property. Yeah, I should have seen it coming.

During this season, I became one of only two known male members of the church to ever sleep in the ladies lounge. The lighting came in late and without all the hardware for installation, literally the day before the conference. A friend stepped up and we worked through the night to get the lights installed and operational. The sound of the front doors unlocking for the Sunday morning service woke us up.

I freelanced during most of those years, so I would sometimes spend two or three weeks each month on the road. Out there it was a lot of noise, driving and slinging boxes. At home, it was long hours at the church and strained relationships. And it wasn’t getting better.

I was convinced I could manage the enormous web of responsibility I was rolled up in but the spider of inevitability was already closing in. I hadn’t slowed down and the good stuff in life was blowing past me in a blur of missed opportunities.

The Tipping Point

After working a long run in Fresno with overlapping Prison Fellowship events and a Billy Graham crusade, I came home utterly exhausted. I still remember the moment I touched the front door of the church on my first day back. The stress and pressure overwhelmed me and I went down. My knees buckled and I was on the ground before I knew it.

It wasn’t a heart attack but it was the first of a series of anxiety attacks that arrived randomly over several years. I ended up on antidepressants and medication for hypertension. Not long after I was presented divorce papers. It wasn’t my best season.

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About M. Erik

M. Erik Matlock
M. Erik Matlock

Senior Editor, ProSoundWeb
Erik worked in a wide range of roles in pro audio for more than 20 years in a dynamic career that encompasses system design and engineering in the live, install and recording markets. He also spent a number of years as a church production staff member and Media Director, and as an author for several leading industry publications before joining the PSW team.


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Isaac says

Ironically, the first year of being on staff at my church as an audio tech, I had a relapse in my addiction which I had complete recovery from. It was for much these same types of reasons. I went to a WFX conference that year and they taught on this and have been working on getting this balance right ever since. I think doing it pretty well now. Left today at 4:40 pm. Have down time right now to read this article. Just came back from a family campout. I'd definitely recommend this advice!

Jos says

Hi Erik,
This one I can totally relate to. Our sanctuary accommodated Atleast 7k congregants every Sunday for 3 services from 6.30am to 2.00pm and an evening service from 4.30-6pm. The leadership required me to be present by all means, it was really exhausting. Signs of burn out and depression set in, I had to find solace at a prayer centre outside the city. This move caused a lot of reaction in the leadership and through the HR I was referred to a counsellor with the hope of finding out the problem. I poured my heart out and honestly at this point in time I just wanted out. 2 months later I was terminated. It's been 5 months of tech struggle since I left, reason being the people I left behind pretended to know how things are run and were Infact the biggest acts in my dismissal. I'm thankful to God today that my heart found peace and I am able to rest as much as I can. Techs need to know when things are getting beyond control before its too late. Lookout for the signs. I hope this article will open the eyes of more techies.
Kenyan Tech

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