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Church Sound: Finding Technical Team Members While Learning & Growing

Anyone involved in tech support ministry needs to be F.A.T. -- Faithful, Available and Teachable... In that order.
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I am often ask variants on this single question. What characteristics do you look for in a potential member for your sound team?

Should you look for a frustrated musician? A rocket scientist? A computer geek? A telephone lineman?

Maybe, or maybe not. Attitude is usually more important that pre-existing aptitude.

In this article, we’ll first examine how to identify the proper individuals to serve in your technical support ministry. We’ll also show you how to train them to achieve technical excellence.

A Servant’s Heart

After serving on the production staff at churches for nearly ten years, I’m here to testify you that you never want to choose a person based solely on their technical knowledge. Instead, look for someone with a willing heart first. Then ask about their technical knowledge.

Why not look for technical knowledge first? While both are important, technical stuff is easy to teach over time. Finding someone with a servant’s heart can be more difficult. It’s part of their core personality.

It also illustrates their relationship with God and predicts their ultimate utility within your tech support staff.

Serving in a church ministry requires a boatload of grace and more patience than many people have left at the end of a busy week. In some churches, it means working with difficult people every weekend.

The worship team and tech support team depend on each other’s gifts to be at full muster at the downbeat of the service. The process is much like preparing a weekly meal for all your worshipers.

The worship team and tech support team need to be in unity before, during and after the service. Being on the same page, spiritually, is the key ingredient to this recipe.

Staying F.A.T.

One principle I’ve relied on over the years is that anyone involved in tech support ministry needs to be F.A.T.— faithful, available, and teachable, in that order. Once they’ve joined the tech support team, these people must also be faithful to be there when they’ve promised to be there.

Most of our lives are too busy. Many people over-schedule our arrivals and departures to the nanosecond. But as a wise friend of mine once suggested, the only way we can be somewhere on time is to arrive there early.

The volunteer should also make themselves as available as is practical. To say they’re committed to the success of the ministry, but then to only make themselves available for one monthly service doesn’t work well in most situations.

Only operating a console one time a month isn’t often enough to become proficient at it. Would you climb on that airplane next weekend if you knew that the pilot only flies once a month? Granted, I’ve never heard of anyone dying from a bad mix, but you get my point.

There is another side of this issue, however. I’ve seen some volunteers make themselves too available, to the point that their relationship with their family starts to suffer. If you get your priorities out of line, your work in that ministry will.

Profiles & Personalities

These days, it’s common to find people who work in, on, or around computers, volunteering to serve in the tech support ministry. Musicians who love all things electronic are another fertile source of tech support volunteers.

My friend, Blair McNair, worked on missiles while he was in the Navy. At some point he started volunteering in the sound team at his local church. Years later he became the Technical Director for Benny Hinn at Orlando Christian Center, and today designs sound systems for a living.

Most volunteers do something else for living. Your church may be blessed with a seasoned audio pro as the volunteer head of the sound team, but that’s not the norm. This is why any successful volunteers must be clearly, consistently teachable.

This means to say that in the likely event that a particular volunteer doesn’t make his/her living in pro audio, they need to make a committee effort to learn the craft so they can reliably deliver technical excellence in every worship service.

I’m unconvinced that there is any one type of personality to look for. That’s because I don’t think we need assume that every sound team volunteer must be able to drive the FOH mixing desk.

The individual who typically seeks involvement in a tech support ministry has a detail-oriented personality. These folks make lists for everything.

I have a detail-oriented personality. Knowing that the guitarist is going to take a solo on the third chorus isn’t enough. I want to know what kind of sound he’s going to use, and how loud he will play. I want to know if he’s going to start out soft and build to a loud ending.

I must know if he’s going to use his own effects, or if I should plan on adding some echo effects on my own. Notice that I’m the audio guy, so I really don’t care what he’s wearing that day ,­that’s for the lighting guy or the programming director to think about.

Musical Background

This is one debate that has gone on for years and years. Should the person who will be driving the FOH mixing desk be a trained musician? It’s easy for me to say yes, because I made my living as a player for twelve years, and I have a Bachelor of Music degree.

Clearly, someone who has experience as a player or a singer can be respected and accepted more readily by the players in the worship band simply because of the common bond and similar background.

I do know of very capable mixers who have no formal music background, just a love of the music. I think this decision has to be a very individual one. But I think we can agree that not everyone should be behind a console. Some can put together a great mix without even breaking a sweat. For others, it’s just not their gifting.

If the interest is there, however, the art of mixing can be learned. It’s not something they’ll grasp overnight, but time and practice and listening analytically are great teachers.

I’ve trained literally thousands of church music pastors, sound team volunteers and technical staff in my workshops. Of all of those people, I can only think of two individuals who just never seemed to get it.

Being a part of the church tech support team isn’t for everyone, but the majority of those who seem naturally drawn to the ministry seem capable of learning and managing the task.

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