(This article was originally published in Worship Leader’s Jan/Feb 2016 issue. To get more articles like this one, subscribe today!)
One of the most memorable moments of my career (not a good memory) was the time I forgot to mute the input channels of the band as we went into prayer. Sure enough, the acoustic guitar player figured that the prayer, which was to be followed by announcements, gave him enough time to go backstage and refill his coffee. Yep, you guessed it. As the pastor uttered the words, “Holy Father we come to you today …” a huge bang rang out over the sound system, and it felt like maybe the Lord was about to show up in a thunder. Of course it was the acoustic player unplugging his guitar. Since that incident, I have never forgotten to mute the band at prayer time.
Prayer from the platform is something that happens at almost every event that takes place at a church, and rightly so! The act of prayer is instrumental in a worship service. Therefore, as a sound tech it is your responsibility to ensure that it takes place in the most-effective manner and, most importantly, without distractions.
With prayer’s importance in mind, let’s look at 5 specific things that you can do to facilitate prayer.
- Plan Ahead
This goes for every aspect of a worship service but is worth mention here because the transition in and out of prayer time sets the tone and feeling. Prayer is a chance to look ahead and see what is coming up and mentally plan out your next moves. Think what channels do I need to turn on, what level should they be at and, in this age of digital mixing boards, what layer are the inputs on and how am I going to get there?
- Pay Attention
Transitions tend to be the area where the most notable issues (mistakes) happen, so it is critical to think ahead and make sure you are doing everything you can to make transitions smooth. A pet peeve of mine is when the pastor gets up and the mic is not turned on, or when the mic is too loud or too soft as he begins speaking (or worse yet there is feedback). It is your job to pay attention and look ahead. A good sound tech always does a sound check with the band. A great sound tech always does a soundcheck with everybody involved in the service.
- Find Proper Volume
Finding the proper volume during a prayer can actually be challenging. Too loud and you feel like you are being yelled at, and it also feels impersonal. Too soft and you find yourself straining to hear what is being said. I like to say keep it at normal conversational level—it should feel “right.” A note here on volume: one of the most annoying things during prayer is background noise. HVAC can be a huge issue. If you are hearing lots of fan noise or rumbling or if you can hear the kids ministry down the hall, find a way to correct it or mitigate it. You could play music underneath the prayer.
- Use Program Material (background music) When Appropriate
As mentioned above, background music, either live or recorded can help mask other background noise. It also can enhance the prayer adding some additional emotional content. The key here is finding appropriate music. (No, AC/DC is not a good choice. Ever.) A soft quiet organ or piano patch played live or recorded is usually the best and safest route to go. Remember it is a music bed, meant to go underneath the prayer.
Yes, pray. Participate. God wants to talk to us and for us to talk to him. Take part. Share a private moment with him. Let him know what is on your heart, what is troubling you, and what you are thankful for. Commune with him.
I know that you are thinking, okay how am I supposed to participate when I have to look ahead, concentrate on what is going on, and make sure the worship team is happy and not jumping up and down trying to get my attention. Relax! First off, if you plan ahead and are truly prepared, the needs of others (the worship team) should already be taken care of. Yes, there are emergencies and sometimes just plain drama that require you to acknowledge others. For that reason, I always pray with my eyes open and thank God that he gave me the ability to multitask. You can engage in prayer, watch the stage, think ahead, and make necessary adjustments at the same time.
You have a job to do during a service. Prayer is for the congregation, but it also for you, the worship team, the ushers, greeters, and staff—it is for everyone. So join in. Make sure you take this time to engage with what is going on in the service; it will help you personally as well as the entire congregation. Remember, the more in-tune you are with what is going on the better your mix and performance will be.
It’s a cliché but oh so true. Prayer is powerful! Make sure you do your part to facilitate it.
Gary Zandstra is a partner in nemosyn.com, inventor of the one-touch virtual soundcheck 32 channel digital recorder. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.