Technology in Worship: Speaking Up
by Rory Noland
In an issue devoted to technology in worship, first order of business for this column is to thank, on behalf of worship leaders everywhere, those of you who lead and serve on church tech teams—those who set up and tear down staging, maintain equipment, mix sound, aim and run lights, operate cameras, create videos, run lyrics, direct, etc. I shudder to think where church worship would be without you. You typically are the first ones to arrive and the last ones to leave long after services are over. You work behind the scenes and get noticed only when a glitch occurs. Yet, you faithfully serve. We don’t say it enough: thanks for your tireless efforts and for all your hard work!
Another thing I’ve come to appreciate is how difficult the technical jobs are for both leaders and volunteers. If I had any advice for the men and women who serve in the technical arts, it could be summed up in two words: speak up. Speak up about what you need to do your job. Speak up when you require more information concerning the technical needs of a service.
Worship leaders tend to take it for granted that everyone can read our minds. We’re not great at communicating every little detail about the service. Yet, that’s exactly what our technical teams need. It’s not acceptable for a sound engineer to find out during soundcheck that another mic is needed or that an additional instrument is being added. Last minute requests or changes like that send the sound team scrambling to adjust, putting them behind schedule. The situation gets even more stressful if a piece of gear decides to malfunction before the service starts, which happens, as we all know, far too often.
Technical artists, if your church uses a program like Planning Center, kindly request your leaders to populate each field with the specific information you need. Whether it’s who’s singing lead, who’s standing where on stage, or when the guitar solo occurs—you know what you need, so don’t be shy; simply and politely ask. Better yet, meet face to face and talk about such details. I’m surprised that more worship arts ministries don’t include a weekly tech meeting as part of their process, during which worship leaders and tech leaders talk through the entire service from a technical perspective. If you find your services getting increasingly complicated and you need more information than what Planning Center provides, it may be time to schedule a weekly tech meeting.
Speak up about how much time you need to do what you do
In my experience, the tech team tends to be shortchanged when it comes to rehearsal time. If you need more time, kindly ask. Some years ago, when I began serving as Pastor of Worship at Harvest Bible Chapel, we didn’t have a regular run-through for weekend services. Every Saturday afternoon, we did a 10-minute soundcheck, the band rehearsed, and then we opened the doors for the 5:00 service. The Saturday night service was more or less a dress rehearsal for Sunday morning, which was not only unfair to our tech team, but also to our Saturday night attendees. After conferring with our tech director, we backed up our timeline, lengthened soundcheck, and added a complete run-through as part of our pre-service routine, including announcements, all speaking parts, and prayers. I also explained to our musicians the reason for the change—that our tech team, on whom we depend to make us sound good, needs more time to adequately do just that. What we discovered is that, because of the run-through, our tech team went into that first service better prepared and less stressed. Our musicians also appreciated the extra rehearsal time as well. The run-through also enabled us to experience and evaluate that week’s worship set before doing it. Sometimes what we had planned (and what looked so good on paper) didn’t work as well live as we had hoped. Thanks to the run-through, we were able to make adjustments before the service started (instead of waiting until Sunday to make the necessary changes).
One reason I advocate speaking up for yourself is that the alternative isn’t pretty. Over the years, I’ve seen numerous tech leaders suppress their frustrations and eventually end up angry, bitter, and resentful. Some quit the ministry. Even if you don’t receive everything you request, if you speak up at least you know you’ve been heard.
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Rory Noland is the director of Heart of the Artist Ministries, an organization dedicated to serving artists in the church. He mentors worship leaders, speaks at churches, workshops, and conferences, leads retreats for artists, and consults with churches in the areas of worship and the arts. Rory is also a published songwriter and has authored four books, all published by Zondervan.