(This article was originally published in Worship Leader’s March/Apris 2016 issue. Subscribe today for more great articles like this one.)
Yesterday I watched an epic football game where both teams came into the game well prepared and well coached, and all of the players played their hearts out on every play; it was an exciting game to watch. And after the game was over, I noticed the players and coaches from the winning team talking more about team performance rather than individual performances, although there were several individual standouts for sure.
Winning teams develop cultures of mutual respect, communication, and sincere admiration for the skills and abilities of others on the team, allowing them to be successful on the field that day. Worship leaders, pastors, technical directors, and AVL techs, we too take the field each week, and we have the opportunity (responsibility) to create that same style of winning culture, yet, in my conversations with hundreds of churches, I don’t see this happening every time.
However you do it, whatever you call it within your culture, you should consider having one artistic team that is made up of both musical artists and technical artists. This can be a first step in creating a more unified culture where no one person or team might be viewed as more important than another.
Then, consider having everyone rehearse together (if you’re not already), so they understand what each other are doing, building relationship, and fostering trust. Practical benefits can be an FOH mix artist knowing when you plan to have the lead guitar take a solo so they are already on the fader when it begins, or a background vocalist can learn not to lower their microphone into the face of a stage monitor between choruses because it creates feedback.
This is really at the heart of the issue, I think. It’s the one area where, if we are not careful, our human condition can really show through, from either or both sides of the stage. It is difficult to operate in the heavenly realms when the musicians think the sound tech is a snarky introverted control freak, and the tech team views the band as a bunch of prima donnas.
A good starting point I think is to look at Philippians 2:3-4, which says:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Everyone needs to check their egos at the door and look at their role as one of servant. A musician and tech director friend of mine says it this way, “Aside from ‘doing your job,’ your highest priority is building a bridge between the stage and the tech booth. All parties serving and respecting each other is the ultimate goal here.”
Imagine how good it would be if during the tech rehearsal, after singing a song multiple times so the audio team could get all of the EQ, mix, and timing just right, the vocal team would call out a simple, “Are you guys good with that?” and not have it be with any sarcasm? Or if the audio engineer would actually walk onstage to the keyboardist and say “I’ve been working on your monitor mix, and I’m not sure if I can bring out the electric guitar any more without covering up what you are doing with your right hand. Do you have any suggestions?” Trust me, this is not Nirvana; I have actually seen it in action when you develop an attitude of mutual respect among your team members.
Leaders spend significant time each week seeking God’s direction for a service plan, and we have in our minds a “bulls-eye” that we are aiming towards for that worship experience. So doesn’t it make sense to spend time during the rehearsal sharing that vision with each participant? By communicating that down through the entire artistic team, we are making sure everyone is striving towards this same goal.
Communication timing is also critical. Placing music into the hands of the artistic team (music and tech) several weeks in advance can not only improve the end result, it also fosters respect because all parties are given the time and opportunity to do their best and can “fight” in a positive manner to achieve the best results possible because they understand the vision you have for their part of the worship experience.
This one takes a little time, generally. But you can move it along a bit faster by modeling this yourself in your interactions with other leaders and teams that you are part of and creating an environment for relationships to build in a positive way. It’s amazing how much confidence is built in a team when they start winning, and by openly sharing your passion and vision for the worship services you are laying the foundation for more openness and trust among your teams.
A number of years ago, my college chaplain (and one of my heroes) Reuben Welch, wrote a book called We Really Do Need Each Other, and that is so true in this particular instance. For if we fail to “get along” the impact can be huge for us as individuals, for our worship, and ultimately the Church.
Without each other, musicians would have no stage setup from which to lead and without musicians techs would have nothing to support. I suppose we’d be listening to an iPod through a very expensive PA. It’s a beautiful thing, though, when it is working as God intended, even if it’s a messy journey to get there.
Bob Smith is a Consultant with Portable Church Industries (portablechurch.com), a company focused on helping churches that are portable function more efficiently and effectively. He has also ministered as a Media Pastor and Worship Leader and is married to Marion and father to their musician son, Andrew.