Sometimes things can be going so well and then when something goes wrong. well…
At an earlier point in my life I was on staff at a large church that at the time held 5 services on a Sunday. Three in the morning and two at night.
Particularly in the morning we had huge traffic flow issues. If the first or second service went over in time by more than 5 minutes our parking lot would literally fall apart.
For that season our parking lot dictated a lot of our ministry, most notably the time element of ministry.
As I look back we did a number of good things to help minimize the problem, but it wasn’t until we expanded our sanctuary and parking area that we could really relax and not feel pressured to push people out right after the service was done. I am sure this took a toll on the amount and quality of fellowship that normally occurred before and after the service.
Note that traffic flow and parking does not just impact a large church, but a church of any size. How it is handled at every church leads to many perceptions that people form.
Why does parking and traffic flow matter?
When I visit different churches as I do 30 or so times a year, my first impression after seeing what the facility looks like is the parking lot and traffic lanes.
I usually have an immediate insight into a number of things about the church and its ministry based on what I see. If the parking lot is full, I begin looking for clues as to how to navigate to find a spot to park. If the lot is empty or sparsely filled I wonder if I am in the right place, or if the person that invited me inflated the number of people that attend on a given weekend.
Now I am going to make a bold statement.
Every church should have at least one parking attendant and yes they should be wearing a safety vest.
Why would I make such a statement?
Surveys say that the average church on a Sunday morning has 186 people in attendance. Additionally, 50 percent of church goers attend a church that falls in to the top 10 percent of churches based on size.
Another way of saying the previous statement is that ½ of all church goers attend a church that has attendance of 350 people or greater.
Using the figure of 2.5 people per car, that means that the average church has 75 cars in its parking lot on a Sunday morning. That translates into 75 times parking attendants can share a smile, a warm welcome as well as help and instruction every week. For the top 10 percent of churches where ½ of all church attenders go, that first impression number is obviously a lot larger.
What does a well-trained parking lot attendant (or as I like to say, “parking greeter”) do?
- 1. Depending on the size of the parking lot and number of parking greeters they are directing traffic. The goal is to keep traffic flowing, moving.
- 2. A parking greeter helps keep the lot picked up and clean of debris. As traffic flow usually becomes an issue just before or just following the service a parking greeter has sometime before the people start arriving to canvass the parking lot and grounds and pick up litter blown in or left behind.
- 3. Parking greeters provide a feeling of and actual safety and security. I recommend that a parking greeter or two should remain present in the parking lot the entire morning. This will ward off any opportunistic thief that might look for the easy score of the contents of an unlocked car. It also wards off vandalism attempts and mischief of any kind.
- 4. I believe that the most important reason that parking greeters are there is to do just that. Smile and greet people. What an opportunity to make a first great impression on a guest. Immediately upon arrival they are greeted and have connected with someone who can answer some basic questions that they may have.
Some additional things on parking and traffic flow.
If you are geographically located in the north, you should provide valet parking for those who need extra help and care during those months when the parking lot is covered in snow and ice. I know a church where the Elders and Deacons run the valet service. They view Valet parking as a way to connect and to keep watch on the elder community. If they do not see someone on Sunday morning an Elder will give them a call just to make sure they are doing okay.
I have been at churches that have the Disney style golf carts that pick up people at or near where they park. I have also been to churches who’s parking lot only holds a handful of cars so most parking must take place on the street.
I contend that no matter the size of your church, you need a ministry of active and vibrant parking greeters.
Take a new look at your facility and apply some creative design ideas to raise both the form and the function of your building.
What is good design and how does it impact your church facility?
We live in what I have heard Daniel Pink describe as the dawn of the conceptual age.
As we moved long ago from an agrarian society to an industrial society to an information society, we are now making the transition to a conceptual society.
Pink in his decade old book A whole new mind talks about this transition subtitling it Why right-brainers will rule the future.
As most know the brain is dived in to two hemispheres and in generalities the left side is our logical side with the right side being our creative side. Breaking this down a bit more, the left side thinking grasps details. Things like logic, sequence and analysis take place there. The right side takes care of our thinking related to the big picture it synthesis information, controls our emotions and gives us the big picture.
Pink outlines reasons for the rise of the right brain and its importance in the “conceptual age”. Part of what he argues is for the importance of design.
Design, at its core is our ability to create our environment in new ways that serve our needs and give meaning to our lives.
Paola Antionelli design curator at the New York Museum of Modern Art in her TED talk, Treat Design As Artstates that her view of heaven as satisfied curiosity. She has also been quoted regarding design, “good design is a renaissance attitude that combines technology, cognitive science, human need and beauty to produce something that the world did not know it was missing” I would add that good designers have the ability to synthesize current needs, issues and culture.
Good design will create something that never existed or it will have people interact and have a new behavior with it. BMW’s Chris Bangle states: “we don’t make cars, we make moving works of art that express drivers love of quality”. A car is not new, but Bangle sees design as providing a new way for people to interact and experience a car. Design dives into our emotional response to an object or what is around us.
The Tabernacle was a good example of God’s design and laid out in detail in the book of exodus. It provides us with some insight into design:
1) The tabernacle was first and foremost a very functional facility.
The tabernacle was designed to be used, each of the Tabernacle had materials used based on function and purpose. It also solved the problem of a holy God dwelling in the midst of a sinful people.
2) It displayed wealth and beauty.
The Tabernacle was a work of art.
It was inspiring and directed people’s thoughts and emotions to connect with God.
3) The building of it involved all of the people.
Designed for use by all people. It was also build by the very skilled craftsman who would worship there.
4) It reveals the character of God.
The excellence of the tabernacle, both in its materials and its workmanship, is a reflection of God.
5) While composed of various elements, it displays the unity of all, in design, function, and purpose.
The design was complete, it was a sum of parts that all came together to produce a hole that was greater than the sum.
Through the Tabernacle God reveals that design is not just about objects, art, function or beauty. It is about all of them with an emphasis on the behavior that these elements produced.
In today’s contemporary church I see a lot of emphasis on stage design.
Stage design being band layout, sets, projection or video elements and lighting. A large number of new churches that have been built in the last decade or are under construction are what I would call the black box sanctuary.
If you have been to a production at a black box theater you know exactly what I am referring to.
Black stage walls black ceiling black covering on the stage floor. Black box is great because you can create an infinite number of “looks” by using set pieces. A good set designer can take this “blank canvas” and turn it into whatever scene or look the designer desires.
For some churches stage design is visited every week and different elements are used to give a new or different look every Sunday.
Others do thematic stage design that is built around the current message series that is going on. Some do 4 sets a year, generally built around the four seasons in nature.
Not all churches are black boxes and thus have elements that already exist and need to either be covered or designed into the new look. www.churchstagedesignideas.com is a great place to get ideas and to learn about design techniques.
Design not only applies to the stage in the sanctuary it applies to the entire facility. From traffic flow in the parking lot, the signage that directs you into the building to the artwork on the walls. Design applies to almost every element.
The late Steve Jobs said “Design is not just what is looks like and feels like, design is how it works” I believe that good design also grabs our emotions and drives our behavior in how we interact with it.
Take a new look at your facility and apply some creative design ideas to raise both the form and the function of your building. After all, Design, at its core is our ability to create our environment in new ways that serve our needs and give meaning to our lives.
One of my favorite sayings: “Audio is an art that everyone thinks is a science, and audio is a science that everyone thinks is an art.”
There’s no doubt that delivering an accurate (not to mention good-sounding) mix without missed cues is the right blend of both art and science.
Knowing the science helps in setting up the mix and making sure that everything is routed properly and the right things plugged in to the right parts of the system.
Knowing the art helps to creatively bring all of the various sounds from the instruments and singers together to deliver a pleasing sound without any distractions.
Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Not so fast…
I love the title of the book written by audio’s beloved patriarchs, Don and Carolyn Davis, “If Bad Sound Were Fatal, Audio Would Be The Leading Cause Of Death.”
If that title were true, I would not be here writing this, and the unfortunate thing is that I would be dead from self-inflicted wounds! Over the years I’ve found that I can usually attribute the reason for the bad sound that I’ve mixed to one word: anticipation.
On the science side, anticipation means:
1) Being generally prepared, having the right tools, and being aware of what is going on at the event.
2) Check over the system to make sure everything is working.
3) Check all the inputs to make sure they are working and patched correctly.
4) Visually reviewing the board, making sure things are routed were they are supposed to be, the channel EQs are on and aren’t set too crazy, etc.
5) Having a backup emergency microphone on stage that everyone knows to go to if his/her particular mic fails.
And on the art side of things:
1) Thinking ahead, planning to boost the levels for solos.
2) Keeping my eyes on the stage to make sure mics are turned on ahead of people speaking.
3) Having my headphones handy so I can pfl channels to check anything, and quickly.
4) Being in tune with that is going on so I can react quickly to any changes that occur.
5) Having my cue sheet or order of service right next to me and then read ahead and mentally prepare for the next event on the sheet.
6) Listening to the worship songs ahead of time to hear what the original recordings sound like.
7) Knowing where the backup emergency mic is patched and being prepared to use it for any surprise events (unplanned testimony) or mic failures.
Obviously anticipation alone doesn’t guarantee a great mix – you still need to have the fundamentals down. But it does greatly increase the potential of having an error-free service or event.
So there you have it. The real art of audio, or, I mean the real science of audio, is… well, in both cases, it’s anticipation.
Who owns the church building? Maybe the better question is who paid for the church building? A pastor that I used to work for always loved to hear people refer to the church as “my church”. So rather than say “at Community church this is going on”, He liked to hear people say’ “at my church this is going on” For him it was affirming that people had taken ownership, it showed that a person closely identified with the church.
It really is great when people take ownership, they treat things better. After all isn’t that why we say, “treat it like your own” if you are using or borrowing something?
Ownership is great, but how can you foster it?
1.) Reminder Notes
In a classy way give people a call to action.
For example, you could put a nice looking table top in the bathroom that says, “As we all are the church, please help in keeping it clean. After you have wiped your hands please use that same paper towel to wipe down the counter.”
You could put similar cards in the kitchen and coffee areas. The key is to keep it a positive call to action. Avoid the shaming, nagging signs like “your mother doesn’t work here, clean up after yourself”.
When I was in college I had a cool opportunity to be in a group that met with a billionaire in our town.
We were walking downtown taking a tour of some of his properties. As we were walking, without missing a second of conversation, the billionaire bent down a picked up an empty cup sitting on the side walk. He then carried that cup to the next stop at one of his properties and threw it in the trash.
The rest of that day – all of us college students were picking up anything that was on the ground that even resembled trash.
He, the Billionaire – on many levels – set an example.
a) He was humble, not above the task of picking up garbage.
b) He showed he cared about what the city looked like.
c) He took ownership of keeping HIS city clean by picking up the cup and carrying it until he found a proper means of disposal..
People follow leaders. What kind of example are you as a leader setting for your congregation?
I am not a big fan of making a lot of announcements during a service, but occasionally it is good to give people a reminder of what, as a church, you think is important.
Again make sure you keep it positive and simple.
For example, “One of our core values is excellence unto the Lord, you can help us accomplish excellence in the presentation of our facility by making sure you pick up the cups and papers around you and dispose of them in the containers in the lobby. Doing this ensures that the next service can walk into a clean sanctuary just as you did this morning.”
What we value we generally make happen. If you value stewardship it would be good to remind people in your annual report about how we as a church must be a good steward of the facility that we have be given the privilege of caring for. Following the reminder, it would be a great time to ask people to volunteer to clean the parking lot, care for the landscaping, paint or do anything that needs to be done to help beautify the facility.
5.) Call to action
Most pastors are good at putting a call to action at the end of their sermon. It would be wise to also occasionally include a call to ownership.
It might be a call for people to represent their church in a positive manner by living a God honoring life. It might be a call to take ownership of the homeless problem in your city. It could be a specific call like caring for the facility that we as the church are all responsible for.
Once people take ownership, they take responsibility. Go and remind people who the church is and who the owners are.
Worship Leader Vs Tech Director. Who leads who?
At a Leadership seminar I attended, Bill Hybels was talking about what he calls his 360 Leadership idea.
In a nutshell, you lead down, lateral, up and you lead yourself. Hybels expanded on the lateral leadership part by talking about how, at many church seminars, big churches assume more self importance. They would come in and talk down to small churches, thus alienating them. The relationship is a lateral one and should be treated that way, it is Pastor to Pastor, Leader to Leader.
The Sunday morning relationship between musician and tech can sometime get a little, shall we say, heated.
I have been in sound checks and rehearsals where the tension in the air was so tight that it was palpable. When this happens, it is often the case where the worship leader has “taken control” and everybody must listen to him and follow him or else.
This dictatorship style leading can work well in crisis situations like fighting a fire or engaging in warfare combat, where there is no time or place for niceties or questions.
Sunday mornings should not be like this.
There is also the case where the sound tech is so rude and controlling that musicians will live with a terrible monitor mix, just because they are afraid the sound tech is going to fly off the handle and yell at them if they ask for a change.
Sunday mornings should not be like this.
What is needed is lateral leadership.
My interpretation of lateral leadership is where both the worship leader and the production team look to influence, help and serve each other.
For this to take place these 6 key things must be in place.
If there is not respect between the worship leader and production team someone must leave or radical change needs to take place for this relationship to work. I have been around too many ministries where there is the tech click and the musician click and they are both at constant odds with each other. They talk behind each other back, complain among themselves about the “other guys” and keep walls up so communication is stifled. For a team to function well and exhibit lateral leadership there has to be mutual respect.
2) Listen first.
Everybody has opinions and that is great, share your opinion, but as a rule not before the other person has shared their idea or opinion. When we are extremely excited about something it is hard not to blurt it out. It is also hard to really listen to the other person as you just want to spit out your idea. You need to listen, really listen to the other person before you speak. Really listening means that you are seeking to understand the person not just hear them
3) Extend trust/be vulnerable.
Give the other person the benefit out the doubt and be willing to share how you are feeling about things. Until you decide to trust the other person and to be vulnerable, chances are they will also not be vulnerable or trusting of you. Without trust there is no real relationship.
4) Create a safe space.
Be proactive about creating a space where opinions and ideas can openly be expressed. Never put down a person. Never dismiss their idea in a way that makes them embarrassed for bringing it up or belittled by your response to it. For the worship team and production team all ideas and opinions should be validated and encouraged.
5) Do not move on without consensus.
You might have to say something like, “George, I know you don’t necessarily agree with me on this, but can we move forward and can you do it with 100 percent effort? I know that it is not easy, and I appreciate you doing this for the sake of the team” Note, if the consensus required is always to get people to agree and jump in on your ideas, you are really operating under a dictatorship.
It may be guised as a collaborative group, but if you have conditioned everyone to be yes-men and women, or you are always convincing (manipulating) others to get your way, face it, you’re being a dictator. Maybe a nice one and a crafty one, but still a dictator.
6) Understand Each other.
Previously I have written articles on this. “What Techs really want from a worship leader?” and What does a worship leader really want from a sound Tech. I recommend that Techs and Musicians read both of them. In Stephen Covey’s book on The 7 Habits, Habit 5 states, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Learn what “the other” guys really want or need, before you push yours.
Lateral leadership really boils down to serving, supporting and encouraging each other.
This article probably should have been titled “The service between a worship leader and a tech director” instead of “Worship Leader Vs Tech Director, who leads?”
Why let one of the least expensive aspects of a system be its weakest link?
Operating the sound system from the mix position during a recent Sunday worship service, it all began when the first note from our grand piano was distorted. Hmm…
We’d checked the piano channel and sound prior to the service, and all was fine. My first reaction to the distortion being produced was to reduce the gain on that console channel, thinking perhaps the piano player was nailing the keys very hard. Yet the problem remained.
Next, I did a pre-fade listen (PFL) in my headphones – yes, it was definitely distortion on the piano channel, no question about it.
To capture sound from this grand piano, we use a magnetic pickup from Helpinstill Designs, which sends the original vibrations of the strings (the source of the piano’s sound) directly to the mixing console. (If you’re struggling to reproduce a full, natural piano sound, these pickups are definitely an option to consider.)
Anyway, my next thought was that someone had accidentally bumped the pickup so that it was hitting some of the strings. Oh well, nothing could be done until the service ended, so I just did my best to work around and minimize the problem. But a quick look immediately after the service showed that the pickup had not been disturbed.
“It’s been said many times but bears repeating: “Technology is best when it’s transparent.”
As I’m sure is the case with many of you, my life is quite hectic right now, packed beyond capacity with things to do. Most of them are worthy things that I want and/or need to do, but they keep me hopping.
In response, I’ve chosen a very simple motto: “Simplify.” I plan to live by this simple (pun intended) maxim through the end of the year—at least. Simply (pun intended again), simplify means removing some of the clutter from my daily life and the complications that go with it. Continue reading “Cut Down On The Noise—Simplify”
I am headed to a local Hotel/Convention center for a business gathering in about an hour. As I visualize what ballroom we will be meeting I also can almost smell what the room will smell like.
Now this really is reverse scent marketing. In scent marketing you would be somewhere and a comforting or familiar scent will cause you to have an emotional response. It’s like the friend of mine who told me that every time he smells pipe tobacco, he is carried back to great memories of sitting on his Grandpa’s front porch.
The hotel I am heading to has made a conscious effort to create a “brand” scent. This is designed so that the minute you walk into the doors of that hotel brand, anywhere in the world, you will recognize the smell and in theory, be comforted or welcomed by it.
Believe it or not scent marketing is big business. Retailers have discovered that to motivate customers they need to engage in multi-sensory marketing with scent being a very important ingredient.
In reality, the church has been one of the places where scent marketing has been used for years. In a lot of traditions incense is used. The most notable use is by the Catholic church. On a forum I was reading the following question was asked:
“I can be ten feet away from the doors of any Catholic church and all my life they have all had the same distinctive smell. There is nothing bad about the smell at all. In fact, it is the most comforting smell that I can think of. It is so universal that I don’t think it has anything to do with certain churches using incense at certain times, although I guess I could be wrong in that. Could it have something to do with the holy water at the entrances? Seriously. I have been to many different churches, some more orthodox than others, and this is the one and only consistent thing I notice. Does anyone else notice this or have an explanation?”
The most common answer in the forum was the Eucharist (the bread and wine). Whether it is that or the candles or the incense is not important to me. What is intriguing is that for the Catholic church this scent is almost universal, in the old and the modern churches.
Have you ever come back from vacation opened the door to you house and immediately recognized the smell? I remember the smell of the church I attended as a child. Every time I eat spaghetti I think back to that small church and how it always seemed that there was always a spaghetti dinner being served there.
What does your church smell like? Is it a pleasing aroma?
The church I currently attend grinds its own beans and brews the best smelling coffee around. On Sunday morning when I arrive I love being invited in by such a rich aroma. I have had the experience a couple of times where I met someone at a coffee shop and the smell of the brewing coffee brought me mentally back to church.
On one of those occasions, what also came to memory was the previous Sunday’s sermon. During the conversation with the person I wound some of what I had learned on Sunday into that conversation. Did the aroma help bring that information to front of mind? Personally, I believe the Holy spirit uses all sorts of clues, external (physical) and internal to trigger thoughts in us that lead to action.
I want to be very clear here, I am not advocating using scent for manipulation. In fact, studies show that if the scent doesn’t fit the experience it leads the brain to confusion. That study also pointed out that people can recall scents with 65 percent accuracy after a year. Whereas people can recall visuals with a 50 percent accuracy after 3 months.
So, a visitor will be able to recall the scent from your service far longer than the look of the building – including the super cool set with LED tape that you have on stage.
My closing thought is what should church smell like? Coffee, Spaghetti, the Eucharist? I suggest it should smell like you as a church want it to smell.
It really should be part of your DNA. Final note, if you church smells musty and old, or has a foul odor, find the problem and fix it. Then you may want to look into a scent delivery system.
A great mix is the sum of a whole lot of components in addition to pushing faders and twiddling knobs…
After mixing sound at worship services for more than three decades, and teaching dozens of others along the way, I’ve formulated these “10 steps to worship mix success” that have proven effective.
None of this is rocket surgery or brain science (or vice versa), but rather, a straightforward playbook that if followed will produce the results that you and other members of the tech team are seeking to deliver at every service.
And note that a lot of what I’ll be discussing is not about hands-on mixing. That’s because a great mix is the sum of a whole lot of components in addition to pushing faders and twiddling knobs.
Here we go…
1) Be prepared. Being prepared means “being all there,” ready to engage and do our best. Sound checks and rehearsals can be tedious, but they present us with the opportunity to get off to the right start.
For example, it’s a great time to make sure all tools and “stuff” are available and accessible, right down to the board tape to label the console. And if you know you’re going to get thirsty, have a bottle of water handy ahead of time. Continue reading “The Path To Worship Mix Success”