Over the years I’ve worked with churches, the problems I find often have foundation in basic communication, organization and administrative skills—or more precisely, the lack thereof.
My primary field of interest and experience is with the technical side of ministry, so the discussion here will reflect that. However, I offer that many of these same approaches and ideas can be applied to many areas of a ministry.
Quite often I visit with a church where there are numerous complaints about a lack of consistently in the technical area, and the explanation goes something like: “When Jim is here everything works, but when he is not it is a disaster.”
I know at that point that while Jim may be a great operator and may understand the system very well, he’s most likely not a good delegator, administrator or teacher. When a church is suffering from the “Jim’s the man” syndrome, I can almost guarantee that the mixing board/patching is either not labeled, labeled incorrectly or just poorly labeled. The poor folks who are mixing on the weeks Jim is not there end up scrambling just to get things properly connected and working.
Also, because they’re volunteers and “Jim the man” is the golden boy in the eyes of the Worship Leader, people are afraid to step in and to try to organize and logically lay out the board.
Other things that end up happening usually relate back to clear organization, things like:
• Batteries failing in the middle of the service because everybody thought someone else had changed them.
• Trying four mic cables until you find one that works, because nobody throws out or labels the bad cables.
• The last minute scramble to find a mic (or stand, or direct box) that is missing because somebody used it during the week in another room at the church.
• Nobody shows up to mix on a Sunday morning. Bob traded with Steve who traded with George and now nobody really knows who on for the next month.
• The sound person “on” for a given week shows up “late” because “Jim the man” never told him/her the Worship Leader was bringing in a mini-orchestra of 10 players, along with six vocalists. The poor sound person was actually on-time for a typical Sunday, but did now know an extra hour or so was needed for additional setup.
I’m sure you can add your own list of frustrations but rather than moan over them, let’s look at how to prevent them.
1) Get together as a group and agree to a consistent layout of the mixing board and create a channel/patch list that sits next to the board. Also, commit to each other that if for some reason you need to deviate from the standard layout, immediately following the service you will reset the boars to the standard layout.
2) Make a rule that first thing every Sunday new batteries go in the wireless mics. This takes the guess work out of the equation and also lets you use the mics during the week without wondering when the batteries will die. Wireless mics usually last up to 10 hours on a fresh set of batteries. To be precise, check the specs of your system, and then simply do the math.
3) Throw away bad cables. I know that this is not eco-friendly and everyone likes to occasionally get out the soldering iron. However, my experience shows that either the repair never happens and the cable accidentally gets placed back with the good ones, or a repair ends up being poorly done.
4) Organize mics, cables and all accessories and put a sign out sheet that details who took the item and to what room they took it to. This way everyone will know where that missing equipment should be located.
5) Hand out or post online a schedule for six months of who is “on” every Sunday. In the sound booth (or online), keep a master schedule with this rule: “if your name is on for that day, you’d better be there.” This doesn’t mean that dates can’t be traded; rather, if dates are traded, this should be immediately noted on the master schedule.
6) Put the burden on the Worship Leader to communicate—ahead of time—with the actual person that is on for that Sunday. A simple email with a stage layout and instrument list will provide the information needed to plan for special needs and configurations, as well as the time to do them right.
These may sound like simple suggestions, but may churches are simply negligent in these fairly basic tasks. If there is a no leader of the crew, volunteer to be the coordinator, or facilitator that will facilitate the items above. If there is a clear leader, offer to help them with the organization. In a respectful manner, of course