Practice for Sound Techs: 3 Best Multitrack Recorders for Church

How does your audio person rehearse? Can a sound tech practice their craft? The answer is yes, and here are several of the best options in today’s digital multi-track recorders.

How does your sound tech practice?

Your vocalists practice, your guitar player practices, your drummer well… he may practice, but how does your sound guy or lady, practice?

Assuming that you have a 5-piece band – there are at least 15 hours of practice that the entire band has put in.  This is assuming a 2-hour band rehearsal and that each musician practiced 1 hour on their own during the week.

I believe that is an extremely conservative estimate. Those 15+ hours can be wasted by a bad mix during the worship service.

So how does your sound guy practice?

Some would argue that in the above scenario, the sound guy did get in 2 hourw of practice with the band.

But really was it practice?

Sure, the sound guy was able to mess with the faders, play with some eq, maybe dial in a little compression.

More than likely, this was mixed with taking care of the band’s needs.  It was also pretty fragmented.  He could have been in the middle of trying to set the gate on the kick drum and the band stops.

A friend of mine jokingly refers to the stop button.  You are right in the middle of dialing in something and the band stops and leaves your hanging.  So, what is the solution?

Enter Virtual sound check.

Record, Practice, Perfect your mix.

Today most digital boards have a multitrack digital out.  The most common form is USB.

With inexpensive, or free software, you can record 32 or more tracks of live audio to a computer.  Waves Tracks Live, for example, offers a free version that is fully functional (you can pay $99 and get phone support and priority updates).

Once you have recorded the band, then you can flip the inputs on your console to digital in and playback the multi-track recording.

It is just like the band is there live.

Now you can take your time, mute everything but the kick drum, and really hear the changes that your compression settings are making on that input.

You can also replay a section as many times as you would like and listen to how it sounds as you change your settings.  You can do this with all of the channels.

You can turn everything back on and play with your overall mix.

No more having the musicians wait around or play individually as you tweak the sound.

There are also devices on the market that are stand alone, purpose-built.  They do not need a computer to operate and you do not have to mess with any software. The advantage of a stand-alone device is that you have little to no set up and no computer to lug around.

There are many multitrack recorders that can do a virtual sound check.

The following are three of the best fit units for the worship market:

  • JoeCo has Blackbox
  • Cymatic has Utrack 32
  • NemoSyn has Ndrive

JoeCo blackbox comes in 3 flavors, Analog, Madi and Dante. 
You hook up a hard drive to the usb on the blackbox and you can record full uncompressed wav files. Physically a single rack mount unit, the Black box is geared towards the professional user and requires an interface if you only have usb out on your console.

Being rack mounted It is the most “pro version” and is great if you are on tour and want to capture audio from the show.  Your recording length in limited by the hard drive size that you connect to it.  Cost for the Madi version $3995,00 plus hard drive http://www.joeco.co.uk/BBR_models.html

The Utrack 32 by Cymatic is a purpose built card that fits in to the popular Behringer X32 digital mixing console. 
Once inserted in to the board you simply hook up a usb hard drive, download the app, connect the Ethernet port on the card to a wireless network and then you the app to control the recording and playback of your files. Cost $499.00 plus hard drive http://cymaticaudio.com/products/recorders-players/utrack-x32

Nemosyn has the Ndrive a portable usb recorded that can connect to any mixer that has a usb multitrack out. 
(Behringer, Yamaha, Soundcraft, Allen and heath and others have mixers with usb connectivity for multi-track).  There is a large record button, a large play button and a touch screen to control playback and recording.  The unit records to an onboard SD- card.  Nemosyn ships the Ndrive with a 64 gig SD card.  Cost $599.00 (includes everything needed) www.nemosyn.com

Virtual sound check is the by far the best tool a sound guy can have to hone his craft.  One of the really beautiful things is that now the sound guy and worship leader can sit together and work on the mix together.

It is well worth the investment; with practice you can perfect your mix!

 

 

Sound System Upgrade From Good Enough To Great

Why do so many churches talk about middle of the road when it comes to system upgrades?

Why do so many churches talk about middle of the road when it comes to system upgrades?

I’d like to share two experiences, unrelated on the surface, that really got me thinking.

The first happened at a church that was talking with me about upgrading their sound system.

If you’ve ever been through the process of updating a system, be it sound, lighting or video, you know it’s a chore—or actually, a set of chores.
There’s the pursuit of determining what’s needed, soliciting proposals, selecting a proposal, getting the church/committee to sign off on it, overseeing the install of the new components, and then figuring out how to operate them.

I could talk at length about any one of the steps, but based on my recent experience, let’s start with a question (actually two): Why upgrade, and what are the expectations?

My meeting was with the head sound tech (volunteer) and the worship leader. We were primarily focused on switching to a new digital console and main loudspeakers. The existing stuff is almost twenty-years-old, still works fine and sounds pretty good (twenty years ago it would have been considered a near-premium system), but it is showing increasing signs of age.

As we talked the sound tech made a statement that I hear way too often. Paraphrasing it, he said, “We’re not looking for something excellent, or top of the line, but more middle of the road.”

Every time I encounter statements along these lines, I want to reply, “Sorry, I’m not the guy for you. Please see one of my competitors because they have the whole ‘doesn’t suck too bad’ thing nailed down.”

Of course, what I really say is “Well, let’s see what we can come up with” and then I start questioning them about their goals and needs, working to steer them to the best solution for the budget they have available. And if they don’t have a budget, I gently push them to establish a reasonable one.

My question: Why do so many churches talk about middle of the road?

My own experiences, both as a church member and as an A/V pro, have shown me that most/all churches striving for excellence are growing, while the ones doing the “mediocrity thing” are stagnant or shrinking.

The specific church I’m discussing here did its upgrade 20 years ago in an excellent fashion. They invested in the best they could afford at the time. (I remember it because I was involved with the project.) The minister of music (as we referred to them in those days) solicited a couple of proposals. It was a growing church, the place was pretty full, and he laid out the system needs while stressing that he wanted top quality. “I want these speakers to be hanging here 20 years from now,” he said, prophetically.

My proposal sought to meet his challenge. My competitor tried to go the middle of the road route. Of course, the minister of music did not want to settle for that.

A couple of years after we did the install, he said to me. “I never thought we’d get to use your company because you’re known as the provider of ‘Cadillac’ systems, but it turned out that you were less the 15 percent more than your competitor—and we knew with you that we would get something that would serve us well and stand the test of time.”

With that context and memory in mind, I move to my second more recent experience, where I was working front of house at a seminar at a mid-sized church. It was a very simple event, a headset mic and a handheld mic. Doing EQ on a mid-level console (only one band of sweepable EQ), I listened closely to how the system sounded. It was “just OK,” and there really wasn’t anything else I could do to make it better.

During the event, a church member who serves on the sound team stopped in to pick something up, and in passing he said, “Keep your hand on the fader—every once in a while the system just doubles in volume for no real reason, and if you don’t catch it the feedback is painful.”

Nice!

So now as I paid much more attention to the board, keeping my finger on the fader, I also began mentally adding up the cost of the system.

My conclusion was that for maybe 10 percent or so more investment, the church could have purchased far better equipment. Sound quality would be higher, and more than likely, they wouldn’t be having issues just five years after the installation.

It really does seem that with most things in life, it’s that extra 10 percent that takes things from good to great.

Something we all need to keep in mind when we’re thinking about system upgrades, because it can very much pay off in the long run.

What Does Your Church Facility Have To Do With Attendance?

The simple answer is nothing and everything.

I am sure you have seen massive churches that have very low attendance, relative to their size.  I am also sure you have seen a small church bursting at the seams with people.  As with most things in life, shall we say, the answer is also complicated.

Holy Spirit-filled ministry in any building brings growth, but I also believe that great Spirit-filled ministry results in great things that permeate throughout the entire ministry, including the facility.

So what can you do with your facility to help encourage attendance?

1.)  People come to church for an experience.

This experience is both spiritual and social.

I worked with a church who had an amazing piece of local artwork that you encountered as you walked in the front door.  It was a beautiful representation of Christ made with tiny pieces of colored glass.

It was such a thing of beauty that it caused you to pause and take it in.  It also became a great discussion starter for anyone new to the church. As they would see the art piece and stop to gaze at, a well-positioned greeter would chime in at the right time say how beautiful it was and how it was done by a local artist.

For those that attend or visit this church they have an experience that immediately points them to Christ and at the same time offers an opportunity for social engagement.  What in your facility brings a social or spiritual experience?

2.) People come to connect and fellowship.

One of my favorite things to do before a worship service starts is to hang out in the lobby and just observe what happens out there.  It’s great to watch old friends connect, to see people hug those who are hurting and to watch the joy the expressed and people connect.  ‘

Do you have a place that allows this connection to happen?  Do you encourage it by placing appropriate furniture and fixtures around to serve as anchors for people to connect?

3.) People come to find meaning.

One of the reason people come to church is to make sense out of this crazy life.  As mentioned above artwork can be a great way to for people to see things in a different way.  Sometimes art can be that catalyst that helps one find meaning.

Something as simple as having a place for people to bring goods and items to drop off to go help the needy is another way for people to connect and find meaning.

4.) People come to seek respite from a noisy world.

Today we are all bombarded with so many messages, many of them conflict with our Christian walk.  People who come on Sunday are wanting to take a deep breath, refocus and if only for a brief period of time get some separation from the noise.

In your facility are there areas where one can “escape” and get alone with God?  Do you have separate prayer areas? Seating areas that are in some out of the way places? Ultimately it is the individual’s responsibility to detach from the noise.  However, some simple things in your facility can help facilitate in that endeavor.

I really like it when there is a separate “quiet room” This could be a classroom that is converted into a prayer room.  Use soft lighting and comfortable furniture and a door that closes to create a living room type of atmosphere and separation.

5.) People come to seek comfort

One of the great comforts we have as Christians is having others pray for us. The prayer room that is mentioned above is perfect for this.  Make sure your congregation is aware of this room and encourage them to use it.
By providing appropriate space, atmosphere and experience your facility can help provide ways for people to connect and be ministered to and thus encourage people to keep coming back on a regular basis and to invite others.

 

Attaining Distraction-Free Worship Sound

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.

When you’re a “type A” (driven) personality, as I am, there’s a strong tendency to not look before leaping—jumping with both feet into every project and activity without considering the consequences.

Even as mere humans, we can have tremendous capacity, but there’s a limit, a zone where there’s just too much noise, we feel too much stress, and we can’t be at our best in everything we do if there’s too much of everything to do.

In part, this new direction came about after a recent conversation with a friend about how noisy contemporary music is. Noisy as in busy. With all of the tools now available for music creation, recording, and amplification, sometimes it seems that they get used just because they can be used—without real purpose, resulting in compositions that are more noise than music.

The other day I was at a church that is looking to purchase a new digital mixing console. They’re moving away from the analog world.

But what struck me is the biggest factor to them in selecting a console is what plug-ins are offered internally or can run from an external server. Not once did they bring up sound quality, workflow, layout, I/O capability, operator friendliness, the ability to meet future expansion needs, and so on.

It got me thinking about what I see as a current philosophy of “we can fix it later”—just apply a plugin and all will be right with the world. Plop down a mic quickly and sloppily on stage or in the studio—no problem, we’ll just fix it with a plugin.

Even the more-humble live and recording systems have more tools than we can possibly need, just waiting to be applied nonetheless. But just because one can doesn’t mean one should. It’s adding up to a lot of noise.

A plugin can only do so much to “fix” a lousy mic signal—it’s still a lousy signal. So how about simplifying instead, taking the time to place the mic correctly in the first place in order to capture a quality signal?

I love technology. It can help us immensely in achieving our desired result, or even better. But there must be a point to using it. A voice must sound like a voice, a guitar like a guitar, a piano like a piano—once we achieve that, by applying simple time-proven concepts first, then we can take advantage of technology to tailor it.

One of my favorite photographers, Ansel Adams, did his work almost exclusively in black and white. The simplicity is one of the things that makes his work so powerful.

Late in his career, Adams used the latest darkroom equipment on his most popular work, Moonrise. Yes he took advantage of the best technology available—but he used it to enhance what was already there. He was not adding things, making it noisy; he was simply enhancing an already great image.

It’s been said many times but bears repeating: “Technology is best when it’s transparent.” Can I get an Amen?

The Church As A Stage For Worship

When preparing for a worship service and setting yourself up for success, the little things can make a big difference.

 

When talking about what our worship services are going to look like on a Sunday, our worship planning team will often use the phrase “setting the table”.

What we mean by this, is setting the look of the stage for a worship service.

Our worship services in general do not involve many lighting cues, we generally set a look for the morning and leave it relatively static. As a team we have chosen to create an atmosphere and then – if fitting – we will make subtle changes to it.

What I have heard about our services is that people enjoy our style because it’s comfortable, done with excellence, but does not feel overly produced.  What I take away from comments like that is that people appreciate the atmosphere we create and they like the fact that worship does not feel like a concert with moving lights and tons of video elements.

Just because we don’t have tons of moving lights and video content doesn’t mean we haven’t given thought and planning to our services.

We have!  In fact, we have chosen not to use click track for the band, loops or even in-ear monitors. The drum set does not even have a cage around it!  Lest you think we don’t care about audio quality we do have a Digico board at front of house and a great sounding L’Acoustics PA.  To top that off on the video side we have a 9’x16’ led wall that hangs just above the band.  All of the decisions like no click or loops just fit who we are and for us it works well.

This past week I found myself pondering the question why do we limit the “setting the table” philosophy to just our worship services?  Isn’t the atmosphere as someone enters the parking lot just as important as the atmosphere in the worship space?  What about the bathroom, lobby, classrooms?  How are we setting the table there to reflect who we are?

I am beginning the quest to take the philosophy of “setting the table” throughout our ministry on Sunday morning.  Following are three quick things that come to mind.

1) Purpose
In order to set the right atmosphere or feeling involves identifying who we are and then running everything thru that filter.

I have a tech partner on my team that would love to add a bunch of moving lights, haze and video elements.  I am not opposed to that at all!  In fact, I love the tech side of it.

It would be fun and challenging and I sure rewarding as we would have a blast setting up and executing a service like that.  BUT as much as we might love it (and have done services like that) we have to ask the question, what purpose does it fulfill?  If the purpose doesn’t exist to do it, why am I using all the energy to make something like that happen?

Think about the exterior of your building, your sign, the overall look of the building what does it communicate?  I suggest that it needs to communicate excellence.  It is difficult to change the look of a building, however no matter the size, shape or color the building can look well maintained!  That right there is “setting the table” Well-manicured landscaping and a well maintained building helps prepare one for a positive Sunday morning experience.

2) Plan
In my opinion “setting the table” requires more planning than scripting out a service.  You would think with less moving parts, fewer cues and “simpler production” that worship planning would take less time.  Wrong.  Yes, a lot less time is spent on scripting out every minute and cue for a service.  However, a lot more time is spent in talking about the purpose of service elements and the order and sequence of the elements.

For example, a very long discussion might take place on the purpose of communion in that particular service.  Are we doing it just because it’s on the calendar?  That might be the reason and that might be just fine, but then we need to determine where it fits in the service and how it has meaning and purpose for being there.

On a ministry side I see more time being spent on why are we doing this vs we have always done it this way.  I believe only the federal government is worse at cancelling ineffective programs than the church is, and the church is not far behind. Routine and the “we have always done it that way” mentality often takes place of true planning.

3) Perspective
I learned this long ago, just because you think it is cool doesn’t mean that it really is.  I have had many great (in my opinion) ideas that I was sure was going to be loved and accepted by all fall flat on their face.  Why?  I did not get perspective from anyone but myself or anyone outside of my immediate circle.

In politics they refer to it as the Washington bubble.  This is where a politician gets caught up in the DC culture and totally forgets about the heartland or even the rest of the country.  The politician has created a circle that all revolves and DC and thus places them in a bubble where they do not even hear or get any outside the “bubble” input.

In church we are good at doing the same thing.  We create this echo chamber of likeminded staff and parishioners that keeps us insulated from really hearing or connecting with the congregation. On the opposite side of that often we only hear from the vocal critics.  We all know the ones who have a complaint about everything.

The key is to engage and seek input for the congregation.

This takes time and work, but if we don’t do it we can begin to make decisions on only small groups.  Those in our circle and those who complain.

Setting up a worship service for success does involve lots of work.  As they say “the table is not going to set itself”.  Even if the service is simple in its production elements.  To set the table for success you must find the purpose, plan it into the service all well listening to the true pulse of your congregation.

Evaluating Your Sunday Church Experience

Do you really know what the experience is of those who attend your services? Avoid overlooking some very important factors.

 

I think that often, as the church in general, we tend to overlook some really important things that impact the experience one has on a Sunday morning.  Yes, the preaching needs to be engaging, the worship spirit-filled and the people pleasant, but there are also other factors that impact the overall experience.

Let’s take a look at evaluating your church’s experience!

1. Facilities

  • How far away did I have to park?
  • Did I have to walk thru unplowed areas to get to the entrance.
  • If I am a visitor can I easily find the entrance?
  • Is there good signage to help me find my way around?
  • Does the building look well maintained?
  • Has the building been updated or does the décor still give homage to decades gone by?

Your facilities say a lot about who you are a church.

Your building – new or old – radiates a feeling whether it be mediocracy, excellence or failing.

What people see as they look at and navigate your facility gives them a very strong perception. It’s from that perception that opinions are formed about your ministry.

I don’t care if your building is 150-years-old or 1-year-old. An unkempt lawn, stains on the carpet and items in disrepair all say the same thing: you really do not care that much about the building.

On the other hand, clean restrooms, windows without finger prints and a wonderful aroma of coffee brewing communicate that as a church you care about the building and The Experience on Sunday morning.

2. Production

  • Was the production distraction free?
  • Did the service flow smoothly?
  • Was there some continuity throughout the service?
  • Did you walk away from the service with a reaction?  Encouragement, A challenge, conviction?

I often refer to the service itself as a production, not in a bad way or a way that implies manipulation, but rather in a way the conveys planning and purpose.

I often will also refer to the service as the product.  Again not in a negative way, but in a way that highlights what the church delivers on a Sunday morning.

I remember as a teenager walking into church 5 minutes before a Sunday night service and seeing the minister of music (that’s what we used to call worship leaders) sitting in the back row, thumbing thru a hymnal writing down the numbers of the songs we would sing during the service.

Even as a teenager it struck me that the music must not be that important.  I probably even wondered if the pastor just got up and opened the bible and just started talking.

A service doesn’t have to be “glitzy” and look like a Broadway production or concert, but it needs to be planned out and prepared ahead of time.

3. People

  • Were you greeted properly?
  • Did you feel welcome?
  • Did you feel comfortable?
  • Did you feel cared for?

We all know that it is the people that make a difference.  So why does church leadership, in general neither empower and commission people to be friendly, or model it for the constituents?

In a number of churches, I have visited I often see two extremes.

The first is where the Pastor that’s “larger than life” is pretty much the center of attention.  After the service he’s the loudest and the person that has to shake everybody’s hand.  He’s the one who wants to greet guests and visitors and nobody better get in his way.

The second is the recluse Pastor that magically disappears after the service.  He is nowhere to be found.  I guess he figured he did his part, the sermon and now is done for the day.

Obviously both of these responses are on the extreme end of the scale between being engaged and not available.  What really is needed is an entire congregation that is empowered to welcome people and make them feel comfortable. Many visitors will return just because somebody made them feel welcome.

So do an evaluation.

What is The Experience at your church?  If you visited your church would you want to return? Or, would you find some work that needs to be done.

6 Ways to Build Better Churches

Constructing or renovating a worship facility can and should be a joyful time. So, what are the right things to do which will help bring joy – or at least keep the peace – during a building project?

There are countless horror stories and lists of what not to do. These are important as no one wants to make avoidable mistakes. Yet, part of the puzzle is missing.

You can avoid the major mistakes and still end up with a building project that is frustrating, time consuming and just plain no fun!

So, what are the right things to do?

A building project can and should be a joyful time. The fact that you are embarking on a building project is a testament to ministry happening at your church.

What factors can help bring joy—- or at least keep the peace—- during a building project?

1.) GET THE RIGHT PEOPLE FROM YOUR CONGREGATION INVOLVED

It cannot be overstated how important it is to have the right team in place, as you head into a building project.

The team I am referring to are the people responsible for decisions on getting the building built, not the ones in fundraising or communication efforts. Those are completely separate tasks that should be handled outside of the building committee.

So what makes up a good team member and who should be on team?

Of course the typical things like leadership, wisdom, the ability to gather consensus are all important and should not be under rated.  But assuming those character qualities are present, what other things should you look for?

I suggest that you get diversity of experience on your team. For me an ideal team would consist of people with the following expertise

  • Finance
  • Construction
  • Programing
  • (running events, understanding what is needed functionally for events)

  • Facilities maintenance
  • Prayer warrior

This group along with the team leader (pastor or elder) should be empowered to make all decisions related to the project.  I am a fan of hand picking rather than holding an election. I want to stack the committee with the most talented people I can find.

This group will influence and decide on all things related to the building process.  This should include selecting the architect and general contractor as well as deciding the construction process (design/bid/build, design/build or some variant of these).

This group does not have to all “be of one mind.” In fact, differing ideas should be encouraged. However, the group does need to be able to make decisions and move forward trusting each other to come to the best decisions.

2.) START WITH THE RIGHT PROGRAM/MASTER PLAN

I find it fascinating that almost everyone knows the statement “if you aim at nothing you will hit it every time”, and yet churches still do not heed the advice as they push forward on a building project without doing any master planning.

I was on staff at a large growing church and I remember sitting in on planning sessions for a new building, wondering why the architect was asking questions pertaining to 10 years down the road.  Today when I go back to visit that church I drive on the ring road that surrounds the now sprawling campus and think back to those meetings.  I distinctly remember the architect being insistent that the above mentioned ring road be built before the building expansion. Honestly I was thinking at the time, what a waste, that road is not necessary we don’t have traffic issues.

What the architect saw was that with future building the church would need to have entrances from multiple locations and even multiple streets that surrounded the campus.  The architect’s insistence on a master plan determined building location as well as traffic flow that is still working 20 years later and with 5 times more traffic.

Don’t gloss over, or just pass by the idea of master planning. Yes, the plan most likely will change over time. But because there is a plan adaptation for growth, or change in ministry, it will be much easier to accommodate.

3.)PUT TOGETHER THE RIGHT CONSTRUCTION TEAM

Perhaps the construction committee’s projects biggest responsibility is assembling the right construction team.  That team of Architect and contractors needs to understand the vision of the church and be a true partner with the church on the project.

Putting this team together involves a lot of home work, wisdom and prayer.  I suggest that the Construction committee visit no less than 5 other projects that the architect has done as well as the construction company.  Hopefully they architect and Construction Company have already done projects together as this will cut down on the number of sites to visit.

When visiting the sites make sure you talk with people that were involved with the construction project.  Ask the typical s “what did you do right? “And “what did you do wrong?” Also ask how easy the architect and contractor are to work with? Was it fun?  Another great question is “knowing what you now know would you hire them again if you were starting your project today?

I will stress again the importance of doing your homework and not just talking with, but also visiting other projects. One last note, ask to meet and interview all the key people that will be working on the project including the project superintendent (this is the person you will see and interact with every day).

4.) THE RIGHT SCHEDULE

Timing is everything.

Make sure that you understand the length of each phase of the project. Look at how the length of time will impact pricing as well as your current ministry.

Assuming you are already meeting on the property, make sure that the construction team has a good plan in place of how they will accommodate the current ministry you have taking place.

Another factor in scheduling, particularly in northern areas, is weather.  It can be much more expensive if you are doing footings and foundation in the middle of winter.
Your ministry schedule should also be factored into the schedule.  Is it important that you move into the building before fall kick off? Before Christmas? Before Easter?  Make sure you work the plan backwards from that date to see if it is feasible.  Also, make sure it is realistic! If this is a new location away from where you currently meet, then you only have to worry about weather and ministry schedule

5.) THE RIGHT ENGAGEMENT

Keeping the team happy and communicating with the congregation.

Watching a building being built is an exciting thing.  Make sure you keep the congregation informed about the schedule and progress.  Once the building is enclosed schedule a walkthrough where your congregation
can go thru and see the progress.  You may want to schedule a walkthrough at a few key milestones along the way.  Also use video, photos and social media to show the progress.

Make sure you also keep engaged with the construction team. Do not become a road block because decisions are not being made in a timely fashion.  Also encourage the team.  Do a cook out at the construction site for all the workers, set up a prayer team to pray for the construction process and the safety of the workers.

6.) RIGHT FOCUS

During the process it can be easy to forget about the purpose and the spiritual side involved in the project.

Some simple things help to keep the right focus.

Remember the purpose and great responsibilities placed on your shoulders.  Pray consistently for the project and project team. Get to know the people working on the project, show them that you care about them.

Don’t forget to pray for the people that will be impacted for Christ over the lifetime of the building.

 

Design/Bid/Build, Design Assist or Design/Build?

Bringing clarity to the three most popular methods of constructing a worship facility.

Starting a building or renovation project can be overwhelming.

How much is it going to cost?

How can I find people I trust to work with on the project?

How can I get the congregation on board?

How will we raise the funds? Do we borrow?

There are no shortage of questions…

The company I work for helps a lot of churches by finding ways to assist in the building process.

One of the ways is to come in for a small fee and do a Phase I, a needs assessment. This will establish a base budget, and a few renderings of the project are created that can be shared with the congregation.

Going thru this process answers almost all of the questions about building, and a path can be laid out for the project.

There are many different methods of how to construct.

Let’s talk about the three most popular:

Design/Bid/Build The “low-bid” method.
A church will first hire an architect to completely design the facility and develop a full set of construction documents. Upon the completion of the drawings (a six-plus-month process), the church will then solicit bids from a selected group of contractors. The contractor is awarded the project solely on the basis of “low-bid.”

Churches traditionally choose this method because it promotes a low-bid. This method does, however, can carry significant risks and might elongates the process. Only after the drawings are completed are actual construction costs identified. Unfortunately, projects more often than not come in over budget. Additionally, change orders based on things changing or faulty design add a significant amount of cost to the project.

Construction Manager at Risk/Design Assist:
The owner or church will hire an independent architect and an independent construction manager/contractor.

The church holds both contracts and the architect and contractor work together to design and construct the project.  The risk is the blame game that can occur between the Architect and the Contractor.  This can put the church in the awkward position of trying to play referee and also managing the financial implications.

Design/Build:

This is one of the most popular delivery methods in church construction projects.

Under this method, the church hires a single construction firm to both design and build the facility. The contractor is the single source of responsibility for the owner. Some Design Build firms have their own architects on staff, but most contractors have to contract with an outside design firm. The contractor holds the responsibility and is able to work hand-in-glove with his entire team to guide the progress of the design elements around the church’s budget. Costs are determined earlier in the process.  Also, this eliminates the need for redesigns and the risk of cost overages or non-owner directed change orders.

The key in any of these methods is finding the right team. A team that you can trust. A team that you can work with. A team that you feel has the churches best interest in mind.  In a forthcoming article I will expand on the process of choosing a contractor/design team.

 

Rating Your Total Church Experience

What is Sunday morning really like to your church visitors? How does your facility fit your ministry? How to see your facility experience with fresh eyes.

 

I grew up in the church and have worked in some capacity for the local church most of my adult life.  Much of that time has been devoted to the technical production side.

However, this year I was asked to step into the role of looking at the entire Sunday morning experience.  Basically, what does someone experience from the time they drive onto our campus to the moment they pull out of the parking lot after service.  As our church hosts many community events, I’ve added examining the public’s experience anytime they enter our facility.

The church I’m at is a great church. It’s growing in numbers, with multiple services held every Sunday morning. We have a building project underway and another in the planning stages.

We must be doing something right, correct?

As I’ve expanded my perspective outside of worship, and look at the overall experience, I find that we are doing some things right. But, yes, there is room for improvement.

Once I began observing the entire experience, it became overwhelming.  I saw stains in the carpet.  Fake plants that look like they are from the 1970’s (they might be).  There are rooms that are painted dark and have no windows.  There is not enough signage—- how does a guest find a restroom? Do people know where to go for information on where to bring their children to nursery or Sunday school?  When someone simply walks in the door, are they greeted?

I found so many areas in need; I realized I had to create an order of magnitude and a priority list.  I also knew that I was probably only seeing 20 to 30 percent of what really needed to be done.  So, rather than hastily jumping in and starting (my normal mode of operation) I stepped back and decided to get a game plan and team together.

Game Plan for Facility Audit in 6 Steps

1) Facility Visual Audit
I had already started this process. In fact, as I mentioned, I was a bit overwhelmed and knew there was so much more I was not seeing.  To get a complete picture I enlisted the help of others.

The church staff was a great start.
I took staff on a tour of the facility, and asked them what they saw.

We went thru every room, bathrooms, opened closet doors and also walked thru the outside campus.  My list grew by 10x, but what also happened is people caught the vision.

Ideas began to flow; we could get a volunteer to patch the drywall were white boards were taken down and holes were left. If we got rid of tables in the lobby and added couches with seating areas it would feel more like home.  Wow, does this bathroom in the back always look this rough? We need to make sure it gets cleaned.

It was a really positive time. The buy in and ideas from the staff brought energy to the process.

I also recruited a group of regular attenders and went thru the same process.  Again with similar results.

As a final step in this process I invited a friend who was not familiar with our church and did the same thing.  He saw many things the first groups had missed.  Some were very obvious.  They had become so used to seeing things that they had become blind to some obvious things.  I also asked this friend to come on a Sunday morning.

2) Facility Functional Audit.
This turned out to be more difficult and tricky than I thought. My first go around was to just walk around on a Sunday and observe.  Some things became obvious, like when someone came up and said, “Sorry, I’m new here, where in the world are the bathrooms?”  After showing them the bathroom I looked around.

Yup, there was no signage and the location was not obvious. Other things, like it being 5 degrees hotter in the balcony than the main floor were going to take some work to figure out and correct.

I once again involved the staff but rather than take them around in a group, I met with them one on one and asked the simple question, “What about the building is hindering your ministry?”

This opened up some great dialogue and generated answers that I was surprised by and would have never thought of.

Also some very important things came up—- like how we were securing the children’s area, but not being very effective at it.  To fix this problem involved moving one wall.  A relatively simple fix that really increased the security of the children’s area.

3) Visit other churches.
This was my favorite idea.  Previously I had been involved in an event for tech guys called church tech tours.  You showed up at a church, toured its tech and production equipment, ate a quick meal together and then jumped on a bus and visited two more facilities, then returned back to the original location.  At church tech tours I personally got tons of ideas and loved seeing what other churches were doing.

Turns out that church staff loved the idea, but coordinating schedules and the fact everyone was already overloaded made it difficult to do.  So I chose the approach of just contacting other churches and setting up times we could visit.  I sent invites out to the staff, and who ever could make it came along.

I also was very upfront and limited the total time including travel to 1-½ hours.  Yes it made the tour of the other churches facility rushed, but in reality 90 percent of the time within the first 10 minutes people could see and get a feel for what that church was doing right and wrong.

As a side note I did circle back with the churches that were nice enough to let us come thru and shared with them the good and the bad.  I think they all appreciated that.

My current goal, is to take one Sunday every other month and visit another church on a Sunday as be a “secret shopper” for them, if they would like.  Or just visit and get ideas.

4) Look around at common gather areas.
Because of my tech background I can’t watch an awards show or concert without announcing what brand and model mic the lead vocal is using, what the main speakers are, etc.  Well, now I can’t walk into any building without noticing how it looks and feels.  I also watch how people move around in the space, what are the traffic patterns?  Where are the restrooms?

I was surprised by how this little thing of just looking around educated me.  From the restaurant where you had to walk uncomfortably thru the dining area to get to the counter to order, to the convention center that only had signs that said things like Aisle 1, or Smith Memorial Room with an arrow that could either have me stay straight or maybe take the fork to the left.

Simple, yet profound for me as I was able to apply some good stuff I saw. And the experience enabled me to see things and get ideas I never would have gotten without looking around.

5) Enlist the help of other professionals.
By now my list had gotten huge and I needed to prioritize.  So, I also took the step of consulting professionals.  Some were members of the church, some were not. Some we paid and some we did not have to.  By bringing my list to the professional in I was able to develop a game plan as well as a start on the financial implications of what we needed to change.

The professionals in a lot of ways confirmed what I was thinking, but also they saw some cause and effect that I would have missed.  Things like if you paint the walls, you have to do the carpet at the same time. I also found out I could improve our lighting quality and brightness in the sanctuary and have it pay for itself in 1 year thru rebates and energy savings.

It took time to seek out the professionals and meet with them, but it was well worth it!

6) Hospitality wins people over.
I noticed this on a Sunday while I was observing and really just looking for what was wrong and need to be fixed.  What I saw was a guest who came thru the door and was greeted by a smiling face, then escorted to the children’s area, given a small tour, then delivered back to the sanctuary. Then this is when it happened.  In my mind this cemented what really needs to happen.

The greeter, who met them and gave them the tour asked the couple if they had lunch plans. The greeter said that he was having some friends coming over after church, and that he would love to have the new family join them.

Touch down.  At this point the ugly yellow color of our sanctuary walls that I hate… didn’t matter one bit.  Especially on this Sunday.

What Techs Really Want from A Worship Leader

Tech and talent combined can lead to an explosive situation. Learning what each side needs to bring to a production can help the whole team make beautiful music.

 

I recently published an article with the title “What does a Worship Leader REALLY want in a sound person?”

In the article I pointed out that Attentiveness and Attitude were the traits in techs that worship leaders desired the most.

I received statements and requests related to what a sound tech wants out of a worship leader.

There were jokes about things like more talent on the stage and less demands for more of the worship leader in the monitor, but what I gathered out the comments and my own experience led me to the following qualities that us sound people desire in a worship leader.

Before we dive in let me state that just as a worship leader expects the sound person to know the gear. The sound person expects that the worship leader has talent and knows how to bring a team of quality musicians together.

So with the expectations out of the way, what is it that a sound person REALLY wants from a worship leader?

First and foremost, every sound person I know desires RESPECT from the worship leader. 

This should be a given and respect should be a two way street.  In a healthy relationship both the worship leader and the sound person will respect each other.

Nothing is worse for a sound person than being humiliated in front of the band or worse yet in front of the congregation.

A friend recently told me about and event he was a guest at many years ago.

The event was a private concert with Bon Jovi (okay he is not a worship leader but stick with me). There were less than 1000 people in attendance at the club and my friend was lucky enough to be invited in by the front of house engineer. He actually was able to sit at front of house and enjoy the show.

During the first song he noticed that there seemed to be a few missing lighting cues.  As he looked over to the lighting desk he saw the lighting director (LD) flirting with a girl. Obviously this was distracting the LD as he kept missing cues.

After about four songs Bon Jovi made a statement between songs to the thoroughly jazzed and engaged crowd.  He said something to the effect that their normal lighting guy must have had the night off and he apologized to the crowd, then saying that this current lighting guy, who he thought was a fill-in, would be fired.

My friend inquired to the whereabouts of the regular LD.

The front of house guy responded, “Oh, that is the regular LD, or at least it was.” Now the LD was obviously shirking his duties, but I am sure the public rebuking was biting and hurtful.

A recent example of this was when Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, cursed out and threatened not to pay for the sound system during a rally (WARNING:  Video contains offensive language). Now in both of these cases, the operators had failed but the failure could have been dealt with in a less public, and most likely more productive fashion.

I personally worked an event where the worship leader stepped side-stage, between sets, and expressed his displeasure of what was going on sound wise. He asked that the producer of the event fix it.  The producer, who happened to be an audio guy, handed over his production responsibilities to the assistant producer and went out to front of house.

At front of house he was able to coach and help a fairly green sound person who had gotten in over his head.  The producer finished out the show coaching and co-mixing with the tech.  It ended well and most importantly is was handled very respectfully on all counts.

Now if the front of house guy couldn’t pull it together, I am sure the producer would have had him step aside and would have taken over. I am certain it would have been done professionally and with dignity.

Respect also means not talking bad or complaining about someone behind their back as well. I too often end up in situations where the worship leader or the sound guy will say disparaging things about the other people on the tech or worship team.

A second thing that sound people want out a worship leader is ORGANIZATION.

In general most sound guys are a bit nerdy and love structure and organization.  Nothing drives a nerd personality more nuts than chaos. Rehearsals should be orderly, musicians should show up prepared, there should be a worship order and sequence that is followed and most importantly everyone should show up and be ready at the slated time and the rehearsal should also conclude at a scheduled time.

Really this relates back to respect. Respecting everyone’s time and effort that is being put into making worship happen weekly.

The third thing that a sound person wants from a worship leader is INCLUSION. 

The sound person is part of the worship team. Make him or her feel that way.  Include them in the group, involve them in prayer times. A worship leader should make the effort during rehearsal to go out to the booth area and listen to the mix. After listening appropriate praise and critique should be given.

I heard the story about a worship leader that decided to honor his tech crew and privately asked the musicians to show up 2 hours before rehearsal. The musicians put all of the instrumentation, monitors and mics in place (as best they could).  When the tech team showed up an hour ahead of time to set up they were greeted with a stage that was 80 percent set up and ready to go. They were also surprised with hot pizza and some cake to top it off.

I am sure they felt blessed and included by knowing that musicians recognized they extra work that the techs did each week to set up.

If you are around me for any amount of time you will often hear me talk about TnT (Tech and Talent) and how explosive it can be.

When a worship leader respects the techs, is organized (i.e. shows up on time) and includes them as part of the team some beautiful fireworks take place!