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!

What does a Worship Leader REALLY want? in a Sound Person?

According to worship leaders, what are the most important aspects of being a church sound operator?

I’ve been doing an informal survey on this topic, asking worship leaders for their views.

The answers have been surprising, at least to me. For example, to this point not one of them has mentioned that a sound operator should have musical talent. Nor have they brought up the value of having a critical ear when it comes to music.

Maybe it’s my own biases, but I thought these factors would at least rate a mention.

Here’s another one that hasn’t come up: knowing how to properly operate the equipment and system.

Perhaps the worship leaders I’ve surveyed are assuming that a sound person should already have these skills, and therefore haven’t mentioned them. Continue reading “What does a Worship Leader REALLY want? in a Sound Person?”

Sometimes You Need To Be Able To Dance As Good As (Or Better) Than You Mix

What can we do to sort it out, meet needs, and help them put on the best performance possible?

The venue where I serve as technical director has recently had a number of touring acts come through.

With each tour, there are always special technical requirements that the artists need, particularly in these tight economic times where few of them are able to travel with everything they need.

The last three events, the venue was responsible for providing the entire house system, and for two of them, I served as the front of house engineer.

When a tour group comes to a venue they never know what they’re going to get. Yes, the rider said six separate wireless in-ear monitor systems, but the venue only has two and is unwilling to rent any more. Yes, the rider said the PA needs to hit peaks of 110 dBA, but the installed system can only hit 95 dBA. I know, I know… Continue reading “Sometimes You Need To Be Able To Dance As Good As (Or Better) Than You Mix”

Taking Care Of Business

Avoiding unnecessary bumps in the road through careful planning, maintenance and teamwork…

Talking with sound technicians and worship leaders, I often hear the complaint that from week to week, the quality of Sunday morning varies. I’ve determined that some of this is from training, such as when there’s a problem and the tech doesn’t know how to fix it. Some of it’s skill; certain folks simply have a better ear and command of the equipment than others.

On the same hand, the skill level of the musicians may also vary. I’ve found that with inexperienced musicians, the level at which they’re playing can fluctuate greatly. I attribute this primarily to a lack of confidence. When they know the song they “bang” it out, but when they’re unsure, they hold back.

Today I’d like to focus on another contributor to the problem of inconsistency: equipment status and organization.

Example Time
It’s 5 minutes before the start of the service and you’re sweating bullets as you have to set up 4 additional players that the worship leader never told you in advance were “joining in with the band.” You’re thinking, “Great, no time for sound check, much less a simple line check!”

You dutifully plug in the mics and direct boxes, and position them as best you can. You then high-tail it to the sound booth for the start of the service. Thankfully you make it with enough time to guess at the input gain and monitor levels, say a quick prayer, and unmute those channels for the opening song.

Then it happens: that infamous bzzzzzzzzzzzzz that makes everyone’s hair stand on end! You throw on your headphones and determine it’s the direct box that the bass player is plugged into. This is when you’re forced to make a split decision as to what to do.

You decide rather than race to the stage to see if the line chord from the bass is bad, if the ground lift on the direct box needs to be switched, or if your mic chord is bad, you’ll just mute the bass player’s channel and work on the mix. Plus you’re thinking that at least his bass rig is working and that output will spill into the house.

So, how many times has this, or something like it, happened you? Was it preventable? Of course it was! As I always say, it’s the simple stuff that kills us. So how could all this have been prevented? Continue reading “Taking Care Of Business”