This is the first foray into having a guest post. I have asked Mike Sessler, a friend of mine and the Technical Director at Coast Hills Community Church, to add his voice to this blog, hoping that it helps you become a better technical artist. He writes regularly for Church Production Mag and Live Sound as well as his own blog at www.churchtecharts.org. Listen to the regular podcast, Church Tech Weekly at www.churchtechweekly.com and follow him on Twitter @mikesessler.
When I first started as a church TD, I believed it was my job to be the expert in all forms of production technology. In fact, I felt it was my responsibility to be the expert. This was even reinforced by my boss. When I would tell her of some equipment I was thinking of buying or a change I was preparing to make, she would say, “OK, you’re the expert.”
It wasn’t long, however, before I learned—the hard way—that I wasn’t always the expert. I made a bad call on an equipment purchase and ended up wasting the church’s money. I was really bummed out. I felt like a failure. I eventually got over it, but it took a while.
I suspect I’m not alone in this. Many a church tech has gone into their job thinking they have to be the expert, without even pausing to consider what that means. But think about it for a minute; how could we possibly be the expert in live sound, and lighting, and presentation, and video, and IT and whatever else they throw at us? Any one of those disciplines requires a lifetime to master.
The great theologian Clint Eastwood, while playing the character of Dirty Harry once said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” I think this holds very true in the world of church tech. Too often, either the church or the tech will put too much stock in their expertise, and end up making poor choices that ultimately cost the church a lot of money, not to mention deliver a great deal of frustration. Sometimes, it’s the church being cheap; other times it’s the hubris of the tech that gets in the way of good decisions.
As church techs, what we need to do is find the expert. And sometimes the expert is me. There are many times when I am confident I know enough about a particular situation, technology, process or problem that I can solve it. In those cases, I can move forward with confidence and come up with a great solution.
But other times, I am not the expert, or at least the right expert. Sometimes, I need to call in the heavy hitters. That is one of the great things about having a network of other church techs. I have guys I call on when I have lighting issues, or when I can’t get a Windows machine working properly. When I didn’t know which control network was best for my new lighting system, I called on an expert (actually three of them). The final decision was reached with their input and was far more informed than what I would have made on my own.
One reason I love going to trade shows is to meet people from manufacturers who really are experts in their field or with their equipment. I’ve had many a question answered because I picked up the phone or sent an email. Sometimes I even get to be the expert for someone else, and that’s a great feeling.
The point is, you don’t always have to be the expert—you can’t always be the expert—you just need to know where to find them. Taking the time to seek out the advice of others more knowledgeable than you is not a sign of weakness—it’s a sign of wisdom. Our job is not to prove how smart we are, it’s to make the best choices for our churches. So take the time to find the expert. You’ll be glad you did!