circle of trust

I don’t think it is a stretch to say that most of us don’t make the final decision. As a technical artist in the local church, much of the time we’re facilitating someone else’s idea. Whether it is the worship leader or the youth director or the senior pastor, we all have people that are making bigger decisions than the ones I’m making.

Circle of trustWhat mic to use, how many lights to turn on, what kind of font to use for graphics. Not that these decisions are always the easiest, but production decisions follow other, larger decisions that effect the whole church. Sometimes these decisions aren’t in the best interest of the production side. It could be something that compromises the mix, or the process, or is more risky because we haven’t rehearsed it yet.

These examples are all things that matter, but when it comes down to what is best for the service or the church, what matters to you isn’t always the most important. So how do you care deeply about something; so deeply that you go after it with tenacity, and then let it go?

A big part of it is to be comfortable with what might happen next. If you know that all the information is on the table, and that the leader has everything she needs to make a decision, you need to then go with her decision. And not with your normal passive aggressive self, but with the same tenacity you would go after your own ideas. If your concerns are realized, it isn’t your fault, (since you did such a masterful job of informing your leader of what could happen) and you still did your very best, even though it wasn’t your recommendation.

To be a real team player, it is important for your leaders to know that you will give them your best, whether you get your way or not. They also need to know that you will take care of your stuff fully, so that they never have to worry about it.

Trust is built by the accumulation of encounters like this every day. Your leaders trusting that you are taking care of production and you trusting your leaders that the best overall decisions are being made. And trust is the foundation of the body of Christ functioning at its fullest.

When your leader does the opposite of your recommendation, what is your first thought?

Does the phrase “I told you this would happen” come out of your mouth?

How could you develop your level of trust in and from your leaders?

photo by: drew_anywhere

good sound is subjective

[This is guest post from my friend Jonathan Malm. While we have only met once in person for about 30 seconds, we have done a lot of work together in the cause of making the process of doing church better. He is the curator at,, a blog about the creative process and, a photo resource for bloggers.]

“Good sound is subjective.” Have you ever heard that line? I used it often as a worship leader. The staff member responsible for the sound engineers used to pull that out all the time when I asked for specific mix requests.

What did you say?That infuriated me—and not just because I was a bit of a diva. Good sound isn’t subjective. Not when it means you can’t hear the lead vocalist or percussion clearly.

So one day I put aside my guitar and closed my singsong mouth. We liberated that staff member of their technical responsibilities and I took over. (No, we didn’t fire them. We literally just took something off their plate.)

For the first few weeks, I simply sat back in the booth and listened. I didn’t want to rock the volunteers’ world with sweeping changes.

I’d hear the sound engineers explain that so-and-so didn’t have the best voice, so they pulled them out of the mix. The bass player sometimes hit bad notes, so they kept him low in the mix. They preferred more traditional music, not rock music, so they kept the electric guitar very subdued.

You see, these sound engineers had been told that good sound is subjective. It’s not. They were confusing excellence for personal preference.

I made some pretty big changes. I wrote out a manual explaining rock music and its mix. I destroyed the myth that good sound is subjective. And my sound engineers excelled. They got really good.

So did the band. Once the bass player realized people could hear him, he started tightening up his quality. Once the vocalist realized she could be heard, she sang better and with more enthusiasm. As we began to trust the band, they began to trust us.

Good sound isn’t subjective. Good sound is when you make the musicians sound like they intend to sound. When you appropriately mirror—through the sound system—what’s happening on stage, you’ve achieved good sound.

Sure, there will be slight differences between each sound engineer. Some of that is preference. Some of it is technique. There will be differences. But it shouldn’t modulate between smooth jazz and rock and roll each week. That’s a matter of personal taste, not a matter of excellence.

This is true for all production techs. Yes, we are artists. We’re the last line of defense between the message, music, and visuals getting to the audience. We craft and tweak and sweeten each bit so it’s delivered with excellence. It’s truly an art. But we’re also co-laborers and servants. We aren’t the originators of the art. We’re the deliverers. We don’t get to change it to match our tastes.

We get to make it excellent.

If you aren’t willing to lay aside your preferences, the tech department isn’t for you. But if you want to work with a team of amazing artists and help them make something magic, tech can be an amazing calling.

I loved jumping into the tech department. I realized how much we could cripple the worship service if we wanted to. I also realized how much we could enhance the service when we did things with excellence.

I encourage you. Be excellent.

photo by: kc7fys

strategic stretching

By pushing ourselves from time to time, we increase our capacity. Looking at a running analogy, if I increase my pace a little at certain intervals, pretty soon my whole pace has increased.

StretchIn the world of production, once you try something for the first time, it now has the potential to be a part of my normal bag of tricks. The thing that almost killed you two Christmases ago, is now something you don’t hesitate to do on a normal weekend. Pushing yourself to try something new at the right intervals means that you are increasing your endurance, your capacity, your normal.

Pushing yourself too much or too often, will wear you down. However, without pushing yourself from time to time, you will stagnate.

Figure out the right pace for yourself. Then figure out how often you should push yourself.

photo by: emilio labrador

paper jam

Keeping things simple eliminates the possibility of failure. When something has tons a moving parts, we are opening ourselves up to those moving parts ceasing to move.

the Robert Nesta "Bob" Marley memorial copy machineI’ve lost track of how many times I’ve gone to the copy machine and something is jammed or broken. Considering how sophisticated they are, it isn’t a huge surprise that is seems like it’s broken more than it’s working.

In live production, we don’t have the luxury to wait for a copy machine repairman to show up. We need to get it working now!

Are you creating a collating, stapling, whole punching, folding copy machine type of plan or are your plans simple, eliminating the potential for failure?

photo by: ** RCB **

realms of practicability

I’ve been doing some writing on the idea of backup plans, and along the way, I’ve also been reading a book about the admirals who led the Navy during WWII, oddly enough called The Admirals by Walter R. Borneman. For the most part, the names Leahy, King, Nimitz and Halsey are not well known to the history of WWII, yet they were instrumental in helping bring an end to hostilities in the Pacific from December 1941 through August 1945.

Navy_binoculars.jpgI can’t even imagine the kind of leadership that was required to make the right decision, knowing that people’s lives were at stake. It makes the decisions I need to make each day seem pretty insignificant.

Anyway, Chester W Nimitz was the commander in chief of all air, sea and ground forces in the Pacific area starting immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and he had quite a few leadership qualities that I really admire. One of them involved figuring out if a plan was worth executing. Check this out:

“Is the proposed operation likely to succeed? What might the consequences of failure be? Is it in the realm of practicability in terms of material and supplies?”

I love these questions. How sure are we that our plan will work? If it doesn’t work, what’s the worst that could happen? How many resources can I devote to minimizing the risk of failure?

Asking these questions really helps tweak out whether the original idea is any good in the first place. It also helps bring a backup plan into view, then asking if its going to be worth it.

Live production involves the risks of human error and/or equipment failure. We can’t eliminate every risk. It is not possible to avoid every possible failure. There isn’t enough money or people to solve every problem.

So how can we use these questions to make the best decisions for our services and our church, given the resources at our disposal?


photo by: wave-rider