production from a pastor’s perspective

Today’s post is by an old friend of mine. Steve Norman is currently the Lead Pastor at Kensington Community Church’s Troy Campus and we both started working at Kensington in the same era. The era when your office was in the copy room, or the warehouse area. Our paths have crossed and recrossed over the years, and I thought it would be great for the predominantly technical audience of this blog to hear about technology from the viewpoint of a pastor. Enjoy.

I can tell you exactly where I was sitting in the church auditorium when it happened. I was a high school student trying to follow along with the pastor’s Sunday morning message and there was an audio glitch of some kind. And then my pastor did it. He called out the audio engineer from the stage. Not as a colleague and fellow team member, not as a gifted hardworking artist, but the “sound guy” who feel asleep at the wheel. I cringed.  And every time I’ve heard it done since, I still do.

I’ve been doing ministry in some kind of formal capacity for close to 20 years, but I’ve never had a class or workshop on how teaching pastors/communicators can better serve and coordinate with their production teams.

The truth is: most pastors don’t really know what you do, how you do it or how well you do it. They believe it matters, but as my story indicates, many speakers/teacher don’t publicly acknowledge their production teams until something goes wrong.

If you, however, want to take your working relationship with your pastor to the next level, allow me to offer a few simple suggestions:

1. Communicate. Then communicate some more.
Do you know what your pastor needs and expects from you? Does he or she know what you expect from them? Do you have a call time? Does the speaker honor it? Are you ready for the him or her if she does?

If the speaker is bringing CG or video, do you have a deadline you expect it by?
My team has made it crystal clear that if I don’t submit my CG by 12p on Friday, they may not be able to have it ready to run for our Saturday 5:30p service. It’s taken us some wrangling to get to a system that works for both of us, but when I respect their boundaries our dynamic is healthier.

Our stage manager, lets me know what shirts I shouldn’t wear because I’m on IMAG. It drives my crazy really, but I have to remember she’s working in my best interest. If the image on the screen is too busy, people can’t focus on what I want to say. Because of communication and over communication, I know our team is as committed to the message as I am, just from a different, yet necessary perspective.

2.  Collaborate
Ask your speaker, what their objectives are: for the day, for the series, for the ministry season.  If your speaker is anything like me, they have a horrible habit of waiting til the last minute to pull a talk together.  When you can, sit down with them and explain the kinds of ways that set design, lighting, audio, etc. can enhance where they want to go if they give you enough lead time to help them. This is the “help me, help you” conversation.

3. Celebrate
When your speaker honors a deadline; thanks one of your volunteers; or gets you their scriptures on time, celebrate them publicly with your team.  A little affirmation goes a long way in creating a culture where your teachers learn to value and elevate your teams.

As your begin to communicate, collaborate and celebrate together, then maybe, when they call your name from stage, it will simply be to remind the congregation how incredible your really are.



AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by J. Stephen Conn

whoever said collaboration would be easy?

I was just thinking about this past Christmas production, and my initial thoughts have been focused on how well the service turned out and how many great comments I’ve received.

If I think a little longer, I start remembering all the things that didn’t go well. All the long days, all the delayed decisions, all the budget issues, all the creative differences, all the hard conversations…all the, all the, all the.

If I stretch my memory far enough back, it is quickly apparent that most large event processes that I have been involved in have been flawed in some way. There are two conclusions I can draw from this…either I’m the common denominator and I’m the problem, in which case I should probably consider a different line of work, or pulling off large events is hard work.

My friend Blaine Hogan and I have talked a few times about the fact that collaboration is hard work. In Genesis 3, God said that as a consequence of the Fall, the ground would now be cursed…meaning that we would be toiling long and hard to make anything. Work would be difficult.

As a nine on the Enneagram scale, I work really hard to make sure that everyone is happy, which I realize is not actually possible, especially in a large event collaborative process. Somewhere along the way, I assumed that everyone needs to be happy for a process to go well. The reality is that, while these two things aren’t mutually exclusive, neither one is the ultimate goal.

Did the event we were collaborating on, work? For those of us in church production, did the service help move people closer to Christ regardless of where they are on their spiritual continuum? I agree that it is too simplistic to say that the “product” is the only thing that matters, since if the process is bad for long enough, people won’t stick around to do it again.

For me, every event comes with its own set of challenges and each event also comes with a list of things to learn from those challenges.

True collaboration takes work…to brainstorm, to work with constraints, to trust each other. It also requires tenacity to learn from the past, so that we are always creating better processes to get to the finish line.

Easter, here we come!



AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Alex De Mey

another post about volume

I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that tech people tend to like things louder than most. How else can you get the drums to sound as amazing as your new micing technique requires? Worship leaders also like the energy that comes from a louder mix.

For senior pastors, the volume can be a very sticky subject with the congregation, and I think there are probably some larger issues than the decibel level on Sunday morning that require his/her attention. I don’t know about your senior pastor, but mine isn’t ready to die on the hill of kicking subwoofers or the perfect drum mix.

Your pastor needs to know that you have the best for the whole church in mind when you or your team are mixing audio. Unfortunately it is really easy for production people to communicate something quite different: that your killer mix matters more than a bunch of old people complaining.

This brings up a couple questions…

  • What motivates your mix? Is it for it to sound as amazing as it can for the sake of sounding amazing (listen to those drums!)? Or is it to sound amazing so that the most people possible in your congregation can experience God?
  • Do you have a good understanding of what your church leadership needs from the mix? Who is the target audience? What is your church’s “sound”? What does the mix need to accomplish?

It needs to really clear between you, your team, your worship pastor, your producer…all the way up to the senior pastor on what the church’s stance on the mix and volume should be. From there, your pastor needs to know that you are dealing with it.

And by dealing with it, I don’t mean cranking it up so the drums sound incredible. Dealing with it is being tenacious to make it sound better and better, and then balancing that with what is best for the whole church.

Your senior pastor doesn’t want the mix to offend people. If they are going to be offended, let the Holy Spirit to do that.



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at what cost perfection?

I had a conversation with a co-worker a few weeks back and we talked about whether or not perfection was the goal of any production. After writing a blog post, then thinking some more about it, I have another idea.

If making things distraction free is just another way of saying perfect, how can we avoid the idea of perfectionism?

Maybe I just have a problem with the word “perfect”. What exactly is it? What does it apply to? How is it achieved? If we are talking about mics on and lights pointed at the right things and graphics being spelled correctly, then sure. Let’s make it perfect.

However, most of what we do in production can be subjective and the idea “perfect” breaks down. What is the perfect mix? Perfect IMAG? What is the perfect service?

If perfection is the ultimate goal, how far are we willing to go? How redundant are our systems? Do we run a generator during every service just in case the power gets interrupted? Do we buy two of everything just in case? Should everyone know how everything works so that everyone can know the answers to every possible question? Should we stay all night and rearrange the stage to make it “perfect”?

The list of things we could do to eliminate risk and ensure perfection would be a never-ending list, but most of us don’t have the many resources. Time. People. Money. And no amount of either of these three things ensures perfection.

This is where I really love the idea of excellence over perfection.

“Doing the best with what you have.” is one way to define excellence.This really help put things in perspective. You can only do your best, which sometimes might appear as perfection. This concept takes into account all the things that you’ve never experienced them before, and it factors in the reality that stuff breaks. It considers the skills of your team and the type of equipment you have.

Another definition of excellence is “being better today than yesterday.” This considers learning from mistakes and new experiences each day to keep getting better and better.

From another perspective, what are you characterized by? Do the same mistakes happen over and over again? Are technical distractions the norm for you? Or are these isolated incidents that only stick out because your congregation is so used to the amazing distraction free environment that you create on a weekly basis?

So the goal isn’t perfection, but doing your best, and being better today than yesterday…which hopefully includes things being flawless.



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