You’re Not Crazy, You’re Not Alone – by Bill Swaringim

The final post in a series of articles by technical directors who have impacted my thinking is by Bill Swaringim.  If you’re been in the church technical community for any length of time, you have probably heard Bill’s name.  He is a huge reason that so many technical directors have been connected and the church tech community is what it is today.  I’ve always appreciated his heart and love for those in ministry.  He’s been instrumental in my development and growth as a tech director and I’ve always been grateful for the opportunities he has given me to share with others what God has been teaching me along the journey.

I asked if Bill would write an article and share some wisdom.  When he sent me the article, I realized the best time to publish this, was just shortly before Easter…a time when church techs are burned out, discouraged, and they feel like they have lost their sense of meaning and purpose.  He talks abou a Christmas production in it but it can just as easily apply to the high stress levels that we experience around Easter as well.  If that’s how you feel, this article is for you.  Be encouraged…hopefully, this article can serve as a healing balm on the hearts of the techs that read this.

 

Let me Encourage You

Serving in ministry for a good part of my adult life I’ve been around long enough that I have experienced disappointments in ministry.  I’ve been in situations that have left me exhausted, disillusioned and sometimes, devalued.  I’ve found some of those disappointments have been because I have lost sight of God’s calling on my life.

It was around Christmas a few years ago. We hadn’t even got to the prep for the Christmas Eve services and I had already hit my wall.  I was exhausted. I was head down focused on getting the long list of To-Dos done. I had switched into survival mode….just make it through to the next day.  I was sitting at lunch, with lots of details in my head, while my pastor was speaking to the church staff about the upcoming Christmas season.  As he wrapped up he spoke these words.  These words came over me like a healing salve.  “You’re not crazy. You’re not alone. God is using you to impact His Kingdom.”

I often share those words of encouragement with church technical leaders over phone calls, at events I’m privileged to be a part of and have even tweeted them.  While I believe they are some of the most encouraging words for a church technical leader, they can impact anyone serving in ministry.

 

You’re not crazy.

Really.  You’re not.  It may seem like it after spending hours upon hours on a set design or new system install.  You may feel that each weekend with the amount of stress you carry to ensure your volunteers execute the worship services .  You may reach the point where you wonder if it is all worth it.  Let me assure you, if the reason you do what you do is to serve God, then you are not crazy.

Even though it may go unnoticed by others, God is in every little detail that you care for.  He has entrusted you to help communicate the Gospel.  When you remember that, it is an incredible privilege to be serving Him in the ministry He has called you to.

 

You’re not alone.

Ministry is a unique profession.  We are often put into situations where the details, process or denominations can isolate us, even as we work with others.  It can be a lonely job.  I encourage you to find and reach out to others that share your heart for ministry.  There are many networks available for ministry professionals, like Church Technical Leaders, or pick up the phone and call your counterpart at the other church down the street.

God did not intend for you to be alone.  It is easy for church technical leaders, or even senior pastors, to be consumed by responsibility and to feel like everything is on their shoulders.  Build your team by adding people who have skillsets that you may lack.  By doing this you will not only have help to get the job done but it will help you become a better leader too.  And, it deepens the community you are called to.  Allowing others to step into His story with you and helping them use the gifts God has given them will benefit everyone.

 

God is using you to impact His Kingdom.

It is easy to lose sight of what you are called to do; not just in the busyness of holidays but in our day to day operations.  Being in ministry is often mistaken for making church ‘happen’ and we tend to lose ourselves in the tasks instead of His story.  You may even question the how or the why of where you are serving.  If you are being faithful to God wherever He has you then I believe He is using you to impact His Kingdom.  I encourage you to start finding the stories of how God is working in the community you serve.  It’s important for you to hear the stories of how God is moving within your church community.  Take the step to talk with your leadership to find those stories.

I will catch myself feeling sorry for myself.  Then God reminds me that He has called me to do this.  I’m not sure why I am privileged to do this or why I get to do this, and sometimes why I am stuck doing this.  But I know His plans are bigger and better than mine.  Those words bring me back to the vision and mission of what I do.

So, again, let me encourage you.  You are not crazy, you are not alone and God is using you to impact His Kingdom.

Automation in Worship by Kevin Poole

We talk alot about excellence in worship and in church services these days.  Sometimes, we misunderstand exactly why excellence is important; its because God is perfect and holy and He deserves our very best and that’s why we strive to do things well.  It’s an act of worship!

Doing things well doesn’t just start on Sunday morning; it starts long in advance with strategic planning and attentiveness to detail.  Kevin Poole is a friend of mine who is the tech director at Mobbery Baptist Church in Longview, TX.  I had the opportunity to see his workflow and ideas first hand as they were planning things out for their Christmas production this year.  He goes into detail on how they’ve planned automation in worship and for special events that they do.  The only way you can get to this level of excellence is through careful planning, attention to detail along sensitivity and maturity in understanding how the Holy Spirit will lead the congregation and anticipating it.  Kevin gets it.  This article may be advanced for some but I do believe that there is something that every church can take away from it.  Make sure you follow Kevin Poole on Twitter at @kevinrpoole …he’s full of great insight and ideas!  Check out his article:

 

Automation in Worship

 

Before I start this, let me give credit where credit is due. There are three men that taught me and led me along this workflow, I would know none of this without the help of Jon Daggett, Mike Gerringer, and Daniel Albert of Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University.

 

Excellence is critical; Make it as easy as possible

In worship settings, we strive for excellence. In a volunteer driven technical ministry, many of the team members have careers that are none technical. They serve faithfully, learning the craft as they go. My goal was to create systems that could be used in worship and production that would allow anyone to operate the gear. The preproduction planning of people who have chosen the technical disciplines as their ministry would help lower the learning curve of technically advanced gear.

Sync is a big deal in production. Time is constant and can never be paused or slowed down. Therefore, we as a team all have to be in sync. Musically, this is accomplished through a director with tempo. Technologically, this is accomplished with timecode. These are the two foundations of this post. This does not eliminate the need for execution by a technical ministry, but it helps control the number of moving parts and failure points.

Continue Reading…

Church Tech Weekly Podcast on the Portable Church

This past week, I had the opportunity to speak on the Church Tech Weekly podcast hosted by Mike Sessler and Van Metschke along with Duke Dejong about what I do as a tech director of a National Community Church which meets in theaters and coffeehouses.  We discussed the challenges as well as the methods we use to make it work.  It’s a pretty conversational and it was a blast to record with these guys.

Check it out on Mike Sessler’s website here.

Check it out on iTunes here.

Behind the Scenes Technology: A Children’s Ministry Pastors Perspective – by David Brock

The second article in this series of guest posts is by one of my old college buddies, David Brock.  David Brock is currently in his final semester of Valley Forge Christian College (VFCC) and will be graduating in May with a Bachelors of Science in Children’s Ministry. He is the leader and manager of Light Children’s Ministries at VFCC which is a traveling Children’s Evangelism team consisting of college students. He has traveled throughout the North East with his team and individually spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to families and children of all ages.  We toured together on a ministry band while I was in college and did shows at many churches, youth groups, special events and camps.  He’s got some great views on harnessing technology to improve ministry and how it all works.  I love this article because it points out some ways to use free technologies to help facilitate ministry.  Check it out:

 

Google Drive in Kids Ministry

Being a leader of a Child Evangelism team, Light Children’s Ministry, means that a lot of work we have to get done throughout the week is when we are apart from each other. I have people on my team who run projection and audio, people who run the puppets, and some help with games. I have people everywhere doing very different things. My challenge was how do I communicate with my entire team in a way that we can work together, see what each other is working on, and see our progress. My answer was Continue Reading…

GLD vs. Pro1 Comparison: by Peter Wituszynski

This article is the first of four guest posts this month.  Recently, I wrote a hands on review of the GLD console but you really can’t make a wise purchase without comparing more then one product.  It’s not often that people have the oppertunity to compare two brand new consoles on the market head to head, hands on but a friend of mine did just recently.

Pete Wituszynski is the volunteer audio director at Restoration Church in Dover, New Hampshire. He loves all things production and enjoys the challenge of pulling church services together. He will receive his BS in Electrical Engineering from UNH this May, and always looks forward to meeting and hanging out with other techs, especially in the New England area. Connect with him on Twitter: @peterwit

 

Allen & Heath GLD vs. Midas Pro1 Hands-on, head-to-head comparison review

This past Christmas, I got to demo an Allen and Heath GLD and a Midas Pro1 side-by-side for a week of services. The GLD was shipped from our usual equipment vendor, and the Midas came from a local dealer who knows a few people in our congregation. These are both $10,000 audio consoles, but they are aimed at different audiences with different feature sets. Both mix audio quite well, so I am mostly going to compare the features and quirks that set them apart.

Continue Reading…

Inspirational Voices in the Church Tech World

As a technical director who is was relatively new to the world of church tech and also to ministry, one of the things I struggled with was learning more about what I was doing before I crashed into a barrier of not having enough knowledge or experience to make good decisions.  Sometimes, it was that I simply didn’t know enough about a certain area of technology to get the job done and I was at a loss. Other times, my leadership was poor simply because I didn’t have the experience or maturity to weigh all of the aspects of the challenge and make a good decision.

Each time that I’ve come across problems such as this, the Lord has always provided someone to help me, challenge me or guide me.  It doesn’t mean I’ve averted failure; nor does it mean that I made good decisions every time.  But , it does mean I’ve learned and changed how I do things because of people who the Lord has placed in my path.  It comes from people who are older then me and sometimes from people who are younger then me.

In the next month, I want to highlight a few people who I have had the pleasure to get to know over the past few years and some I have had the privilege to do ministry along side of them.

Two of these guys are church technical ministry gurus.  Bill Swaringim and Kevin Poole have been huge influences in my life over the past two years for church tech but also for leadership in technical ministry.  Their voices carry experience and wisdom.  Bill is the leader of CTL (Church Technical Leaders) which has networked church technical directors across the nation.  His website and faithfulness was one of the reasons I figured out that being a church tech director was something I could actually do and pursue as a career and had a life-altering effect on my life.  Kevin is the tech director of Mobbery Baptist Church in Longview, TX but has been a TD at First Baptist Church of Dallas as well as the audio director for Liberty University.  He’s attention to detail, intricate planning and technical orchestration is amazing and there is much to be learned in the church world today from his insight.

The other two guys are up and coming leaders who I meet while I was on tour as an audio engineer with Valley Forge Christian College in Chosen and Pneuma.  David Brock was a youth leader who that I connected with and wound up touring with a year later and is now a Children’s Pastor integrating tech into other areas of ministry.  Pete Wituszynski was a camper in my cabin as a youth leader who is now on his way to becoming an electrical engineer and has become a solid production tech.  He’s an ultra-nerd when it comes to gear functionality and workflow and is doing an in-depth product comparison on two new consoles that are rocking the market right now.

I’ve done alot of writing…and you all have done alot of reading!  I just wanted to take some time to kind of sit back and stop talking and allow some of these stellar tech guys to talk for me.  They’ll be posted on Mondays this month and potentially next month depending on the response so make sure you’ve subscribed to the blog and you’re getting updates.  I’m also asking people to tweet these articles if you enjoy them or if you’ve learned something from it.  I want to amplify the voices of these guys because of their knowledge and faithfulness.

Thanks for your support!

Top 5 Tips to Improve Church Production and Your Volunteer Morale

Sometimes, as tech directors on staff at churches, it’s easy to forget that we are the only ones getting paid to be at church making it happen each Sunday.  A lack of preparedness or leadership when directing volunteer teams is just completely unacceptable when it’s “go time” on a Sunday morning.

1.  Connect with your team during the week

It doesn’t matter how you do it, just that you do it.  Connect with them in small groups (whether it’s one you lead or just participate in that happens to include some of your team members), comment on select, daily things on social media to let them know that you care about their every day life, or keep your team updated on what’s being changed, improved or share small status updates on projects that effect them directly via email or social media.  It helps cultivate relationship between team members and leaders as well as allows them to feel a sense of ownership in the ministry they work to support on Sunday mornings.

2.  Be Cheerful

At least smile! :-)  Sometimes, it’s difficult to be that way on Sunday mornings simply because of stress of making sure everything is ready to roll and because of other conflict or problems that arise.  Don’t expect your team to be happy, cheerful, and easy to work with if you, as the ministry leader, are not.  As the leader, your team will mirror your attitude and outlook, so make it a good one!

3.  Know your gear

The gear you use and run production with is your tool for making it happen.  While your tech gear will not LEAD YOU INTO worship, it certainly will keep you from ENTERING INTO worship.  To overcome this is to have things set up and prepared beforehand to reduce problems.  This will help you with last minute changes and service flow modifications because you’re already pretty close to where you need to be already.  But, when there are serious problems or failures, knowing exactly how your systems, setup, design and gear works is critical in troubleshooting problems and getting fast results.  Production errors tend to get way more notice then anything else over the course of a church service.  That understanding will help you get out of sticky situations quicker!  I wrote about when one nightmare came true for Sunday| Magazine a little while back.  Check it out here.

4.  Don’t be afraid to call shots

You’re the tech director, it’s your job.  So many times, I talk to people who are afraid to make a judgement call because they are afraid that they’re going to make the wrong call.  Then, instead of actually making a decision, they don’t do anything thinking that it will just work itself out.  If you’re really directing and coordinating this thing, do something and say something.  Weigh the pro’s and con’s taking the time frame into consideration and make the call being as intentional as possible.  If you make the wrong decision, evaluate your performance and learn from your mistakes.  Then, change how you make decisions for next time.  If you’ve done something well or made a tough call that ended well, then take what you’ve learned from that and see if it can be applied to anything else you may be struggling with.

5.  Circle back afterwards

Bring your team together if possible after you execute a service together and talk about what went well, what didn’t go so great and could be better, and what was a total failure.  Allow them to give input from their perspective and from the specific roles that they served in.  Weigh their input and take it into consideration as your prepare for the following week.  You don’t have to use everything, but you may still hear something or realize something that you missed that can help you create a better experience for next time.

 

What other tips and ideas do you employ at your church?  What other tips can we all learn from?  What things have you learned to avoid?

Defining Leadership Goals

We were pushing through a set up for a show that was pretty complex; but, since I knew the gear and console workflow well, I was moving extremely quickly.  Input names were in place, groups and DCA’s were routed and mics and instruments were patched correctly and methodically because my approach and technique was that of someone who was fairly seasoned and experienced.

On Sunday, one of our volunteers was struggling to figure out why the console wasn’t passing audio to the mains.  The channel was registering that signal was passing through the channel, but he was perplexed as to why he couldn’t hear it.  Many of you, are thinking, “well, was it routed correctly?”  It wasn’t routed correctly and it was easy for me to see because I knew the process well.  It was a good moment for teaching troubleshooting and procedure in a real world situation where results were immediately apparent once I explained it.

It’s easy for experienced technical directors and production techs to glaze over the small steps or get frustrated when less experienced people don’t do exactly what we want.  But, if we haven’t clearly defined what we want, we are doing them a disservice and we’ve failed as a leader in what we’re doing.  Sure, there’s a certain level of experience that we need for specific events and that’s fine.  But, we also need to make sure that we’re training new people from whatever level they are on, even if that means from the ground up, and raising up new people to fill the roles of a growing ministry.

Here’s my plan of attack moving forward:

 

1. Define The Goal

When new people want to get involved, we need to have defined goals and steps laid out.  I need to verbalize and set the standards for what is important and what we want the end product to look like.  This should be applied to shows, services, presentations and organization.

 

2. Define the Steps, Technique and Jargon

As I mentioned earlier, not everyone understands how to get to the goal I shooting for.  Some may understand the process and technique but might not understand how to communicate it and some may be able to communicate well and show an understanding but get terrible results.  The key is to make sure that I know how approach people from both angles.  Personally, I can get the necessary results, but struggle more with explaining to others how to get there.  I need to learn to unlearn some of the advanced techniques and terminology and get back to the very definitions of what I’m doing and the steps of the processes I’m employing.  That doesn’t mean I’m supposed to overwhelm someone and deluge them with everything I know and expect them to run a large format show right away simply because I explained everything, but it does mean that everything can be broken down into smaller, easier and more palatable words, phrases and definitions so that people can grasp what I’m talking about and thereby learn and grow.

 

3. Define Commitment

This should be a given and I believe it will develop from getting the other two right.  If I organize my goals and explain why those goals are important and how important the volunteers who take those conceptual goals and make them a reality, it will help develop a deeper commitment and “buy-in” into what we’re doing in our specific area of ministry.

 

This is definitely a discussion-based article that I’m looking for feedback (ha…audio guy joke) on.  Comments are certainly welcomed here.  Let’s here thoughts and critiques…I’m learning along with the rest of you and I’m all ears!

The Value of Volunteers: A Leadership Lesson from a Broken Phone

Don’t you hate it when your phone breaks?  Yeah, I do…especially when your contract isn’t up yet.  Sure, I could submit an insurance claim on it but honestly, the only thing that broke is the battery cover on the back.  So, the insurance company doesn’t want to help me but it’s driving me nuts.  Even though the phone has honestly been great, now that the battery cover is being annoying and not meeting my expectations and standards, I am willing to throw my old phone away, pay quite a bit of money to get a new phone, take an early upgrade and re-sign a 2 year contract all because the battery cover of my phone is messed up.

Crazy right?

Or do we do that in church ministry as well?   Continue Reading…

A Review of the new Klout Preview

If you’re logged into Klout lately, you will probably see a new option to invite friends to Klout and if 10 join, you will be given access to a preview of a new version of their social media online influence website.  I, like many others I’m sure, invited a bunch of Facebook friends to join Klout so I could check out the preview.  Today, I was granted access to the preview site.

It’s quite a face-lift from the previous version of Klout…in fact, it’s almost completely different.  But, before I kick into that review, I’ll like to talk a little bit about what goes into your Klout score. Continue Reading…

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