Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Love to Your Sound Guy (or Girl)

If you're blessed like the church I serve, you have a whole mess of volunteers working in your light, video, and sound departments.  Churches with big resources are often able to make these staff positions, hiring professionals to keep the production value in worship at a professional level.

While paid staff can be an awesome way to go, I'll take my volunteers and their incredible servant hearts.  It's foundational to worship ministry, having volunteers (servants) give their time and talents to the kingdom.  But probably the scariest place to serve is in that sound booth.  I mean, you have to love what you do to be back there.  You know why?  Because when things go right, nobody really notices.  But when things go wrong?  Good Lord.  The person better be ready for the looks they recieve.

I was blessed for several years to work in the church that I grew up in with my father as my sound guy.  But I should say that I grew up in sound booths.  I have vivid memories of being a little kid, and being kicked up into the balcony to hang with my dad when I was too ornery to let my mom concentrate on worship.  My little brother and I would sit up there for hours and doodle, and sing hymns, and watch dad do what he loved to do.  So it was great for me as an adult and worship minister to work for with my dad, who was a volunteer at the time.  At least it was great until there was feedback, or a mic didn't come in on time ... Or yadda yadda yadda.  If you've been in worship, you know the problems I'm talking about.  Problems didn't happen often, but when they did, you'd think we were ruining people's lives.

There's any number of reasons why we have problems with sound in worship, and often times it's not operator error.  With feedback in particular, most of our older sanctuaries simply aren't designed with a sound system in mind, especially for what we call 'contemporary' worship these days.  The ideal space for contemporary worship is a simple box of a room, not the beautifully designed spaces that we love to be in to experience worship.  So, we hire sound designers to come in and retrofit our spaces to fit  expectations of current worshipping congregations, and inevitably the sounds bounce around at weird angles and the dreaded feedback occurs.  A good sound person knows when to expect it and can catch it and fix it, but it still takes hours and hours of practice, and even then feedback will still happen.

Or then the pastor/worship leader grabs the wrong microphone, and oops!  Where's the sound?  Or the battery dies mid-sentence.  Darn.  Or the monitor mix is out of whack because we had to move the choir into different seats.

All of these things can lead to stares back at the sound booth.  Sometimes, there's also yelling after worship.

The church universal needs to be reminded what Christ often said, "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all, and servant of all."

Our audio/visual people put in countless hours and take their service very seriously.  The Lord never has put on us an expectation of perfection, just that we do our best to do good in our service (and we're all called to serve in some fashion).

We all mess up in our service in worship on occasion.  Just don't forget to tell your sound guy that they're doing a good job, when nothing goes wrong.