Thursday, 23 June 2011

Doing the tech in church

For the last four years or so I have had the privilege of serving in church through operating the AV equipment.  During the summer break I have stepped back and had a think about what it means to be a ‘tech guy’ and what lessons I have learnt from doing it.
Before relocating and moving church both my wife and I played in our church’s worship band which we both thoroughly enjoyed.  
On arrival at our new church the use of multi media equipment in worship was very much in its infancy and was destined to grow.  After being in the right place at the right time I was given an opportunity to join the church hall AV tech team.
What is the role of the tech team?
I firmly believe that the role of the tech team is to support the worship of God in the service.  This might be through displaying song words during sung worship, power point presentations or showing video clips.  
I have seen services not just in my own church but elsewhere where the quality of AV detracts and hinders the worship experience.  This might be through lack of preparation, poor set up of equipment or inexperience in use of the equipment.  A worship band would not stand up in a service ill-prepared and the same should go for the tech team.
So what have I learnt? Lots really, some technical and some spiritual.
#1 Use all the equipment within its capacity.  
If the current set-up doesn’t allow you to do everything you want either upgrade (if possible) or simply don’t do it.  If a computer only plays video files some of the time without crashing don’t assume that it wont crash during the service.
There are times when people on the team will want to bring in their own bit of kit to support the service such as a laptop.  I’m personally against this - the basic set-up should be able to handle what is needed most of the time. It is very easy for the quality of AV to become inconsistent which is unhelpful for everyone.
If displaying song words a dedicated package such as SongPro is really useful (other software is available).  I’m personally against using powerpoint as there is significantly less flexibility.  If you know that the songs will always follow the set order eg V1, V2, C, V3 then powerpoint is ok (ish!)
#2 Train and develop a good number of people.
The equipment may be expensive and shiny but train and develop a good number of people in using it.  Try to encourage a wide range of people in the team so that the skills are spread around. It may take as many as 5/6 services for someone to feel really confident so an investment in time is important.
#3 Rehearse as part of the worship band.
If you are displaying song words as part of a worship time get there early and have the songs ready before the band arrive.  As the band rehearse follow along with them, make notes if needed on how the song will flow.
If the band likes to change some of the words don’t forget to update the song file - but change it back afterwards!
#4 Be strict about preparation
If regularly the clergy or other people leading or speaking hand you powerpoints, videos etc 5 minutes before the service there may be a need for a conversation.  Whilst appreciating that people have very busy lives the extra time available will help.
A very cautionary word should be said about video files - just because it works on someone else's laptop in the office or at home does not mean it may work on your system.  You really want to check this out in advance.
#5 Death by 1000 powerpoint slides.
Too much of anything is a bad thing - the same with powerpoint presentations.
  • simple and clean
  • readable font (both size and colour)
  • supports what is being said
  • not too much to read
  • slides which are cluttered, hard to read or distracting
  • use of transitions (things flying in and out of the screen)
  • annoying powerpoint sounds (that horrible chime!)
  • over use of photos or funny pictures
  • any animated pictures (makes it hard to concentrate)

#6 The heart behind it
Doing the tech is often a very visible job, if things go wrong eyes turn towards you!  We are here to worship God and to help others do the same.  Sometimes things go wrong, we learn from it.  It is not about us and our amazing skills at operating a PC / sound desk in the same way it is not about the singer with the amazing voice.
Before any rehearsal and service pray for one and other, pray for the equipment (unless you are using a Mac - joke!).  Get to know the tech team, pray for each other outside of church, develop communities and friendships within the team.  
I always pray for the equipment as we set up - things do go wrong but I believe that God does extend the lamp life of the projector and stops Windows crashing!
Doing the ‘tech’ in church is an awesome privilege and is so much more than boy (or girls) playing with shiny and exciting toys.
Please pray for the tech team in my church and your own.

1 comment:

  1. Great post Spencer.

    We use SongPro too and you're right, it's so much better than trying to use PowerPoint.

    I think all your points are bang-on!