Worship techs are adept at what appears to be deflection. Asked how they are feeling, they will respond, “Great; I just got a new wireless mic for the pastor.” This substitution of the material for the personal forms a disconnect for creatives, but makes sense to other techs. To most people, the answer presented is not related to the question since one is internal and the other external. Creatives must, however, dig deeper to glean an understanding of tech-world. In this case, the statement refers to the joy the tech feels for no longer being blamed every Sunday by the pastor when the wireless mic drops out. She sees the logic between the two situations as wholly related. With techs, there is always a connection between gear and the heart. If you are a creative striving to understand your tech friends, or you are a tech trying to understand yourself, here are some guideposts:
Corollaries Exist on a Different Plane
To a vocalist, a 7:00 rehearsal translates into leaving work about 6:00, making a Starbucks run, and then arriving at church about 6:45. For a tech, it means sneaking out of work early, making a mad dash from work to the church with numerous speed limit laws broken and no time for anything other than stopping to buy AA batteries for the IEMs, out of pocket, of course. When these two people meet on-stage during rehearsal to discuss monitors, their mindsets are completely different. What seems reasonable to one (more of me) is anathema to the other. Creatives should seek to realize the depth of what must transpire before a note can be sung, while techs have to remember the greater good in play.
Skill and Talent Exist in Tensioned Balance
A skilled tech is not necessarily a talented one, and the inverse is true as well. However, it is wise to develop both sides of the equation. Worship leaders often place talented techs at the controls, leaving the skilled operators to handle more mundane details. In order to strengthen the tech team, a smart move is to have the talented members show the skilled ones why they make certain adjustments and how that plays to the betterment of the mix. Skilled techs can train the others in soldering, troubleshooting, and system optimization in a structured learning environment.
Emotion is Not Always Demonstrable
Church leaders complain techs are not engaged in worship without realizing that for AVL mixers to raise their hands means they stop doing their jobs. Any tech that closes eyes during prayer won’t last long. Whatever is happening on the stage must be dealt with now with an eye toward what is coming next. There is no down time or personal time in the booth. As constraining as this scenario is, it has to be countered with actual down time and personal time or the tech will self-destruct. Techs cannot be “on” every service without a break, even if doing so means some things go undone. Emotions buried beneath the surface will erupt in a negative manner if not allowed to vent safely over time.
Beware the Passive-Aggressive Beast
When people are incapable of expressing themselves in a situation, one coping mechanism is to publicly agree, but privately undermine. If a pastor demands a last-minute video be played during service, the passive-aggressive tech will claim the video is incorrectly formatted (true) and can’t be played without six hours of work (not true). The issue is not the video format; it is the recurring last minute demands made by the pastor on techs who cannot say no, due to personality inequalities or staff hierarchy. It is a way for the tech to regain some dignity. Awareness of the complexities of video format conversion is a start, but the bigger picture is understanding how other people are constrained by your position or person. Lead like a servant.
Being a worship tech entails working long hours in a generally thankless role, but it need not be a negative experience. There are moments when it all comes together in synchronous joy as people are moved to spiritual action through the technology, and those moments make the job worthwhile. Now go out and play nice.