“WHERE IS THE PASTOR GOING WITH THE WIRELESS HANDHELD MIC!?!” Every church service has the potential of going from a predictable schedule-driven service to an “as the Spirit leads” service. There are five ways you can get through such services without going mad.
The pastor at my home church tends to stick with the schedule. Any changes tend to be pre-service so I get a warning. We’ve had a change-up here or there but nothing I couldn’t hand. Then came this past Sunday…
I was running sound at a different church, as a fill-in for a friend. I knew he didn’t get a schedule of the service but that it was predictable and easy. Then it happened. The pastor goes completely off the predicted schedule and the pressure is on me to keep up.
Once I realized the rest of the service was going to be different than normal, I quickly re-prioritized what I was doing and how I would predict the next moves. Which leads to…
Top Five Ways of Surviving an Off-the-Schedule Service
1. Don’t ignore the existing schedule / typical order of events
Major schedule items aren’t likely to change. For example, you’ll still have the sermon, usually, so you still need to have your recording media ready. Let’s play this out a little. If the schedule calls for the worship band to play after the sermon but your pastor says “I’m going to end this sermon differently than I had planned,” then expect the band will still play, so be ready for them. Even if you have to work some magic for the pastor’s added multimedia display, be prepared for what comes next.
2. Remember to mute the pastor
Every person, who I hand a wireless microphone, hears me say the same thing, “the microphone is on and it should stay on. I’ll mute you and un-mute you when necessary. Don’t worry about it.“ When a service goes off-the-schedule, the pastor might be talking to someone on the side while something else is going on center-stage. Don’t forget to mute the pastor when everything gets busy and they are not the one’s people are watching.
3. Prioritize volume over EQ
The fun is in the EQ’ing, isn’t it? However, when events are unpredictable, ignore any desire to make EQ changes and instead focus on volume balancing. I’ve found the ‘off-schedule‘ stuff tends to focus on passing a wireless microphone around the congregation or involving more than the pastor in a speaking role. Instead of trying to perfect the EQ for each person, I go for getting the right volume out so everyone can hear them.
4. Watch for feedback frequencies.
This past Sunday, my wife ended up using the wireless microphone and I noticed a bit of feedback in the room. A quick mid-range EQ cut and it was gone. Considering that and what I said in point #3, I will say that if going off-schedule means a person is going to talk for 10 minutes then take a few moments and get them a good EQ for intelligibility. But, if the microphone is being passed around, do only what you must.
5. Don’t hyper-focus
This is the biggest killer. If you are focusing on the wireless handheld getting passed around the sanctuary, then OOPS, you missed the guitarist who started playing background music. Keep an eye on the pastor, the stage, and the current need.
6. [BONUS] Always watch the person in charge
Whoever has initiated the off-schedule change is the person to watch. Whatever is happening, keep an eye on them. They will be the one who starts talking and you need their microphone un-muted. Using an easy example, if the pastor has two people come on stage to perform a skit, as soon as the skit is over, the pastor will be the first one talking so you need to have their mic un-muted.
Questions; Have you ever had services go completely off any predictable schedule? What did you do to keep it seamless?