[Update July 30, 2014: This story happened back when I was at a small church running an analog console. The lessons still ring true, not matter what size of church or type of equipment.]
One roaming squirrel plus one electrical substation equals one church without power. If only Plan B could have been implemented.
It will probably surprise you our church was ready to implement Plan B.
Under normal conditions, the sound check and band warm-up is from 9:00 am to 9:45 am. During this time, the computer is loaded for the slides and audio/video feeds are tested through the sound board. By the time the service is ready to start at 10:15 am, everything it tested and ready.
The power outage started at 8:45 am when the squirrel touched the wrong part of the transformer. Once it was apparent the outage could impact the service, the call was made at 9:15am to roll out plan B.
Plan B says the worship team drops any electric instruments (duh!). Also, the song list is replaced with songs everyone knows by heart. Plan B says the pastor modifies the sermon to account for the lack of computer visual aides.
Plan B was in place and everyone was ready and then came 10:05 am.
The power came back on, much to our demise. (Yes, I meant to say that.)
A question I’ll pose to you is this; would you continue with Plan B or would you try to fit 45 minutes of prep time into a 10 minute window?
At this point, I’ll add I wasn’t on duty, so I was able to watch how events played out.
Our church opted for the 10 minute window to do 45 minutes of prep time. Assumptions were made everything would work. To their credit, the sound board already had the volumes set from the practive day before but no eq work.
I’d rather not say. It wasn’t a disaster. But, it wasn’t a smooth service either. Problems occurred both on the audio and video side because ALL of the preparation wasn’t done.
What would you do?
The chain of command says the pastor drives the service so when they say “do everything as normal” then that’s what you do. And while I agree with that, there is a time when I’d like to believe you and I can be a valuable second opinion.
I wish I’d asked my pastor “why don’t you consider a lights-off service?” We had candles in place, the band was ready, and it would have been a great experience for the congregation when we showed the value of a simplified worship service. All we had to do was turn the lights off in the sanctuary and it could have happened.
Now, using a line from the old Arlo Guthre song “Alice’s Restaurant (live version),” I’m going to say “but that’s not what I’ve come to tell you about.” What could have happened had things been different, well, that’s not my point. And I’m not here to ask you to try to persuade the pastor of something. I’m here to tell you what you should do if…
You have 10 minutes to do 45 minutes of work. You need a Plan C.
Plan C says “Plan A isn’t happening so we are going with Plan B but if we don’t have to implement Plan B, then we have to be ready.”
Plan C starts with doing what you can without power:
- Swap in new batteries.
- Get out any recording media.
- Do everything possible without power so if the power comes back on, there is less to do.
The next step is prioritization and simplification. There’s no time for detailed mix work. There isn’t time for a lot of things. Once the power is back on:
- Get the band to play one song (or at least half a song)
- Set gain structure and set a basic volume balance.
- Set monitor levels.
- Check the pastor’s microphone.
- Check the feeds from all sources like the computer and CD player. Play a little bit from each to verify the signal is good and set the gain.
That’s it! The point of Plan C isn’t to have everything 100% perfect. The point of Plan C is having the equipment in a state where you know it’s going to work and sound pretty good. You’ll be mixing a lot for that first song, but that’s OK. The levels are set and the congregation hears a good initial baseline mix. You know the pastor’s microphone will work and you know your audio and video feeds will work.
Plan A is what you do for every service.
Plan B is what you do in case of emergency.
Plan C is what you do in the least amount of time with the most benefit.