Here is where the rubber hits the road. This is where the vision casting and planning starts taking shape. Here is where you’ll hear my mantra:
“Everything we do for the service we do to impact someone and help open the door to their heart for God to speak into them, no matter if it’s the first time they’ve stepped into church or the 1,000th time”.
It doesn’t matter the vision being cast or the plan, that should be the 100% focus working up to the step of organization. Pin it up in every room used for planning and implementing the worship service. Repeat it as part of the pre-meeting prayers (You do have pre-meeting prayers, don’t you? If not, prepare to fail, because you haven’t invited God to be present and guide you).
Organization of Elements
A great definition of organize is, “to form as or into a whole consisting of interdependent or coordinated parts, to put (oneself) in a state of mental competence to perform a task.” (dictionary.reference.com) How do we organize our ideas and make them a reality?
- We have the vision of what we wish to communicate to the congregation.
- We’ve planned out the service order.
- Time to put that plan into operational sequencing!
Look at the service order with the pastor, worship leader, and technical leader. Everyone has an area of expertise dependent on another. As team leaders, it’s important to bring in other members of the team to get them on board and committed to the vision. Organize each element into logical teams.
For example, if the sanctuary needs to have a certain look and feel, then bring in the folks that will the work. Bring them in early so they get vested and take ownership. If the worship music needs to have a certain look with the lyric presentation then bring in the video techs and have them start finding appropriate backgrounds and transition times. Nothing ruins the mood of worship music faster than having a fast transition between slides for a slow, soulful song.
How should the communion time go? Dim lights, rearrangement of the sanctuary, acoustic music? Keep in mind the mood you are attempting to convey for the service. If you’ve got a somber, introspective service planned you certainly don’t want a lively, comedic video.
Make sure any videos being considered for the service should be screened by all involved.
The Three Part Song Selection Model
Worship music easily determines the mood for service. This comes from song selection and arrangement. There’s no “one recipe” for worship flow but I’ve had the below model work for me. Note, every congregation is different so this might not be ideal for your situation.
- The opening song is usually upbeat. Gets the blood pumping and many times people are still coming in and haven’t prepared themselves in advance to get into worship.
- Next song is a call to worship. This is what starts opening hearts. Select a song accordingly.
- After that it depends on the vision. If the service is meant to have a somber tone I’ll start dialing down the songs, ending with a soulful, cry out to God type song. The one thing you don’t want to do is to have worship mood be different from the sermon mood. Remember, we’re trying to open people’s hearts to receive God.
Technical leaders, get with the worship leader and go through the songs verse by verse, noting the dynamics of the song on your run sheet. You are as much a part of the worship team as any of the members. That knowing the songs and the way the band is going to perform them. You have the ability to affect the dynamics of the song and subsequently can help the band make the song more powerful.
DO NOT do this is you and the worship leader haven’t built the trust that is necessary to do this seamlessly and invisibly. Nothing is worse than a sound tech bringing up or down the levels of the various instruments or vocals at the wrong time, or worse yet doing it out of sequence with the dynamics that the band is doing. If you don’t know when you should adjust the dynamics, don’t do it.
Depending on the church you may have a control over the lighting or none at all. If you have lighting control, both on the stage and overall, you also need to have your light tech as part of the organizational meeting. As with sound, there comes the ability to control the congregation’s mood and receptivity toward worship and the sermon through appropriate lighting.
Don’t get caught up in the must-do-everything-big syndrome. Some of the most effective and impactful moments I’ve experienced, in churches, were when things were kept simple and everything focused on feeling God come into the house. You can plan, organize, practice and implement everything, but when God comes into the house, He takes over.
Keep your heart open to hear His voice and His direction. There will be ministry times when God’s presence has blessed the congregation in a way that is mind-blowing and you just sit there, in tears, feeling His hand heal people in the congregation. That’s when you follow His lead and everything else goes out the window. You change songs, you stop, you listen, you feel and you are blessed.
Next up, tackling the monster in the closet; Practicing.
Pawel saysApril 23, 2014 at 4:16 pm
Paradoxically with expansion of new technologies it is getting more and more difficult to make technical side of church service invisible. The more technology, screens, projectors, smoke machines etc is employed the more it makes a barrier for me personally. A lot of tips here show how to manipulate the audience, make them feel and respond in appropriate way, but that is not transparent worship, it’s manipulation. All of this may make church attractive, but even Christ’s message wasn’t attractive: “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Lk 9.23). I’m afraid, more and more churches are going the wrong direction, but that’s theological not technical question…
Of course, I agree that we shall be prepared and have backup plans, but no one can foresee all possible problems. And not all churches have professionals (or at least experienced men) operating PA, and other equipment. That’s why for different churches and different tech staff I would use different measure according to their abilities.
In my view, “transparent” means transparent for God, so our stuff doesn’t come in his way. We can manipulate people to “experience God” but that is not real (and even blasphemy sometimes).
For people that come to church let’s try to be ‘invisible’ with our toys and what they can do.
Brian Gowing saysApril 23, 2014 at 4:46 pm
Pawel I would respectfully disagree with your comment about manipulation. I don’t think it is any more manipulation than building a cathedral to awe the visitor into worship with God. That’s what they were built for. To take someone’s breath away with the grandeur of God. Like it or not, what we do or don’t do does manipulate people toward helping remove barriers for God. That is a part of our job. Every time we change an eq or add reverb or delay onto a channel we manipulate the sound. There’s no getting around that. I believe it’s more like laying down a red carpet and inviting people to come down the carpet to meet God instead of having them walk down a rutted, dirt road.
Is technology for technology’s sake worth it? Absolutely not! And I’ve said it so many times that I get tired of stating it, but every church has a sweet spot on the amount of “technological assist” that they use and one size DOES NOT fit all and absolutely shouldn’t.
Every piece of technology that we choose to use or not use carries a responsibility and a price. I would no sooner say that using the equipment is manipulation (or blasphemy as you state) than say that not using any equipment begets a more transparent worship experience. The whole point of this series that I wrote was a call to action to church technical people to get off their butts and LEARN how to use their equipment properly instead of being complacent and being mediocre.
I’ve been in churches that have excellent technical folk. That’s singular and a small church at that but boy, they were wringing the meager equipment they had to the best of the equipment’s ability. Likewise I’ve been at churches that have paid professional tech teams that I wouldn’t want running equipment in any church.
We have got to stop using inexperience and non-professional as a reason to have sub-standard tech. The days of a church getting excused for having bad audio/video/lighting graphics are over. Like it or not the public expects a certain level of technology and a certain level of expertise. They don’t care who operates the equipment. These expensive pieces of equipment are certainly not toys and they shouldn’t be described as such. No matter if you’ve been put in the position or volunteered for it, it is your responsibility to learn how to properly use the equipment. There are a wealth of resources available to learn how to run tech properly.
Pawel saysApril 24, 2014 at 5:56 pm
So you disagree with my observation that some of your tips show how to manipulate people, but agree that you manipulate people? Some quotes: ‘Everything we do for the service we do to impact someone (…)”Worship music easily determines the mood for service. (…) The opening song is usually upbeat. Gets the blood pumping(…) there comes the ability to control the congregation’s mood and receptivity ‘ You say here that it is easy to control how people feel and react during the service. (manipulate – to make someone think and behave exactly as you want them to, by (…) influencing them. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English)
Every time the Bible relates situations when people were experiencing God’s presence they were overpowered with fear and understood their sinfulness and, in contrast, also saw God’s holiness and his majesty.
It’s not wise to say that atmosphere we create is equal to experience biblical characters had. Emotions created in audience by executing our vision are not equal real experience of God’s presence.
If you think that God created the whole universe only with his word, than his word is really powerful. That was the barrier – no materials to start with. And if you say that with our production we can make God’s word have bigger impact it is … silly. Of course if it is God’s word in the center.
I haven’t said that there should be no equipment in the church. But our obsession with technology, or as you say ‘the public expects a certain level of technology and (…) expertise’ is leading us in wrong direction. You will have bigger attendance in a church with better technology and better production than in a church with better bible teaching.
Simple example: Is it better, during the sermon, to have bible texts on screen or congregation reading it from their (or pew) bibles? It is rather difficult to have both – if it is on the screen I will not open the bible. I bet, you will tell me that because of video recording/streaming there should be no pauses, so congregation will not have enough time to open their bibles, so we will have to use screen.
I haven’t said that tech people shouldn’t learn. I’m in this ‘business’ for over 30 years and I’m still learning. There are however, congregations where PA is in hands of someone who probably is least qualified, but there’s nobody else who would do it. And I do respect those people and will never call quality of their work substandard, even if I would do it much, much better. If possible I would always give them some suggestion, or advice in a friendly manner in such a way that they will never feel inferior.
It is not true, as you say, that I said that using equipment is blasphemy. It is blasphemy to say that God is present when your feelings are high just because of skilfully executed production plan. Why shall God come to a church because of good production? If Jesus promised “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them”. (Mat 18.20) then He is there. If that’s a meeting in His name, He is there because He promised this. Period. Mood, atmosphere, emotions, or feelings have nothing to do with this.
I will repeat what I said in the first post: let us, with all technology, be transparent for God, so our stuff doesn’t come in his way, and be invisible for people that come to church.
And read the Bible, user manuals and learn how to do your work best.
Chris Huff saysApril 24, 2014 at 9:25 pm
Pawel, reading through your words, knowing Brian as I do, and reflecting on what the both of you have said, I think this a good time to make a few statements.
First, we are moved by music all of the time in both its arrangement, and if you listen to the radio, the order in which songs are played. The latter comes from my broadcasting days. Whether it’s a radio station or a music set, the good ones never put more than two songs of the same tempo back-to-back. So, you’re likely to hear something like; slow, medium, medium, fast, repeat. Is it manipulating the feelings of the listener? No. It’s recognizing the human brain likes variation and presenting three slow songs or three fast songs in a row can both subconsciously tired out the listener. Song arrangement is an art and good songwriters and arrangers (even worship leaders are arrangers) recognize the need to ebb and flow through the song. The punch up of a horn section or a dropping out of a drum in a chorus, it’s all part of that.
Second, I’d like to quote what you said because it goes at the root of all of this:
“And I do respect those people and will never call quality of their work substandard, even if I would do it much, much better. If possible I would always give them some suggestion, or advice in a friendly manner in such a way that they will never feel inferior.
Thank you for being one who would give friendly advice. Brian and I come at this from slightly different angles. He’s seen churches who had people in denial of the poor quality of their own work. And what they needed was confrontation. I’ve seen churches accepting of poor work such as regular feedback. Such distractions should not be a regular occurrence. Both of us want to call church techs to be the best they can be and present their best work to both God and the congregation. Anyone who knows they can improve and is trying to improve, they have our respect.
Third, stuff like “no pauses” for streaming video…no. We all agree. I’ll smack anyone upside the head who thinks presentation requires audio all of the time. Presentation of God’s Word, of the Gospel. Ah, that leads me to my last point.
We work diligently and professionally so God’s Word goes out to as many people as possible, so it can be heard, and it can be understood (art of EQ’ing the spoken word). We use audio and video and lighting as creative means for celebrating God and creating an environment suitable for a church’s specific congregation to engage in worship.
When I am driving my car and listen to worship music, I crank up the radio, not because the louder volume manipulates me into worshiping but because, at that time, to me, I want to worship to God as loudly and freely as possible.
We don’t work in production to create a fake environment for worship. We work in production because we know that people worship in different ways and for those who say “we want to worship big” then we help them worship big. And for those who worship best with a simple piano or guitar then we are there to present just as important of an environment where the lead singer can easily be understood and the guitar sits properly under their vocals. We work our best so the congregation can keep their focus on God, the message, and the worship.
Brodie Krause saysApril 24, 2014 at 2:02 pm
Technology on its own is a distraction. What I take from these articles is that it is the tech team’s job to minimize and eliminate that distraction. It is entirely possible to go into a service with screens, speakers, mics, instruments, fog machines and lasers, and notice none of them. It’s the mark of professional handling of the technology when it can be used to enhance worship. It’s when we misuse or mess up the equipment that it becomes noticeable. Even a techno-free church can have technology get in the way, because a church with zero technology doesn’t exist for one, but also, a lack of implementing modern tech sticks out and distracts just as much as poorly implemented modern tech.