What's the difference between a concert and a church service? Other than the lawn seats, the over-priced food, and the souvenir t-shirts, I'd say it's that a church service is a time for meditation, worship, and connection with God. My point is that when any distraction occurs during a church service, you, I, the congregation, is distracted from worshipping, from prayer, from that connection. Here are the top five distractions and how you can avoid them.
1. Missing cues
Missing cues results in people missing part of what is being spoken or sung. That's on the end of "best case scenario." The worst case is when you hear the pastor tap the mic and say "is this thing on?"
Avoid missing cues by 1) paying attention to the stage during the service 2) have a schedule for the service outlining what happens & when and 3) properly labeling all channels. The last one seems obvious but I've seen sound guys look all over their channels trying to remember where they had routed a particular microphone.
2. Wrong mixing style for congregation
The band has picked the songs and the arrangement to match what is beneficial to the congregation. Now the ball is in your court to make sure it sounds right for the congregation. The easy recommendations are things like "forget the thumping bass line for the older congregation" but let's go a bit further. Instead of putting many of the instruments near the front of your mix, for an older congregation, put them farther back in the mix as a supportive cast and have the vocals lead the songs.
You know your congregation and how they react to the worship music. Change your mixing style so you see them more actively worshiping. For some people, that might simply be singing instead of not.
3. Mixing too loud
This is where we get into people saying "I don't want a rock concert!" But then you get people saying they worship best when it's loud. While some of this comes down to knowing your congregation, there is an easy test that JB taught me a long time ago;
Increase the master volume and watch people reaction. Lower the volume and watch their reaction. The volume with the most people with their hands in the air and singing (maybe even clapping) is the best volume to use.
As an aside, please know that when you increase or decrease volume, that will likely mean you need to alter your EQ settings. For example, a bright cymbal sound might be too bright after a raise in volume.
4. Look and act anxious before and during the service
People walk into the sanctuary expecting a time in which they can pray before the service, sit silently, or maybe read their bible. If you are running around looking like a crazy person, they will be distracted by your actions. And if I were to look back into the sound booth and see a sound tech look anxious then I'm going to be worried about what might happen at any moment.
Get to the church in plenty of time to do everything that's required for proper preparation. Allow time for problems. For example, maybe you need an extra ten minutes after band practice to work out any last minute problems. Don't set that time ten minutes before the service. A rule of thumb at my church is that all stage work should be done fifteen minutes before the service.
As for looking anxious in the sound booth during a service, I find this is usually caused by a lack of training or planning. See #1 for getting a schedule of the service.
5. Causing un-necessary monitor adjustment requests during the service that should have been done during practice.
The title of this one should say it all. Working closely with the band during practice, all monitor levels should be set as close to accurate as possible. There is nothing wrong with a musician indicating they need a bit more or less of something in their instrument but if you get the whole stage of musicians indicating less or more then the congregation will wonder what is going on. Therefore, spend the time during practice on setting monitor levels.
Question(s): What have you seen or heard at any event that's been distracting? How do you cut down on distractions?
Thought? Questions? Comments?