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When Nightmares Come True

When Nightmares Come True

I was treating it like a typical service, even though we had some special guests.  When I do that, my team performs more consistently. They just do what they always do. But what was about to happen was very unusual.

At National Community Church, our Saturday night services are quite unique compared to our other services. It’s when we record our sermon video, which we turn around that night and deploy to our campuses.  This video is then viewed by those in attendance in several movie theaters around the DC area the following morning. It’s also the video and audio that will go up on iTunes and on our website for anyone and everyone to view. So, it’s absolutely critical that we always bring our A-game and work with excellence.

This particular Saturday, sound check and pre-service checks went normally with no surprises, and we kicked off the service at 5pm on the dot. We rolled through the cues and the guest speaker took the stage to preach. As we sat back to listen to the sermon, the unthinkable happened. With a barely audible click, our front of house mixing console shut off. Fortunately, my remote DSP audio racks kept passing audio, but I had no control of our PA system.

“What happens now? I’m leading this thing, right?” All eyes are on me now and the decisions I make will affect our entire weekend of services.

If you’re a technical director, you may have found yourself in a similar predicament and under tremendous pressure. Failures can be seen or unseen by the congregation. Technical catastrophes can be unanticipated but are typically rooted in a different problem. Regardless, how you act and react not only defines your skill, but also your strength as a leader.

During a technical problem, how you act and react not only defines your skill, but also your strength as a leader.

Consequently, we must ask ourselves, “What steps can we take to keep things like this from happening?”

Prepare

The expectations for me are to orchestrate the technical execution of a service and make sure our video records properly for viewing on Sunday morning. It’s imperative for me to understand and make sure I’m monitoring all the components necessary to make it happen. This entails maintaining the lights, ensuring the wireless frequencies are clear, and checking that the signals are routed properly and high quality. It also means if I can’t do it all by myself, I’m responsible to find the help and resources to make it happen. In the words of one of my good friends, “Delegation is one of the most crucial components of good leadership, but so is taking ownership for all things delegated.”

Delegation is one of the most crucial components of good leadership, but so is taking ownership for all things delegated.
This concept clearly indicates I’m responsible if it doesn’t go the way I planned it. If you don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing and haven’t set appropriate goals, you won’t meet expectations.

Trust Your Team

Once you’ve figured out your specific objectives, this is where the delegation part comes in. As I mentioned, taking a strong sense of ownership is great, but being possessive and controlling is unhealthy – especially in teamwork-based situations.

Let me be honest and transparent here. I’m terrible at this. When someone struggles or gets confused, I find it very easy to react by saying, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll just do it myself.” And that’s wrong.

It’s my job to instruct, challenge, guide, and equip my team to be successful.

It’s my job to instruct, challenge, guide, and equip my team to be successful.
If they can’t complete a task, the only person at fault is myself and a problem in my leadership skills is exposed.  I need to make sure I’m finding new and better ways to communicate if I’m not getting it done with my current methods.

Accept Responsibility

I know many of you are reading that header and not liking it. This is the part of serving and leadership that’s most painful. There’s relational pressure involved.

We’ve all been in those situations where we feel like a technical issue really isn’t our fault. However, taking responsibility isn’t always about taking the blame for what happened. Rather it’s about being the one to make a difference from this point forward.

Taking responsibility isn’t always about taking the blame for what happened. Rather it’s about being the one to make a difference from this point forward.
 Even if it is a volunteer’s fault, always avoid throwing any one person under the bus. If it’s a team problem, make it a team effort to fix the problem.

Then, ask your leadership to extend grace to the production and media team for what has gone wrong. We all desire grace, especially when something goes wrong because of us.  Remember, regardless of how much pressure you are under, always give the grace you desire to receive. This will make a major difference in the lives of both your volunteers and your leaders.

As production leaders, we’re driven by the process, procedure, and ultimate goal.  Your church leadership probably doesn’t need to hear every detail about the technical cause of the problem. They only need you to acknowledge the problem and assure them you’re committed and determined to finding the solution.

Be proactive about solving problems and own the responsibility. Then, follow through on the solution. You’ll gain respect and trust in the long run.

This is all easier said than done. There’s no such thing as a simple, three-step process to the world of blissful, flawless production. Ministry, in its essence, is challenging and exciting. But, implementing these steps can start the process of making the nightmares less frequent and less common.

About The Author

Jason Castellente

Jason Castellente has a bachelors of music from Valley Forge Christian
College and is currently the production coordinator at National
Community Church in Washington DC. He enjoys blogging and tweeting about church
tech gear, training, and life.

2 Comments

  1. Darren Emery

    Jason – great article.

    You are so right – these step can be hard, especially the Accept Responsibility part. For years, my response to a tech problem would be to figure out which peace of gear I could blame it on, or what odd circumstance would be sited when asked about “that thing that happened”.

    It’s a whole different thing to man up (or women up, as the case may be) and say “yeah – that was my fault. I’ll (or we’ll) do better next time.”

    BTW – how did the weekend turn out…did you get the PA back under control?

    Reply
    • Jason Castellente

      Hey Darren,

      I’m glad this article resounded with you. I’m so humbled when I hear feedback from readers. The “accept responsibility” part was tough for me to write about because honestly, it’s hard for me….probably because of pride.

      It’s easy to blame it on an inanimate object because we know we won’t hurt it’s feelings. But in reality, it doesn’t matter if it’s a person or a piece of gear- we’re ultimately responsible as leaders and as tech directors. That’s a hard weight for us to willingly take on our shoulders!

      It should never be a question of IF gear is going to fail, it’s a question of when and how we will respond as a result. We simply need to be prepared for anything and that’s scary!

      The weekend turned out as well as could be expected. I always encourage techs and leaders to know their gear as well as their understanding and resources allow and also to find people who can teach you more so that when a problem does happen. I knew exactly what was functioning and what wasn’t. Also, we have run sheets and cues mapped out beforehand so I knew what was needed, where things were going and VERY quickly decided when the best time was to fix the problem with the least amount of distraction.

      I was able to ride the sermon out until there was a quiet time of prayer before the final worship set. As soon as the “quiet” time started, I restarted the entire PA system during a transition. The worship leader made it up on stage and began to play before the PA was back up. All the audience noticed was a cue that was a few seconds late and were completely unaware that our entire PA system was restarting. Sometimes, when there is an unavoidable failure, your best bet is to make the failure as unnoticeable as possible.

      Just my two cents! 🙂

      What issues are you up against? Anything I can talk about with you and help you think through? Tweet at @jdcastellente or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com.

      Blessings on your ministry and impact!

      Jason Castellente

      Reply

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