Recently, I saw video of a pastor who decided, for whatever reason, to use his pulpit to make an example of his video director. Now, I could write an entire post about the reasons he calls his video director out or the fact that this pastor apparently harasses everyone in his congregation publicly as a style of preaching. I could also point out that, even though he seems to know he is “on camera”, he doesn’t seem to realize that his video director knows about this new fangled thing called the YouTube. But I digress.
If you have been in the tech booth for any amount of time, you have probably made a mistake or two. Even the simplest A/V system in a church can be a minefield of potential mistakes or missteps. Whether it is going to the next lighting cue too early (or too late) or heaven forbid, accidently muting the pastor’s mic, we have all had those moments.
A side note of encouragement for all the techs just starting out, no matter how long you do this, you will make mistakes. Even those of us that you may see as “seasoned veterans” push the wrong fader up on occasion.
Most mistakes made in the tech booth are easily remedied and can even go unnoticed by the congregation. Others are blaring and you will die a thousand deaths trying to recover from them. But you will recover. In my experience, humans only really learn from two positions, need for gain (acquiring knowledge, skill, etc) or avoiding pain (physical pain, embarrassment, etc). Most of us who enter the tech game have a driving force for perfection and a quest for knowledge that those around us would label OCD, but we call “everyday life”. We are all usually very hard on ourselves, holding a high personal standard. Live production mistakes cause so much stress because you not only have to fix them, but you also have to immediately move on to the next cue. There are no second chances in live production (at least in that service).
I have had the privilege of working with so many amazing pastors and worship leaders over the years. Most of them understood the best way to handle a mistake is to not make a big deal out of it and just move on. But what happens when they don’t? What happens when those on the stage freak out, or decide to throw you under the bus for a mistake? And hey, it was actually their mistake! They put in the wrong slide or signed off on the incorrect version of the song in ProPresenter! How you react is everything.
Let’s walk in their shoes for a moment. At first blush, most would think that if you are on stage, you are confident, bold, and sure of yourself. If you have worked with performers or speakers for any length of time, you know that most of them suffer from self-doubt and anxiety when they walk out on that stage. Even the most accomplished presenter has stress when standing in front of an audience. The lights, the sound of your own voice, and the fact that all those people expect you to be “amazingly brilliant” or at least somewhat interesting is actually terrifying.
Us tech workers should be sympathetic. After all, we are way in the back of the room in the dark, in the safety of the tech booth, as far away from the stage as we can get. Most of us are introverts and it is easy to have the attitude that because they are on stage they love it and are very comfortable in the limelight. Some do, but I think most struggle with balancing the adulation against the thought of all those judging eyes.
As Christians, we need to have an attitude of compassion and understanding—patience and a servant’s heart. The attitude we have should not be based on how we are treated in the moment, but on what Christ has called us to do. And remember, those on stage are really putting their lives in our hands. We have the power to put them in a good or bad light—literally.
If you are the leadership in your ministry (TD, Producer, Director, etc.) you have the added responsibility of being an example. Your people are looking to you for cues on how to respond. Remember, it’s not about you. Although it may seem like a personal attack, you must keep your head and your composure. If you don’t, you risk not only the potential degradation of that situation, but unknowingly setting the standard for how your team will react in future situations. No matter how you are treated from the stage, you must remain cool and positive. You must also not throw your team under the bus in that moment. As hard as it may be, you must take the hit and the responsibility in that moment. Welcome to leadership.
So what happens afterward? Fix the problem as soon as you can. If it is simple like a misspelled word or the wrong verse in a song, make the change quickly. If it is an equipment failure or something major, assess the damage and have a solution on hand. After the service, don’t wait for your pastor or worship leader to come to you, seek them out and let them know what happed and how you solved the problem. If it was an execution issue, let them know how you will make provision so that it does not happen again (training, new procedures, checklists, etc). Humility and grace are key. They may want to rehash what happened. Let them, with humility and grace. After you have had your conversation with the leaders, get your team together if you can and let them know that you believe in them and that your are glad they are on the team. If you have a person that is not the right fit or just doesn’t get it, take care of that in private.
Bottom line: how you handle these types of situations will be an example to both those who serve you and those you serve. We are commanded to be Christ-like no matter the situation. So stay calm and carry on.