The chances are that if you are doing AV in your church or in any other capacity you will find yourself in some kind of community – even if that community is yourself and the musicians you find yourself working with. Hopefully at least you will find yourself in a community of people that are involved with Audio Visual (or even music technology).
I have been so blessed over the years with a number of different communities that have encouraged me, given me opportunities to grow and to generally be around to offer support and advice when it’s needed. In fact I’m actually going out for a curry tonight with the group of guys I started doing sound with well over 12 years ago. These group of guys were instrumental in me starting the journey of being a sound engineer and developing my skills to the point where I actually have something to give back. Over the years I have come to value the community of other sound engineers and AV technicians.
So what does community look like?
I looked on the internet this afternoon and it told me that a community is “A group of people living together in one place, esp. one practicing common ownership: “a community of nuns”.”
I like the idea of a community having a common ownership – especially when looking in the context of a ‘tech team’ scenario. As a group of technicians you have the privilege of jointly stewarding the technology for your congregations worship. At a local church we sometimes partner with they have a prophetic word written next to their sound desk that says “You are not at the back but at the forefront of worship” What a calling is that!! Fulfilling that role as a team is both reliant on strong team members but also developing a sense of joint ownership and community that takes time and effort.
There are a number of different things that creates, encourages and grows community. In all of the different tech communities I have been part of I have seen a number of different ways that community can be developed and become positive ‘working’ environments.
When studying popular music at university one of the modules we took was band musicianship. For this module we got into groups – not necessarily of people we knew. The lecturer at the time came out with this pearl of wisdom – “Go out, get p*****d together and have a fun night out on the town”. Whilst I am not condoning large amounts of alcohol consumption, there is an important lesson we can learn. Funnily enough, the bands that took that advice ended up being ‘tighter’ as a band and actually got better marks overall.
Socialising is an important part of being a community. It helps people to be valued – not only for what they do but who they are. It also provides a informal setting for discussing things that you might not normally have time for at other occasions. I went out on a works do a few years ago and I was discussing with my colleague why the ‘partners (wives and girlfriends) weren’t invited. He quite rightly pointed out that if the wives were here then there would not be any discussion about work. Having an informal setting to discuss work is actually helpful to a healthy working environment – so don’t be afraid if you’re just ‘hanging out’ and the conversation turns into a discussion about equipment. It’s actually pretty healthy and helpful!
One of the things I’ve noticed recently that our tech guys seem to do on a Sunday morning is hang around the sound desk before and after the service. Initially I thought ‘what an unsociable bunch we are’ but the conversations were actually developing the community we are in. The conversation often go along the line of “I was setting up this morning and I had this problem” or “I had this idea about how we could improve”. Whilst people outside the tech ‘circle’ would probably consider us boring and nerdy, the conversations contribute to the quality of the sound of what we’re doing.
Another thing that we often find is that we listen to what each other does and will often come upto each other at the end of the services with things like “that snare sounded awesome, can I have a look at how you set that up?” Whilst it’s always nice to hear another sound guy likes what you were doing, it also serves another purpose. This way of sharing ideas means that people’s abilities are improved and ultimately become more similar.
We often talk in our worship setting of trying to cultivate a particular ‘sound’ that is unique to our church. This will happen organically if the tech team (and the worship team) take this approach to what they do. Things will start to sound similar and (hopefully) you’ll end up with the best bits from everyone in the team ending up in the final mixing pot.
” Don’t look for perfect people. Look for people who are teachable and have a willingness to grow”
Whilst sat in traffic on the M25 today I was having a look at Bethel Music’s twitter feed and Jeremy Riddle shared the above statement. How important is that to what we are doing! (Clearly a divine moment considering what I wanted to share with you guys!)
For a start, perfect people don’t exist – only people who think they are perfect. It’s so important that we surround ourselves with people that are teachable and are willing to learn. Not only because we might have something that is of worth that we can teach but so that a culture can be built where people are encouraged and feel part of the team.
As a people group, sound engineers and AV techs can sometimes be a bit of an arrogant bunch. I know I’ve been guilty of it many times. Ultimately, you have the power of how things sound and it’s easy to let that get to your head. If we have a team full of humble people then it’s easier for everyone to work with (please accept this as a prophetic declaration as to what God is calling me and not a statement of where I am at the moment!!)
I have been learning over the last few years that it’s really important to pass on what you know (even if it’s not the full picture!) to other people in the same way that you would have learned your skills from people in the past. That’s genuinely why I started this blog as an opportunity to share some of the things I have learned along the way – be from other people or mistakes I have made.
Back to Technical next week…
Apologies if this week’s blog wasn’t the technical blog you were looking for and thanks for reading thus far and not stopping! I do think it’s important to look at the other things aside from the technical aspects! Also, thanks to everyone who has been a part of my communities. Without you guys I would not be in the position where I can share what I’ve learned with others!