Category Archives: Worship

Sound advice

My Favorite question “How do you know what all those knobs do?”

Those of you who know me, know I’m an audio geek.  It doesn’t pay the bills, but I love working “Front of House” mixers (the sound board that the crowd hears in a live venue).  In most venues for me it’s really an “All of House” (does the main P.A., monitors, and recording all in one spot), but it sounds cooler to say I’m working FOH today.

My main gig of course has always been houses of worship.  I haven’t mixed for large crowds, but I’ve mixed for some rowdy ones and with bands and configurations that could be dropped into a crowd of thousands.

With that being said, I have some advice for sound techs and church leaders trying to make sense of the sound man (or woman).  None of this is in any certain order.

  • Take it seriously.  I’m serious.  The PA system is not a toy, and can make or break a worship experience.  I’m all about some fun, but when the real deal is going on, it’s not about me, the band or even the preacher. It’s all about those people in those seats having an un-distracted experience with their Savior and with the Word of God.
    • One of the most embarrassing times I’ve had in a sound booth was when I didn’t take what I was doing seriously.  I was in my short stint at Bible College, and was on rotation to sit at the sound board for one of my classes.  All it required was making sure the lecturer had a mic with a good battery and that everyone could hear.  That’s it.  One channel, turn it on, turn it up and don’t let it feed back.  Nothing to it.  Got it, team leader!  So what did I do? I decided to play with the effects unit thinking no one would notice.Unbeknownst to me, this female speakers voice was reverberating, delaying, and even probably talking in demon sounds for the people in the front rows.  I couldn’t hear it though because I was too far back to realize it was coming through the main speakers.

      At the end this guy came back to me and said “Hi! My name is Mike.”  I stuck my hand out with a goofy grin and said “I’m Teeee…” He interrupted “and that was distracting” and grabbed his wife’s hand and walked on past me.

      It was one of those moments that replays in your head 25 years later and makes you slap yourself everytime you think of it and say “stupid, stupid, stupid!”  BUT I won’t forget the lesson: Take the job seriously, no matter how large or small the task!

  • Be prepared, be on time and be available.   Find out ahead of time what’s on the song list, or what the event plan is.  Find out ahead of time what is needed for that event/service. Is it going to be an unplugged/acoustic set, or will it be a full band with tracks, cues, click and everything else.  Set up a rough layout of the sound board before everyone is ready to start practicing.  Don’t hold up the rest of the practice or event!  Have you heard of a nickle holding up the dollar?  Well, you my friend are the nickle if you don’t take it seriously enough to be prepared.Being available means for things that aren’t your job.  A good example is a couple Sundays ago, we were at announcements and offering time at our church and some people came in who couldn’t find seats. The ushers were busy getting ready for that. Simultaneously, the worship director and I both noticed these people needed seats. So the lighting guy (who also happens to be my son Luke) and I jumped out of the booth and grabbed a dolly load of chairs and went to work!  You’re a part of the team, not just a production tech. Be willing to jump in there and help wherever needed and whenever there’s a gap to fill.
  • Be sensitive. I don’t mean wear your feelings on your sleeve.  I don’t mean lose track of where you are and just “lose it in His presence”.  I mean be sensitive to what is going on in the moment, in that experience.  Is it a song the crowd is getting into?  Maybe bring the master fader back and let the congregation become part of the mix.  Is it invitation time?  Don’t let the band give everyone volume shock between the speaking and the invitation song.  (I literally have the band/vocals halfway down below their normal position during invitation). At Big Church, our subs are along the front of the stage.  During prayer time, people come up there to pray.  So if people are up there, the subs come down a lot so it’s not my mix “shaking their burdens loose.” Is the speaker exhorting the congregation while they are shouting or the band playing?  Make sure you turn that mic up WAY above the crowd and /band, and bring it down as they come down.
  • Be Humble. Don’t buy a t-shirt that says “I’m humble” to prove you are humble.  Just be humble. While I always joke that when I turn the bass up, everyone gets saved, the sound tech is there to give as much of a distraction free experience as possible.   You are a team member, a vessel, and someone God uses.  BUT keep in mind, God used a donkey in the Bible too.
  • Not all venues/churches are alike. Your church may not have tracks, clicks, and cues with in-ears and foldback screens telling everyone what to do.  Your church might be a piano, and an organ with a 12-voice choir.  Your church might have that 1960’s campmeeting style congregational singing.  Don’t expect to mix the same in one setting that you would in another.  Think about what makes THAT type experience sound the best in its own style and deliver!
  • Keep one eye on the worship leader, and one eye on the pastor.  Is the worship leader struggling as if they can’t hear something?  Is a singer grabbing an ear because they can’t hear their own voice?  Grab your trusty headphones and solo their monitor mix and see what they might be hearing! Is the worship leader changing songs spontaneously?  Gotta watch at all times!The other person I’m ALWAYS watching for is the person speaking.  In our church it can be one of 3 people at any given time.   So I’m watching the side stage in case they decide to step up and say something spontaneously, or for when they are ready to step on stage to preach. I NEVER have the speakers channels muted.  They’re only turned down just a hair to prevent feed back transitioning from the floor to the stage.  I do this so I’m not caught off guard and there are never waiting on me to turn on their channel, and the crowd isn’t subjected to squeals and screeches out of the blue.
  • The vocal is in front of the mix.  Now we get to the details of how I mix.  Drums/bass ride together and have a foundational element to the mix. Pad tracks and keys are a glue that bring a horizontal feel to the song.  Electric guitar is distinct and sits just above middle if you think of the audio spectrum from top to bottom, highs to lows.   Vocals are out in front.  Doesn’t mean its necessarily louder, but often times it is.  It I always mix the band, and then make a vocal mix that I make sure is coming at you, just in front of everything else.  Even in a mono P.A. this can be done if you practice enough.One trick I use, I learned from watching this video by Dave Rat.  He’s FOH engineer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  I compress the band in subgroups, then my vocals individually to control them but yet to give enough headroom to stay out font.  Having a digital board, at least a Behringer X32 makes it easy to accomplish this without having to ride faders.
  • Set it and leave stuff alone!  Get your mix together, and trust it.  Make small adjustments when needed, such as when lead vocals change, or the style of song changes.  But for the most part, let the mix breathe on its own.  You shouldn’t have to flip, twist and slide every fader on every song.  Don’t worry about adjusting stuff that already sounds good and has found a place in the mix.  Electric guitars are one thing you shouldn’t have to mess with.  If that guitarist has a good processing rig, just set it flat, get your gain set and blend it in.  You shouldn’t have to do much at all!

Finally..

HAVE FUN!  You should feel like you are part of it.  Laugh and enjoy your time, and the power of making things sound good.

Well, here’s really the last one…

When all else fails, blame the lighting guy.

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seeker sensitive?

I want to start my post with the following question:

What is the purpose of a church service?

is it:

  1. For the purpose of drawing unsaved people to our gathering so that the Gospel can be presented to them?
  2. A place and time for believers to be gathered together to worship and pray together, be taught, equipped and sent out to evangelize the world?

I personally lean toward answer 2. However, to be honest with you, no matter what yours or my answer is, the fact is that most churches are doing a poor job at both.

joelgrandopening.jpg

So here’s my extremely unpopular rant…

What is the deal with the obsession with having “Seeker-sensitive” churches?  Don’t get me wrong, I believe that we should present the Gospel in a way that even a child can understand.  I also believe HIGHLY in doing things with excellence.  Yet I keep hearing people talk about toning down our worship, and finding ways to make church a more comfortable place for sinners to come and stay.

I used a picture of Lakewood Church so that you know, I’m not picking on “non-pentecostal” churches.   This is happening in churches of all denominations and sizes.  Pastors are replacing a message from the Lord with lessons on how to have a happy life, and putting an encounter with the presence of God into a 10 minute window to keep those who want to be in and out of the building in less than an hour happy.

Here’s two reasons why I have a problem with this:

1) Our programs and our frills can never replace the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  Our focus needs to be on Spirit-sensitivity and less on being almost politically-correct.  Was Jesus politically correct?  Did He (or the apostles for that matter) ever soften what He had to say about sin?  Of course they approached everyone with love – but they never held back things like what Jesus said to the woman at the well who had 5 husbands (I don’t even read about Jesus having a concern about whether she would run away offended).

2) We have replaced personal evangelism with a program that we call a church service.  I believe that the purpose of the church service is for Worship, Prayer, and the ministry of the Word (through teaching, preaching, exhortation, etc).  Never is the focus to be on ourselves or those who are visiting, but on The Lord and on how we can better serve Him! If a sinner comes, he or she will witness the Presence of God that is made manifest in the atmosphere where the Spirit is made welcome.  They will also witness the fellowship, love, and testimony of the goodness of God.   This is where the opportunity to draw them in is so great.

I am by no means bashing anyone’s style of worship.  I am just raising my eyebrows at what I call “misplaced focus”.   We’ve replaced relationship with church attendance, worship with nice music, and personal evangelism with an invitation to a soft-sell church service (I could go on).  I’m moving away from the thought that the church service is where evangelism is most effective.  Think about it, it’s just plain lazy to invite someone to church as opposed to share Jesus with them.  Please note, I don’t consider massive evangelistic crusades (especially in places where people have never heard the Gospel) a part of what I’m talking about – these provide a totally different atmosphere and different situation than the weekly church service.

If in the church service, we create deeper relationships with the Lord through worship, prayer, and the Word; we’ll create stronger Christians who are excited and well-equipped to share their faith with people who need a Savior.  Then when that person comes to the church service, all of the stuff we don’t do because “people will think it’s weird” would make sense to them.

BEING the Church

I’ve said for a long time on this blog in many ways, that it’s not just enough to have church, we are called to BE the church.

This weekend was a HUGE opportunity for the members of Trinity Life Center to do just that with a county-wide back to school fair. This wasn’t an event for our church to toot our own horn, and drive a boost in membership. The vision for this year was to take this anointing to the streets where it’s needed the most.

All I can say about this event is WOW! We’re not a gigantic church.  Our average Sunday attendance is somewhere between 150 and 175.  Nonetheless, there were so many who worked so hard to prepare, raise the funds, and even get the building itself ready. My wife is one of those who went way above and beyond the call to help make sure this thing went off smoothly. A year ago she had this in her heart to reach out somehow and provide school supplies for needy children – it’s so amazing that the following school year this desire became a reality.

So far, it looks like we distributed 700 backpacks, with well over 1500 people coming through the church being ministered to with real love every room they entered. People kept thanking the staff for all of the hard work that went into this. The mayor of our town came and stayed all day, as did the fire department, several city council members (some of which rolled up their sleeves and helped!), the police department, the health department and representatives from about a dozen businesses. We even had the Geek Squad (usually my nemesis, but this time an ally) bring the Geekmobile into the sanctuary to do a talk on internet safety.

Two newspapers were there taking reports and pictures as well; The Courier-Journal of Louisville, and The Pioneer News of Bullitt county.

Click Here for a slideshow courtesy of the Courier-Journal, and here for their story leading up to the event. Click Here for the Pioneer News’ article (with my lovely bride’s picture).

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