1)Seek support of church leadership
Before you begin, the most important thing is that you have the support of the church leadership. It maybe seems obvious, but it can be easy to get carried away with a great idea and you want to start asap, but if you don’t have the church elders or deacons behind you, it’s not going to get very far. Speak to the pastor and maybe offer to do a presentation to church leaders about what you plan to do. If you already have a sound system and you are the only person doing the sound at the moment, it may be that you don’t technically need permission to go ahead, but it is still better to get the backing of church leaders from the word go.
When I get on to talk about stuff like training, then it requires money and that’s when previous conversations with the elders really matter. If you are having difficulties with church leadership on the whole vision for church audio, check out my other post – 8 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Church Sound System
If you want to choose the best people and build a great team, you will need all the guidance you can get. Pray that God will direct you to the right people with the right gifts and teachable attitude. Being guided to the right people could save you a whole load of hassle in the future. The last thing you want is being landed with all the wrong people.
3)Meet one to one with your volunteers
When trying to figure out if someone would be good for your team, I think it’s always a good idea to meet one to one. This way you get to find out about someone(assuming you don’t know them that well already), about their family, their work and what their skills are. Technical ability is important, but if someone has the right heart and a willingness to learn, I’ll take that person over the guy with a degree in sound engineering that has a bad attitude. You really only begin to get a feel for these things when you speak one on one with someone.
4)Meet with your whole potential team
Once you have a number of volunteers you think have potential, call everyone together as part of your team. See how everyone gets on together and how they interact. Use this as a time to talk about your vision for the team, what their duties will be, what training will be offered etc. You also want to find out team members availability.
You might have some who can be there every Sunday, but others who maybe work some Sundays, or travel some weekends to visit family. Try and agree a rota or way of working that suits the majority of your team members. Some may prefer to do a block of weeks rather than serve on a rotational basis.
5)Appoint church audio/visual team volunteers on a trial basis
When you appoint someone to your team, make it clear that this is on a trial basis. You decide how long that might be. Three months is maybe long enough to see if someone has what it takes. You are looking for whether people turn up when they say they will turn up, whether they attend training and show a continued willingness to listen and learn. I don’t think someone necessarily needs to be musical to run a sound mixing desk, but it does help a bit.
However, what is more important is that a person does have an ability to listen carefully to the band or choir. Do they have the ability to hear the different instruments and vocals and know when something is too loud or soft, or if particular frequencies might need cut or boosted? It’s not an easy thing to teach, but pretty important for operating a sound desk properly. This is something you can only assess over time. Also, you might find this other post helpful, on how to do a sound check before worship – read more here.
6)Plan training for church audio visual team
When it comes to offering training, it’s something you will have to plan ahead for. If you are doing the training yourself it is perhaps a bit easier and you will be able to set your own dates. You could also make enquiries about a sound tech expert from a local college from another church coming down to do some training sessions. Also keep your ear to the ground for local or national conferences and sound tech roadshows to take your team along to.
These events could be invaluable in your learning as a whole team. Some of these things could cost money, so you may need to get agreement with your church leadership on a training budget. One last thing, meet together for fun, away from the church and the sound desk. Go bowling or have barbecue where your team can really get to know one another without the immediate tasks of running a sound board etc. Many small to medium size churches utilise the same people on the sound desk to do the video for the service. If this is the case, then you will need to also offering training for the video element of what you do. You might also be interested in also reading my 24 point church audio guide.
Some churches have nothing more than running Powerpoint or equivalent from a laptop and the occasional video clip. In this situation, a minimal amount of training might be sufficient. However, if the video ministry involves camera and editing, I think that really needs to be handled by a separate team. Although it is technical, it is a different skill base that is required, and you may need to offer separate training.
7)Create shadowing opportunities
If you get this far, but you don’t create any opportunities for your team to serve, they will quickly get bored, walk away and find something else to do in church. If you want to keep your team, provide opportunities for them to use their skills as they are learning and attending training. It’s no use waiting months before they get to put their knowledge to use. Ask them to shadow yourself, or one of the more experienced team members.
Also, break down different tasks each week to give them a chance of doing some things on their own e.g. ask them to power up the system when you come in, or do the sound check with the band. This will give them the confidence to do some of the other tasks on their own and allow you to see how they perform in each of the tasks. Meet with your team members on a regular basis to see how they are doing, if there are aspects of the job they don’t understand. Listen carefully and take note of what they say. You might be able to use their questions in future training sessions.
8)Let them loose
Once your volunteers have had a period of shadowing a more experienced team member, let them loose on the soundboard. Let them do the job from beginning to end, from coming in early Sunday morning, switching everything on, doing the sound check with the band, overseeing the sound right through the service to the end.
Give some feedback on each service with new volunteers and always encourage. If there is any criticism to be given, make sure you have x10 as much to encourage them with. Sometimes you may have a volunteer that just isn’t cut out for running the sound desk, and is perhaps making a lot of mistakes. You will need to deal with it sensitively, but try and first find out the reasons why, and if there is something they don’t understand, you could spend some time with extra training.
If all else fails, you may need to gently direct the person in another way of service within the church. If a situation like this arises, it is always advisable to seek the pastor’s advice and perhaps along with the pastor, speak with the person concerned.
I encourage you to read my post 101 Ideas for Church Sound Systems. It took me many hours to put together and has some valuable info for any church audio team.
Also check out my podcast at https://churchsoundtips.podbean.com/e/how-to-put-together-a-church-audiovisual-team/