45 Tech Takeaways From the ChurchGear Podcast 2022

by | Jan 19, 2023 | Audio, AVL Projects, Leadership, Lighting, Production, Worship Service Planning

In 2022 we recorded 2,378 minutes of podcast content with some of the most knowledgeable and known leaders in the church tech space. We talked with legends like Scott Ragsdale and Lee Fields as well as many techs who are currently in the day-to-day tech trenches like Adam Taylor and Dennis Choy. There are practical tips, philosophical tips, and technical tips. Of all the episodes we recorded, these forty-five points are the best nuggets from each episode.

  1. Don’t let challenging requests turn you into the “automatic no” person.
    • Nathan got his start in lighting design at Calvary Assembly of God Church. He has gone on to design shows for Barry Manilow, Keith Urban and John Mayer. Over the course of his career, difficult requests came all the time. Nathan learned early on to just say “yes” to the artists he was working with and give their idea a try. He would rather try the idea and have it fail than be known as the automatic “no guy”. While we can’t accomplish every production request the pastor sends, this was a good encouragement to try new things and not fear failure.
  2. God will still move, regardless of tech mishaps.
    • “If you don’t have a problem on Sunday 4morning, get on your knees and thank the Good Lord above.” It is more likely than not that a tech mishap will occur each Sunday. Brian gave us some great perspective on these moments. “If one of your two projectors goes out, God will still move with one projector.” Give yourself grace, don’t beat yourself up and do the best you can with the tech and team you have. The Lord isn’t depending upon our perfection for him to fulfill his purpose.”
  3. Don’t be married to a method.
    • Ryan has worked with artists such as Frankie Valli, Joe Pesci, and King & Country. He also enjoys helping out with his home church’s audio training sessions. In one particular rehearsal, a monitor tweak came in from the stage that didn’t make sense to his trainee. The trainee got on the talk-back and said “Why would you want that?” Ryan stepped in and reminded him that it was okay that the stage is requesting something that doesn’t make sense. If that tweak helps them flow better on stage, just help them. Being married to a way of doing things can make us so inflexible that we are no longer working well with the singers and speakers on stage.
  4. Call cues together.
    • Samantha Potter is a FOH & Broadcast engineer and an Install Empress for Allen & Heath. When she’s in the booth, she sits next to whoever is running graphics so they can call cues together. “Being able to hit cues together as a team makes the production seem so much more polished than having somebody just stop the Spotify in the middle of the song.”
  5. Stay adventurous.
    • Rob has mixed for Michael W. Smith, Charlie Daniels, Jennifer Nettles and Josh Groban. The man loves taking an audio risk, and he encouraged that in his tech takeaway: “Happy accidents are one of the best things in audio. The best way to have those things happen is to prevent the checklist from boxing you in. We have rules we need to follow and systems to keep us out of trouble but stay adventurous.” He went on to illustrate this point further with a story when he went to Skywalker Ranch to mix for Michael W. Smith. A happy audio accident there ended up becoming a big win for him!
  6. Stay resilient.
    • Boggs was a touring audio guy for 20+ years, and he has worked with artists such as Wynonna Judd and Delbert McClinton. His tech takeaway focused on staying resilient in chaotic moments. Whether you’re adjusting one of the thousands of variables in sound check or trying to learn a new skill, being resilient in the face of challenge and change will enable you to stay calm and professional under pressure.
  7. Look at the stage from the audience’s point of view.
    • Robby has worked with Natalie Cole, Jesus Culture, and served as New Life Church’s LD. While he was there, he developed a trick to ensure the audience wasn’t blinded by the light. “I’m not big on putting lights in people’s eyes all the time. If you do that, it needs to be a moment and then moved.” When Robby was running lights at New Life, he would strategically sit in the same view as the audience so he would feel when the lights were hitting the audience directly too much. This allowed him to elevate the experience of the service rather than take people out of it with a headache from the lighting.
  8. Show your pastor you care before you show them a budget.
    • Dave has worked in church tech ministry for 13 years. He has also worked with Newsboys, Luis Palau, and Lecrae. During his time at Bayside, he secured the budgets he needed for gear by first showing empathy to his pastor. “When your lead pastor genuinely feels like you care about them and their family, they’ll suddenly start caring about the lights you feel like you need.” 
  9. Crush the details Monday to Friday.
    • Dillan Howell has worked at Central Church and Faith Promise Church. He now consults church techs via his company WKND Ready. His tech takeaway centered on crushing the details Monday to Friday so that your weekends can be restful and smooth. “You got to make your Monday through Friday count. If people serving on your team are walking into your weekend experience and asking you questions, it’s time to reevaluate your week.”
  10. Personal satisfaction can be easier and healthier to obtain than professional satisfaction.
    • Caleb reminded us how important it is to find personal satisfaction outside of our church role. “Love Does” by Bob Goff is one of my all-time favorite books. He talks about how he is a lawyer by trade to pay for the things he loves to do outside of work.” Finding satisfaction outside of work in a hobby can reduce the pressure we place on ourselves at church. A hobby provides a personal avenue for creative fulfillment. 
  11. Constantly ask for everyone’s ideas, plans and vision so you’re always included and ahead of the game.
    • “I can make miracles happen, but I need all the pieces.” Alex Ross has nearly been in the church tech world since she learned how to walk, and she currently serves as the Audio Engineer at Fellowship Grapevine Church in Texas. She stressed the need to proactively communicate with those she supports and those who support her. Alexa approaches everyone with a “help me help you” mindset that creates an environment where everyone feels safe to share their plans, visions, and ideas. Since she is getting the information ahead of time, she can support everyone proactively rather than in a chaotic, last-minute rush.
  12. Be brave enough to fail at something new.
    • Todd Elliott is a writer, speaker, and technical artist in his local church and the founder of FILO. He heard the phrase “be brave enough to fail at something new” and liked how it applies to the production world. “I think we say ‘no’ too often because we don’t know how this idea will turn out. If I say ‘no’, there are no risks. Be open to failure.” He went on to say that while there is safety in sticking to what we know works, we can miss out on future ideas and opportunities if we aren’t brave enough to step out of our comfort zone.
  13. Solid practices are your best friends.
    • King Williams told us his story of going from a guy fixing gear on Nashville’s Music Row to the Broadcast Engineer for the Grand Ole Opry. His tech takeaway centered on executing well on phase relationships. “But in the life, yes, get out of the way. Be a good engineer. Solid practices are your best friends. And I think that the most solid practice is all about phase relationships.” Focusing on phase relationships has allowed King to create a great broadcast for those not in attendance that night. 
  14. Have the hard conversations you’ve been avoiding.
    • Lee Fields has been in the church tech world for decades, and he is a co-founder of MxU. He encourages everyone to have the hard conversations that we’re avoiding. “Write down five hard conversations you’re avoiding and do one a month for the next five months. Go dig for that conflict.” Whether it’s a conversation with a coworker, a boss, or someone at home, have the dialogue and find the peace you’ve needed. More often than not, the person you’re talking with will have felt the same tension and be grateful you reached out. 
  15. Don’t be so technical that you’re not spiritual.
    • Quinton Kelley is the front-of-house mixer for Crowder and a production manager at Backstage Productions. Quinton loves all the tech, gear, and software that comes with the job; however, he urges everyone to remember the most important component to mixing Christian music is the spiritual element. “Don’t be so technical that you’re not spiritual.” Elaborating further, he told us he has never mixed a David Crowder concert the same way twice because the spirit is always moving a little bit differently. 
  16. Have good charts for the band members.
    • Blair is Garth Brooks’s piano player, and he has also played on Saturday Night Live. He recommends that the band always have good charts for rehearsals so that everyone is literally on the same page. “If you have a chart, that’s home base, so your potential for screw-ups is much less.” 
  17. Less is more.
    • Jake is a speaker, consultant, and the founder of ChurchFront. He was consulting a church on their mix when he realized the entire setup needed restarting and the elements had to be dialed back. “I was recently helping a church dial in a mix, and a lot of things were a Band-Aid on a Band-Aid on a Band-Aid. So I just turned everything off and started over. The PA was great, the room was decent, and there was a strong foundation to work with. Everything was just overdone.”
  18. Saving your sounds will make things easier and better.
    • “How much time do you spend every Sunday adjusting a microphone on a guitar amp? The time you spend training people is great, but you know what is better? A save button.” Saving sounds in the perfect conditions allows HW to have the best sound every time. Furthermore, HW saves time because he is no longer adjusting or troubleshooting.
  19. Don’t let your unspoken assumptions drag you down.
    • Griffin is the Broadcast Lighting Director for the Church of the Highlands. His tech takeaway centered on using honest communication to fight against the unspoken assumptions living in your mind. He gave two examples of how these assumptions can drive a wedge between you and your church. First, he pointed out that church tech ministry often happens in the shadows, and no one notices the tech crew unless something goes wrong. If we’re not careful, this can create a feeling in our minds that no one really cares for us at church. Secondly, if you’re getting offers for other jobs, he recommends taking those offers to your boss so your boss knows how much the outside world is offering. If you are receiving higher paying offers, it’s easy to assume your church doesn’t value you like the outside world does. However, the executive team could be unaware of how valuable your skills are and letting them know will help everyone be more open and honest.
  20. Defend your volunteers’ mistakes.
    • Ryan Loche is the academic director at the Beloningco college and a Ph.D. student at Liberty University. When a mistake would happen on Sunday, he’d explain the mistake so the volunteer wasn’t beating themselves up over it. “My big thing was always trying to run interference for the mistakes that were naturally going to happen. Now, if they’re making the same mistake for six weeks, then that’s, you know, different kinds of conversation that I have to have with them throughout the week. But those little flubs that the lead pastor will always have a real big problem with, I would always do my best to kind of run interference on that, encourage them and then go to the lead pastor to smooth it out over on his side.”
  21. Creativity isn’t magic it’s a muscle.
    • Stephen Brewster leads the Harmony Group, where he helps churches (such as Elevation) release original music. “I think creative people live in rhythms, not routines.” If you desire to spark creativity, he recommends breaking your routine: work in a different spot, go to a different coffee shop, listen to new music. Do whatever you must to break your routine so your creativity can break out.
  22. No arguing on the weekend.
    • Dennis Choy is the tech director at Saddleback Church. When unexpected things happen on the weekend he advises saving the arguing and questions for Monday. “Arguing doesn’t do anything good for the Kingdom. It just messes people up on their focus. Now, come Monday, you can argue a little bit, you can say, ‘Hey, you know it would have been great to know that ahead of time.’ You can do that offline when the weekend isn’t what we’re supposed to be focused on. But we still often do it there. We get upset at each other. That doesn’t put us in a great place to serve, and it doesn’t help us with our calling.”
  23. Focus on small, constant improvements.
    • Rome and church tech setups have something in common: neither was built in a day. Coming in with a grand vision with plans to enact it within a week is exciting but rarely feasible. Instead, Alex Fuller of Zion City church focuses on improving a single thing each week. While this isn’t the flashiest plan, you’ll end the year with 52 improvements and have a service that looks completely different even though you didn’t notice the changes throughout the year.
  24. Don’t underestimate the importance of a tech checklist.
    • Whether it’s your first Sunday morning or your five hundredth Sunday morning, Bryan Bailey thinks everyone should have a checklist to stay on track. He originally started using them for his volunteers to ease the intimidation that comes with their first few Sunday mornings. However, he saw how helpful they were in executing and explaining the tech. “If something goes wrong, you’re able to go to the powers that be and say, so actually, we did everything we knew to do. This was a gear failure that we have no control over, or we found a new thing that we’re going to add to the checklist that’ll ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
  25. Read the manual for your gear.
    • Wally Grant is the former director of audio at Saddleback Church and former Sr. Consultant at Clark. He is now a family mentor at the Amazima school in Uganda. His tech takeaway was a simple but effective method: read the manual. This advice came up a few more times in 2022, and every church technical director would give a similar preamble: “I know it’s not the most glamorous thing in the world, but I’ve always had less frustration and improved my skill set when I read the manual.
  26. Say “Hi” to everyone on the crew.
    • Cory has been a FOH engineer for Elevation Worship, Lauren Daigle, and many more. He is now focusing on studio mixing at his home in Franklin, TN. His tech takeaway was to say “hi” to the band before the show. “There’s something special that happens when you’re not just the guy behind the console yelling at all the bands.” This practice gives Cory the rapport he needs to mix the show well and handle challenges collaboratively.
  27. Creativity is not constricted to the tools you have available.
    • Scott has mixed for Beyonce, Oprah, Joe Bonamassa, and Willow Creek Church. He is now mixing at The Crossings at Chesterfield, and his tech takeaway centered on pushing forward, regardless of the tools you have. “I heard this amazing quote that creativity thrives in the presence of lack. Let’s say you lack the tools required to make a task happen. Oftentimes, the way you figure out how to accomplish that task creates a different result that is better or more unique.”
  28. Make sure your vision is in tune with the band.
    • Jeff is a co-founder at MxU and has mixed for legends like Chris Tomlin. He told us about a time when he struggled mixing Tomlin’s show. Tomlin intended to let the audience’s voice lead during the chorus so he would back off his mic. Jeff intended to have Chris’s vocals present throughout the whole song. After a few concerts, Jeff realized this and allowed the audience to take the lead. “How can I partner with Chris in his desire to have the audience lead? Is there anything musically that I can do that could be more impactful?” After Jeff realized Chris was doing this intentionally, he focused on other band elements to amplify so that the audience was engaging more and being in the moment.
  29. Find joy outside of the gear.
    • David Mendoza is the director of production at Mount Paran Church in Atlanta. David would rather invest time in his calling, community, and culture than on the gear. “I’ve helped a lot of small churches that believe if they could only land that piece of gear, their culture would change. They believe if they could land that one piece of gear, every Sunday would be sunny, and that’s the complete opposite. The gear is there to support you, but the culture is there for you to make it, so make that culture.”
  30. Done is better than perfect.
    • Sweet Pete is the Program/Production Director at Sun Grove Church. “Done is better than perfect, because perfect is never done. Once you get to 80%, you’re good. You shouldn’t spend another four weeks grinding for the other 20%.” Rather than spending tons of time trying to get a project perfect, he advises you move on and continue making progress in other areas. No person or project will ever be perfect, and this pressure to push projects to perfect can drain your time overall.
  31. The “stage” and the “booth” are the same team.
    • Brian worked in full-time ministry for three decades and is the host of the Worship Leader Probs podcast. Brian’s tech takeaway stems from a conversation he heard from the MxU crew on the importance of relationships. “Before you step behind the console, shake some hands. Come down from the booth when you talk to the people on the platform.” This became a reoccurring piece of advice for 2022. The physical distance separating the stage and booth can create unintended fissures inside the team. Make every effort to bridge that gap.
  32. How to hack a bad room.
    • Gene is often on tour, so he has mixed in some rough rooms. He has an EQ hack that helps him make a bad room sound better. “When I have a room that’s really bouncy and reflective, I’ll put quite a bit of reverb into the playback music before the show happens. And then I’ll also take out a lot of like, you know, 800-1.5k, so their sense of intelligibility is gone, and then I’ll make it dark. And so what happens is that their sense of clarity gets really messed up when they’re chatting before the show. In this 30-45 minutes of pre-show, I’ve acclimated their ears, so they think, ‘That is so clear and direct!’ This method will buy you some headroom.”
  33. Burnout is self induced.
    • Before he worked at Skylark Integration, Zach was on staff at Elevation Church. He urges everyone to take ownership of their own burnout. “Burnout is self induced, so if you feel burnout, ask for help. Go to your supervisor. Go to your friends. Don’t sit in your shell and close down and get so burned out you’re like, ‘I hate this church; I’m quitting.’ The temptation to say ‘yes’ every time is strong, and the requests will continue to come.” Zach had a raw, real moment on the podcast where he urged every church tech director to remember they have the ability and responsibility to speak up and safeguard themselves from becoming burned out and bitter at the church. Zach’s quote on burnout won the “Quote of the Year” award on the podcast and reminded us all to take care of ourselves.
  34. Honor everyone you work with.
    • A common motif of 2022 was the importance of culture and staff chemistry. Adam Taylor, the production director for Central Church in Las Vegas, reinforced this with his church’s staff value of honor. “We have a staff value here at Central called honor 360. So it’s not just always honoring up to all the pastors. It’s honor up, down, and all around. So it’s honoring those you serve, honoring those who serve you, and honoring your peers. You work on your relationship with them, honor them and treat everyone with kindness and respect. Everything else in your weekend will be better, I promise you.”
  35. Sundays are less stressful when relationships are strong.
    • Drew was the production lead for Liberty University’s production team before he became the Church Sales Director at ChurchGear. Drew continued the trend of calling out the importance of building relationships. “In the middle of a stressful Sunday morning, when you have these relationships built, they’re going to carry you through a lot easier than trying to bear the weight of making Sundays happen by yourself.” Building relationships is more than saying “Hi” and being friendly. Relationships take investment, but it’s these relationships that will make your ministry strong.
  36. If your team doesn’t have comms, Sunday will always be difficult.
    • “Make sure you have a comm system in place. The best gear setup in the world means nothing if your team can’t communicate well.” If Jeff Watkins, the production director for Without Walls Church, was in the desert and could only have one piece of gear, it would be his comms. Fun Fact: Jeff actually lives in the desert in Arizona! While it can sound simplistic, the deeper point to his tech takeaway is the importance of having good communication lines during service and all areas of the ministry. If everyone has the ability to be heard and contribute, it lifts the entire team and allows the full force of the team’s skills to work in concert with one another.
  37. Invest in students.
    • Dan Jarrett is the creative director at Bayside church and founder of Cargo Drop. Many tech directors told us their best volunteers come from the youth ministry. In fact, Dan’s journey into tech started this exact same way. “I sat next to him, he showed me some things, and he let me push buttons, and he let me control the system. And for me, as a thirteen year-old, that created something in me that was like, I’m super excited like this guy, trusts me, he’s giving me this opportunity. You know, from that moment on, I’ve been hooked on tech.” Investing in students can land your tech ministry its next volunteer and land that student a future career.
  38. Create a fun and educational volunteer culture.
    • Before he worked with the Passion Conference and Chris Tomlin, Rusty started in the church tech world. Rusty’s tech takeaway was to build a fun volunteer culture. A fun culture helps tech ministries retain volunteers and inspires them to take the tech further. When your culture is established, Rusty encourages his fellow tech directors to teach their volunteers challenging tech skills. “But also challenge them to do well, because I think that when people show up for something, they want to walk away knowing they did a good job.” Rather than hire camera operators, Rusty trains his volunteers in the skills they need to operate the cameras themselves.
  39. Remember your tech ministry is also a ministry to the volunteers who serve inside of it.
    • Evan Woertz is the production systems manager at Mariners Church. With all the tasks and tech that it takes to tackle Sunday services, it can be easy to forget that our tech ministries are not just serving the church but also a ministry in and of themselves. Evan reminded us all how important it is to care for those in our ministry because that’s what the church is really about. “But the people that you rub shoulders with, so to speak, even the volunteer who only serves once a month, that’s still somebody that you’re able to make their life a little better and a little more meaningful, and give them something to contribute and to serve the church with. And I think that’s really what we’re doing here.”
  40. Always have food available for your tech ministry on Sunday mornings.
    • Aaron Padilla has worked in production at Bayside Church and is now a full-time freelance audio gun-for-hire. He highly recommends having food available for your tech volunteers. Having food around for his team always brought up morale and added a further sense of togetherness as they served alongside one another.
  41. You’ve got to take care of yourself first.
    • Self-care is critical as we can not pour into others when we’re empty. The theme of Jay’s episode centered on caring for yourself first so you can be your best for the rest of your team. “When you’re empty, you can’t be a good teammate, a good leader, a good bottom rung of the ladder. It doesn’t matter where you are in the food chain.” Jay gave a practical tip on how he cares for himself amidst the work. “A very practical takeaway for me sometimes is if I’m feeling the pressure in soundcheck into the run-up show right into showtime is you have 30 seconds to walk away, walk out of the room, wash your face, go to your car, put on a different shirt, change your shoes, make some sort of change, whether it’s your environment, or your attire. I literally sometimes have a spare pair of shoes or a shirt with me because something about it calms me. Heck, put on deodorant again. Feel fresh about something.”
  42. Never be afraid to ask for help.
    • Tim is the Lighting Designer at Gateway Church. He learned a great deal from his mentors, and even after they moved on to be in a different place than Tim, he would still reach out to ask questions. “I still reach out to them for help and ask for their advice because it’s valuable to leverage those who have gone before you in the tech world to learn and grow, and then you’ll avoid a lot of mistakes.”
  43. If you don’t like how your cameras look, check your lighting.
    • Brendon is the Technical Director at North Point Church, and his tech takeaway was to investigate your lighting before buying new cameras. “I think, instead of like chasing down the next camera, or the next frame rate, you know, or the next set of cinematic lenses, like I think a lot of times, we can concentrate on what we have and look at the lighting, and balance that better. Sometimes I suggest you take a video monitor and the console into a room where all you can see is the video monitor and program your lighting to what the camera sees more than just what’s in the room.”
  44. Check your pastor’s microphone.
    • Jerod Togger came up at Real Life Church in Flordia and now works full-time as a Tech consultant to churches across America to help them with their production equipment, internal communication, and Sunday services. He advises that you thoroughly check your microphones before service. “Check your microphones before the service starts. I know that’s like not earth-shattering. But check the pastor’s mic, and make sure it works. Make sure there are no RF problems. We have tech runs for a reason.”
  45. There is never time wasted on preproduction.
    • Kevin Behnke is the Production Logistics Director at Christ In Youth. His tech takeaway focused on the importance of pre-production. “Once people are there, the pastor is there with notes, and the band is there and needs tweaks, or the in-ears are not working correctly this morning, or whatever it may be, you don’t get that time back. So you need to plan for that so you have a buffer. Plan that pre-production early, so anytime you have Sunday morning is either time to chill, or time you can use to fix problems. So I think for me, proper pre-production makes the overall production much, much better.”

In 2022, we saw a couple of common themes. Invest in relationships. Take care of yourself. Treat the “booth” team and the “stage” team as a singular unit. Be brave enough to try new things. Don’t fight on Sunday. Above all, remember that God moved before AVL gear existed and he will still move if all of your gear goes down on a Sunday. We hope these tech takeaways have been insightful and encouraging as you head into 2023.

Join us in 2023 for more tech takeaways from the best voices in the worship and tech space. You can find the ChurchGear podcast on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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