You’re a small church with a tight budget. You’re trying to figure out how to accomplish technical tasks without a lot of people. Is automation an option? If so, how would you go about using it?

I believe automation can be used to help facilitate a church service, but I look at automation differently. Because I believe tech gear is an instrument of worship, I don’t think automation eliminates the creative element, but is a way to pre-program it and let it flow by following other technical instruments.

What is Automation?

Most contemporary and traditional worship services have a piece of technical gear that is consistent to the service flow. Often this is the lyrics software. When services don’t use lyric software, they often still have a digital console. These types of gear consistently drive the service flow in a way that anticipates the next cue. That anticipation of the next cue is key to automating the technical piece of your service. Before we discuss how, I want to be very clear that automation means more work in other areas. Let’s talk about that.

Simplification

When you automate, you should simplify your services and “day of” tech needs and requests. If you expect a free-flowing service, automation is not for you. But if you can simplify the flow of your service so that you have specific cues that are simple and can be pre-programmed, automation may be an option.

Pre-Programming

Automation reduces the number of techs you need the day of service, but it does cause someone to work on each technical position in advance by pre-programming what is going to happen for each cue. If your service is complicated and changes a lot, this can mean hours of pre-programming and testing to make sure it works. Don’t assume automation means workloads or hours are reduced; most of the time it means that workloads and hours are shifted from the day of your event to a programming day that is before the event.

How to Automate

I believe the best way to automate a service is to have your technical elements follow the lyric software. Most lyric software programs allow control of other technical instruments of worship through MIDI, Timecode or GPIO. For example, clicking on a lyric slide can trigger the lights, run a sound preset, camera preset, video background and a video switcher change. Alternatively, you can use your sound console to trigger lights and other pieces of gear. I have seen both scenarios in action and when the service is simplified and automation is used properly, one volunteer can operate the entire service.

Additional Work and Setup

On top of the work it takes to simplify and pre-program a service, it also takes some technical and creative knowledge to set up your automation system. This knowledge is not for the faint of heart and can sometimes be confusing. Don’t be afraid to reach out and find a professional who can advise you on what will work best for your church.

About the author
David Leuschner is the founder and Executive Director of Digital Great Commission Ministries, a non-profit that has a mission to use technology to reach the entire world for Jesus Christ. David has been in the tech industry for over 30 years and has always had a passion for the church. From 2006 to 2017 he served on the Senior Team as the Senior Director of Technology and Technical Arts at Gateway Church, one of the largest churches in America. While at Gateway, David guided and directed over 700 volunteers, part-time and full-time staff in a mission to facilitate several hundred events a month among all venues.

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