The Great Divide – Part Two

In part one, I talked briefly about the great divide between church music teams and the AV team, and talked about some simple things that can lessen the divide. However, sometimes there are situations that require special attention or more diplomatic methods of intervention. I’m sure we can all think of one (or more!) people who fall well below the standard of what we consider to be acceptable level of technical and artistic ability when responsible for the technical requirements of a service or show. These people can cause no end in frustration, and can cause problems with pastors and worship teams when it comes to rehearsals and performances. Even in worship settings, it can be distracting and hard to lead or participate if you’re constantly thinking about what mistake the “sound guy” is making. Alternatively, there may be a worship leader who thinks they know how to run the sound board better than you do, or a musician who wants to control every aspect of the sound.

There are several different ways to handle a situation like this, but all of need to be based on honesty, respect, accountability, and clear communication. Below, I will outline 5 basic steps towards conflict resolution within your AV team. It’s only one of many guidelines that you could follow through the process, but I will tailor it for AV teams specifically, so hopefully it’s easy to follow.

Firstly, take the time to organize and write down your thoughts. Make sure that as you go through this process, you’re taking a posture of building each other up and strengthening each other rather than suiting your own goals or needs. Ask yourself if you dislike this person because they do things differently, or if it is because there is a substantial problem with the way they manage the AV system. If so, it’s helpful to have several clear and concrete examples to refer to, rather than vague generalizations. Make sure that you understand your own motives and that they are healthy and consistent.

Secondly, take the time to bring someone else in on your thoughts. A second person provides accountability and an alternative viewpoint, to ensure that the problems and potential solutions are clear, concise, and fair. This second person can be from your AV team, but doesn’t have to be. Someone who listens well and provide wise input on the situation will be more helpful than someone who also has issues with the same person.

Thirdly, arrange to meet and talk with the person in question. Try and meet at a mutually neutral place. For example, if the problem is with another church sound technician, don’t meet at the church. Also try and avoid inviting them over, or going to their house to talk, as these places have much more meaning for one person than for another. Don’t hide your intentions or keep your true purpose a secret, and also don’t bully the person into being afraid of seeing you. Both of you should know that the conversation coming will be hard, but that you seek to build up and restore relationship, rather than tear it down.

Fourth, sit down and have the hard conversation. It’s best if you have a conversation outline ready to go, so that you can keep the conversation on track, and not get sucked into side-trails or insults that the other person may respond with. There are a lot of great online resources for conflict resolution, and I highly suggest using them. Here is a link to a poster with thought-provoking questions, and here is a great place to go for other resources or extended reading. They are both good places to start!

Fifth, debrief the conversation and prepare for the work that is coming. Sit down with a trusted friend or confidant and get them to ask and challenge you on how the conversation went. Try and figure out if there were any parts that you could have done differently, or if there are specific parts of the conversation that could be done better next time. Take time to realize that things aren’t going to get better instantly, but that over time, with continued input and guidance, restoration and strengthened relationship are possible.

These types of conversations are never easy. They are especially difficult when it comes to the subjective art of mixing sound, worship leading, and music, which many people have very specific personal view about. It may be helpful to bring in a third party from outside the church community to help establish clear standards about what is expected when mixing for live worship. At the very least, there needs to be clearly defined leadership in establishing and agreeing upon standards that everyone can follow.

I can’t say it often enough; Even if you’ve gone through this process, the problem won’t be solved right away. Don’t get sucked into thinking that everything after this conversation will be easy. If it goes well, hopefully both parties can agree on steps to take in the near future. However, even in this case, there will be mistakes made, and it will probably be necessary to go through this process several (sometimes many!) times. The above 5 steps are a starting point only to get the discussion going and moving in the right direction. The real work occurs afterwards, when both parties can start to work towards resolution and restoration.

An example of an outline of a conflict management conversation is given below. Although it may seem unnecessarily structured, in the emotion of a challenging conversation it is helpful to have an outline to hold on to and to follow. Don’t hesitate to bring a third party in to help mediate if you feel unsure of how to structure and guide the conversation yourself.

Conflict Management Diagram


The Great Divide – Part Two