As someone who has been a A/V volunteer at my Church for almost 20 years now, I am always asked by Churches what to look for in getting someone to do sound for a Church. And while that might seem to be a simple question, it is really not.
So let me see if I can shed some light on what I think are the 3 most important qualities to look for in a volunteer sound person for your Church.
A Heart for Serving
It may seem an obvious statement, as it makes sense that someone who volunteers their time would need to have a heart for serving. And it could be argued that most anyone who participates in volunteering their time within the Church community would have a Heart for Serving, and with few exceptions I would totally agree with this statement. But from the perspective of someone who is wanting to be a sound person at your Church, they should understand the following:
- The Sound Person at a Church is typically working in the background, with most attention being given to those individuals at the front of house (which is as it should be for a worship service).
- The Sound Person will typically arrive before anyone else, ensuring that everything has been tested and is ready to go, long before the Worship team arrives for any pre-service practice that might be required. I myself typically find myself being the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave after service, doing work that is typically unseen by 95% of the congregation.
- The Sound Person will typically spend long hours working on troubleshooting issues or upgrading systems outside of typical Sunday Service hours. If you have a spouse/partner, they will typically know that your “quick trip” to the Church to check something out, means that they should probably not wait for you before they have dinner.
- The Sound Person should when possible participate band/choir practice on a regular basis. Because while your worship team may not need you there to have a band/choir practice, it is an excellent opportunity for your Sound Person to practice themselves and become familiar with the music mix needed before Sunday Morning. The ideal situation is once your band/choir get use to you and trust what you are doing, that they will come to value your opinion as an integral part of what they do. Because who better to let them know what is sounding good during practice then an impartial person who is in the pews during practice. If your worship leaders/performers think they know how things sound in the pews, when they do not typically play/sing/preach from the pews, then I would suggest they may not understand the importance of the Sound Person to the effectiveness of the overall worship service.
- Finally, the Sound Person should understand that if the sound in your Sanctuary is good, then 99% of the praise and attention will be focused on your Worship Team. Which is as it should be. So check your ego at the door if you are in it for affirmation. If on the other hand there is a problem with the sound on a particular Sunday, you can be assured that you will be the centre of attention, which is not a good thing. I always tell new Sound and Video volunteers that if they are doing their job correctly they should not be noticed at all during service.
An Ear and Love for Music
It may not be apparent to everyone, but if the person who is mixing the sound for your Church does not have an aptitude for being able to hear music/sound then it becomes very difficult for that same individual to know what needs to be done from the perspective of running the sound for your Church. That is not to say that someone who is new to your sound crew cannot be taught what to listen for and how to mix, they can. However there are limits to this. If an individual has a “tin-ear”, it is more than likely that all the training in the world cannot correct the problem. The sooner an aptitude for being able to hear and listen to sound is established the sooner you can determine if a person has the gifts necessary to be able to grow into the role and contribute effectively.
I am not suggesting that someone needs to be an expert before joining the sound crew, they certainly do not. But I would suggest that someone who can easily hear if something is in-tune or out-of-tune might be a good place to start. Further to that, someone who already plays and instrument or sings (in-tune), might typically be good candidates for being part of your sound crew. However that is a tricky one in that if someone is a very good musician, then they may have a preference for being part of the worship band/choir rather than a member of your sound crew. However, some very good musicians may have an interest in doing both.
A Technical Aptitude
Someone who is technically/IT minded has always been a desirable trait of individuals wanting to be involved within the A/V team at a Church. And this more and more important as Churches are replacing older analog audio systems with updated digital systems, and replacing aging standard definition video systems with more updated high definition video systems. But people wanting to help with A/V do not always show up with fully developed technical skills or experience. So starting with someone who has a keen interest in learning is a great place to start (keeping in mind it is certainly helpful to start with someone who has at least some technical aptitude)
In A Perfect World
So in a perfect world if someone wants to join your A/V team, and they have a Heart for Serving, a great Ear for Music, and a solid Technical Aptitude. I would say, “grab them!!!!” before another Church does.
But the world is not perfect and we can’t expect everyone to be a perfect fit in the beginning. So both your Church and any individuals wanting to be part of the A/V team is going to need put some effort in, and work together to see if over time this would be a good fit for everyone. With the understanding from both sides that there should be no hurt feelings should things just not work out for ether side.
So what is most important. Well certainly having a “heart for serving” would be high on the list of my priorities, because without that it is not likely that this will be a long-term resource for your Church. But then given the choice between someone who had only a bit of technical aptitude and someone who is very technically savvy, my preference would be for the person who had only a bit of technical aptitude if that person also has a good ear for music. Because quite frankly it is easier for someone to learn something technical if they are a little technically minded, than it is for someone to learn to have an ear for music if they have a “tin-ear”.