Ground Zero: A Sound Check Strategy

Since your last service, you’ve been working hard to prepare for the next weekend worship services. Your planning is complete and you’re headed to sound check where it’ll all come together. Your clear vision and great plans are about to materialize! Or will they spiral into a blurry mess? Below are some foundationalSound Check Reminders” and delving more into specifics, a “Big Box of Tips” to help sound check and the service reach that AWESOME mark you’re aiming for.

 

SOUND CHECK REMINDERS

 

Glitches R Us

It’s gonna happen. As the familiar activity and chaos of sound check greets you, recognize that no matter how well you plan your services, someone or something is going to alter them. Poorly-timed questions or equipment malfunctions can quickly hi-jack your plans. You may even find it personally challenging to remain patient and loving towards staff and volunteers while leading a fast-paced, high-stress service rehearsal. You’ll be showered with questions, opinions and yes, “drama,” while you may already be involved in a swirl of logistical fixes which threaten to pull you away from your primary job: preparing your heart, the music and your team for worship. On top of everything else, the enemy has likely locked onto ground zero (you) and is getting ready to drop smart bombs. Be alert.

Just an Ounce

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” (Thank you, Benjamin Franklin.) When it comes to leading a successful sound check, this truism couldn’t be more true. BEFORE you get to sound check, imagine yourself as GROUND ZERO, because, as the worship leader, everything starts with you — and everything is also going to land on you. Practice your responses under stress ahead of time. Memorize scriptures to help your perspective. (10 great scriptures to memorize are listed below.) Make sure you personally prepare both spiritually and emotionally and teach your team how to do the same.

Breeeathe

Stay calm and avoid getting flustered. For example, when too many people are coming at you at once, simply say something like, “I’m sorry, but I can’t take care of that right now. Can you find someone else to help you?” or “Would you please check back with me in 10 minutes?” Don’t try to take care of everything at once. It may seem impossible in that moment of chaos, but with foresight, you can do this!

So you get the general idea:

1) Expect the unexpected.

2) Prepare yourself in advance.

3) Stay calm.

So what else?

 

THE BIG BOX of Sound Check Tips

 

Listed below you’ll find a variety of suggestions on sound check, ranging from emotional and spiritual issues to managing your volunteers. Take a look and see if there’s something YOU need for YOUR situation. With some foresight, planning and practice, your rehearsals and sound checks can become successful events which you and your team truly enjoy and which properly prepare you for a great worship service.

Check! Check! Check! A “Day-Of” Sound Check Checklist

  1. First thing upon waking, reaffirm to God that your purpose in life is to surrender your heart and mind to Jesus, to be humble, to do your job well and glorify Him in all you do today. Ask Him to love your worship team and your congregation through you. Knowing you’ll be externally and internally challenged, ask Jesus to give you strength and wisdom to handle all you encounter. Thank Him for equipping you to do this work and to do it in this church and with these people.
  2. Arrive at church a few minutes early. This will give you a time buffer for taking care of forgotten details, glitches and unexpected issues that need immediate attention. It will also help prevent the emotional and logistical chaos of starting “behind.”
  3. Any changes? Text each person on the worship and tech teams immediately if something changes prior to services.
  4. Check-in with audio tech team and ask for estimated times for mic check, sound check or run through. Ask if there are ways you or your team can help.
  5. Have musicians & singers confirm with you when they arrive on site and are ready for the tech team. Make sure there are no problems with in-ears, monitors, mic stands, music stands, stools, equipment, charts, attire, signage, etc. If necessary, delegate those jobs to responsible volunteers and get confirmation when the tasks are completed.
  6. Check Green Room for cleanliness and all the necessities such as drinks, food, etc. Recruit reliable volunteers to take on this responsibility and rotate helpers if possible. If manageable, invite tech, parking team, ushers and security teams to take part in Green Room refreshments. This enhances your sense of community.
  7. Pre-service prayer should include the entire production team and have a set pre-service time. Include the pastor & other leadership if possible. Train your worship and tech teams to start early enough to participate in prayer. Each of them is important to the spiritual unity and outcome of the service.
  8. Sound check and Run-through should move along quickly, only touching on what is necessary. Music preparation is key. Don’t allow anyone to get bogged down or stuck on a detail that should have been worked out at the weekly rehearsal or at home. Don’t allow singers or players who are unprepared to force you to spend more time than necessary on song segments. Use any down time before service for vocal/instrumental warm-up, drinks, fellowshipping.
  9. Service Begins on time with cue from bridge, producer, worship leader or stage manager.
  10. After Service Clean up Green Room, stage and backstage trash.

10 Relational, Emotional & Spiritual Tips

  1. Be Personally Prepared. Again, if you practice tempering your own emotional responses you’ll be conscious during “trigger” moments and be better able to handle distractions. You know that musically, the better prepared you are, the more likely you are to enjoy and facilitate worship. In the same way, your emotional preparation will also produce great fruit for you and those around you.
  2. Guard your heart. While you’re busy, you may be tempted with little resentments, critical thoughts, hurts, jealousies. Stay self-aware and gently notice those things. Be prepared to take the high road and keep God’s perspective on what you are doing. Resist the enemy and he will flee!
  3. Stay current with Jesus by confessing your own sins. Receive forgiveness on the spot. If a band member or singer are stressed and they have acted inappropriately, it’s your responsibility to forgive them on the spot as well. Deal with the behavioral instruction later.
  4. Don’t embarrass a team member in front of everyone or call them out during sound check. Treat them with respect. Wait until after the sound check is over and speak to them privately.
  5. Godliness is your guide. If something truly extreme happens, like a real meltdown or an overt critical rant, then by all means excuse the person from the room. You need to protect your team, their time and your sound check from being negatively effected. Make an appointment with the team member during the week to discuss their outburst. This scenario may never happen to you, but you need to be prepared. And remember to utilize your pastoral staff for guidance or even intervention when necessary.
  6. Research healthy group dynamics and productive confrontation. A few well thought-out strategies will go far in giving you confidence to address troublesome behaviors and follow through in a godly way.
  7. Personally greet and check in with the tech team when you arrive. If they are stressed or behind, ask if there’s anything you can do to help. Be aware that if there are unaddressed, ongoing problems among tech or band members, they may be worse during the high pressure of pre-service activity. In the moment, apply forgiveness and patience and determine later, during the week, how to address the underlying situation.
  8. Don’t throw random questions at tech while they’re preparing for services. Train your team not to make small talk with tech team members on stage or at the sound board while they are working. It’s distracting. Be deliberate to instruct your team to be patient and considerate towards tech. If you have an urgent comment or question regarding worship, ask the tech for a moment away from their work station but only if it can be dealt with quickly (3 min max). Otherwise, it is too late at this point. Address it after the service.
  9. Stay aware of all elements affecting your team in the sound check setting. Otherwise, you may be playing catchup when you realize that there is a problem that requires your attention. For example, while you are deeply focused on the music or parts, you might not notice some negative interpersonal dynamics. Try to stay aware on multiple levels at once. Then, deal with issues one at a time, as time allows and defer issues which can wait.
  10. Be an encourager. Wherever you see positive behavior, affirm it. Praise the staff member or volunteer who is always expecting God to show up. These are the Holy Spirit’s emissaries who have been gifted to you, true manifestations of Jesus presence. Never underestimate the positive impact they are having on your team. Thank God for them!

7 Volunteer Suggestions

Is your tendency to try to do everything all yourself? Be honest. That’s a disaster scenario. You need help. A great way to cut down on chaos and interruptions during sound check is to recruit volunteer leaders to handle specific areas. Remember to direct appropriate questions to others who are already in charge, like the band leader, choir director, audio tech, etc.

  1. Find a volunteer to be your personal production assistant. It may take a while for someone to emerge from your department or from the congregation but when they emerge they will be invaluable. Their only job on Sunday morning will be dealing with the things you cannot do due to worship preparation and musician tending. It’s probably wiser NOT to submit a general congregational request for specialized volunteers. Watch and wait for God to provide the right person and then tap them for this job. Give them a finite trial duration such as 1 month, 6 weeks, 3 months, etc. This way, if it doesn’t work out for either of you there will be a pre-arranged out.
  2. Take some time during the week to have training for volunteer leaders. Schedule an hour or two on a week night or during rehearsal one night when you are not leading worship. Create a clear document of your procedures for the job. (My Worship Ministry Handbook can be a great template for you to establish instructions and guidelines.) Give these volunteers the names of the staff or volunteers they will need to recognize. Delegate a liaison or runner between you, the worship team, your worship leader if that’s not you, and your tech team.
  3. A stage manager can make everyone’s life easier before, during and after service. Recruit and train a stage manager with your supervisor’s advice and approval. The stage manager should let you know when all worship volunteers or staff have arrived at church. They will communicate any last minute information to the worship team. They should check all singer and band equipment and supply in-ears and microphones from tech. They can make copies and other menial jobs for the worship and tech teams. They will have a correct service order and make notes for entrances and exits during the service. They may host quest speaker or musicians entrances and exits and direct them to the Green Room. Make a comprehensive list for the items you’d like to be on the stage manager’s agenda.
  4. Some of your choir members may be brilliant at taking charge of people and tasks.
  5. Back-up volunteers are needed for every key position. Always be looking for substitutes. Even if the first guy or gal works out they will inevitably need a substitute. It will take “extra” time to train these back-up volunteers but it will be worth it. Eventually, let your volunteers leaders take over training the subs. Every position, including yours, will need backup at some point. Find them before you actually need them.
  6. Put a volunteer in charge of the Green Room. Have them organize a schedule of additional volunteers to purchase or donate food and drinks each week, or a month at a time. They should check on the cleanliness of the Green Room before the teams show up for sound check and prepare food and drinks and clean if necessary. They will also clean up after the service.
  7. If preparation during the week is done with foresight and attention to detail then careless mistakes, incomplete data and communication breakdowns can be greatly reduced. If there is stress present among your team, first make sure you didn’t accidentally cause it. Be candid and humble and ask your team. It could be due to some small detail you forgot or some missed communication. Remember, no matter how small a detail seems to you, everything is a big deal on service day.

10 Scriptures to Help You Lead

The very nature of glitches is that they pull you away from who you want to be in the moment, who you’re committed to be. It’s essential that we face surprises with the miraculous indwelling of the Holy Spirit as our guide. Meditate on these scriptures so you have them in your heart and mind to help bring you peace and stability.

Galatians 2:20 (NIV)
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV)
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 4:29-32 (NIV)
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

James 1:19-20 (NIV)
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV)
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Psalm 62:5-6 (NIV)
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV)
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

James 1:2-4 (NIV)
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

John 15:16-17 (NIV)
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.

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