6 Reasons why you might have a cranky sound guy

By Bob Bickford

There’s no one singular person so critical to the logistical success of your worship gathering than your sound/tech volunteer. Someone skilled in this role is often not noticed; that’s a good thing, and it’s really the goal. When the slides transition at the appropriate times and the mics turn on and off with adequate volume and no feedback you probably have a good, no, a great sound/tech guy. Similarly, there’s no one more able to completely throw your service into chaos or distract worshippers with miscues.

Not long ago I was speaking at a gathering hosted at a local church. I had a few Powerpoint presentations to share and climbed up to the sound/tech booth located in the top portion of the church balcony. I said hello to the volunteer and asked if it might be possible to upload the presentations into the system. Without turning around or making eye contact, he gruffly replied that they haven’t seen Powerpoint slides in years and that it might take a really long time to upload them because they used a different program. Apparently, a long time to him was less than 5 minutes.

I wish my experience was an isolated event, but sadly in my travels I’ve meet more than a few sound/tech volunteers who were, well, less than friendly and not very servant hearted, and some did pretty much whatever they felt like doing regardless of what was asked or needed.

How does this come to be? Where do cranky and less-than-servant-hearted sound guys come from? These might be contributors:

1. Lack of communication

Let’s be honest, pastors and worship leaders sometimes “spring it on you at the last minute” and are poor in communicating details. Sure, you edited the sermon this morning and added one creative element, but that element created multiple new demands on your support team, namely the sound/tech volunteer(s). Springing something on him or the team at the last minute isn’t good leadership even though it might be meaningful for the congregation and be perfect for your sermon.

2. Lack of relationship

If the only time you interact with the sound tech is on Sunday when you want something, you can expect a less than welcoming and helpful response to your requests. Do you know the background, interests and family situation of your sound/tech? Have you taken him to lunch, had him over at your house, been to a ballgame with him? Do you know why he volunteers in this role? Being treated like a task-oriented servant who receives little praise and who is only noticed when something goes wrong leads to tension and frustration.

3. Desire to control

His crankiness or obstinence may not be about you or your leadership but about a need to be “in charge” or controlling. At times, especially in a replant, people navigate into places of leadership and volunteering where they build a small kingdom in which they can rule. Adding preparation, process, communication and other volunteers to this area may ease their control but you can anticipate a battle if you are seen as attacking the kingdom and the power of the king.

4. Being abandoned at the wheel

When I arrived at my replant, we had two guys who volunteered with sound and tech. As I got to know their story, I learned that one of them was recruited to serve, trained for a couple of weeks and then was abandoned by the one who did the recruiting when he suddenly left the church. He’d served as the permanent volunteer for 20 plus years with only two weeks of training! His co-volunteer was simply a friend who felt bad for him and decided to help. Neither knew much about the sound system or projection technology but had somehow made everything happen as best they could for two decades!

5. Bad equipment

Our sound board and system is from the 70s, seriously. We’ve made some repairs here and there and replaced a couple of things, but we’ve have had to patch things together. Our current sound/tech can do wonders with our system. Honestly, I’m not sure how. Sometimes I think a Mr. Microphone paired with a boom box would be better, but he makes what we have sound good. Whenever he has a suggestion about something we can buy that would improve our sound, I try to find a way to do it as quickly as possible. He’s thrifty and knows we have a limited budget. His patience with our old gear has been amazing, I have to remember he does wonders with what we have.

6. No public thanks

Most sound/tech guys serve because they love what they do, generally they are not “upfront” types and do not seek the spotlight. That doesn’t mean they don’t desire to receive thanks for what they do. Our current sound/tech shared with me how thankful he was that we remembered him, sent him a gift card and expressed our thanks for him publicly during a member’s meeting. Making thank yous and recognition a regular part of your leadership yields incredible results.

Sound and tech volunteers aren’t normally cranky by nature. Often it’s a result of poor leadership from the previous leaders and pastors or something we’re doing that is creating frustration.

Love and lead your sound/tech volunteer(s) well.

Published September 26, 2017

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Bob Bickford

Bob Bickford is a Replant Pastor in suburban St. Louis, serves as the Associate Director of Replant for the North American Mission Board and is the co-author of Am I a Replanter,  Pathways to Partnership and the Associational Replanting Guide. Follow Bob on twitter @bobick