When I first started doing tech in church there was a mantra that we used. We didn’t want anything we did to distract so we used to say that the point of what we did was to “not be seen”. We wanted to be behind the scenes, which I think a lot of us mistook for being “behind the seens”. You see, church has been around a lot longer than tech and I think that because tech became a necessary hurdle we tried to hide the tech in the name of tradition. As churches got bigger, more people filled the seat, you needed a microphone to hear the speaker and guy to ride the fader. Eventually overheads meant you could do newer songs that weren’t printed in the hymnals, but you also had to have an operator. Tech became needed but it needed to disappear when it wasn’t being used. I know I’ve done my fair share of hiding speakers behind fake plants!
But later the pendulum started swinging and tech became cool. Larger bands, more secular or secular-sounding songs, projectors, and theatrical lighting. And while these things aren’t inherently bad, they can distract from the main purpose of church, and so we still feared seeing the tech team. We hide them in booths in the balcony or in video rooms tucked behind projector closets.
Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not bad that they are here. There are two sided of the coin. At times the production team needs to be hidden. They are moving things when the audience is silent. They are testing things when others are focused on the service. But at the same time we do our tech meetings in greenrooms backstage. We often hold another mantra of “first in, last out”.
But over the years I’m not so sure if I agree with that old mantra of “not being seen” anymore. You see, I think the Church needs to see the tech. The purpose of church tech has changed. I think for a good while the church intentionally or unintentionally tried to stifled it because we didn’t want it to become the main thing. We thought that if we have all of this flashy, techy stuff out in the open it will mean that we’re trying to show off. And while that should be constantly checked, I would argue that instead of us hiding the tech that we all have, we should teach our congregation what we have and why we have it! Now, they don’t care about model numbers and digital-to-analog converters, but I think the general population should be able to and explain why we have a giant projector and moving lights. And foremost, so should we!
The purpose of these things is to tell the story of Jesus. To connect people to Him. And to connect people to one another through Him.
So, I think that we shouldn’t hide the technical gear or the crew; we should either use it to point to Him or not own it at all! And, back to the bigger point, I would like to purpose an alternate montra. Instead of “not being seen”, I say we should “not be the focus”. Because let’s face it – that big ole screen is kind of worthless if it’s hidden behind a wall (or hidden under a bowl). It should be out in the open. We should not be afraid of our tech team being seen. We should, however, be afraid of them becoming the focus. How do we know if we are becoming the focus? For that, you need to ask yourself some honest questions:
- Why are people coming into your sanctuary doors? Is it to see what you all came up with this week? How funny the video is or how well you nailed that cover or how entrancing the atmosphere was?
- Are you consistently finishing up a series or weekend wondering “how are we going to top that one?”
- Are you straight up looking for praises? Is that how you judge a “good” service?
- How much were people challenged by Jesus this week? If you were to ask anyone what the whole service was about, what would they say? What was the point?
- What is the main point of the tech.
Listen, I think that the Church has been given everything it needs to do what it needs to do. We have been given gear, people, time, and talents to not just put on a service, but we have also been given the challenge, by Jesus, to move and change the world for Him. If we don’t do that, then I think we become a literal banging gong. We have to make Him the focus, not us!
So, ask yourself, before every setlist, equipment purchase, lunch with a volunteer, writing session, video shoot or message, is Jesus the focus. If so, let the tech be seen, and Jesus be the focus!