How to Talk to Your Pastor (Convincingly) About Sound
It’s a little like asking for a raise. Uncomfortable. That’s why many of you out there have asked Shure for advice on ways to approach your lead pastor when it’s time to replace rather than repair. This may lead to stultifying technical discussions but it will certainly result in “how much money is this going to cost?” questions.
This is a little bit outside our area of expertise, so we turned to our panel of house of worship experts – music ministers and worship leaders, volunteer and professional sound engineers, musicians and audio consultants – for successful approaches, based on real world experience.
Our first installment features sound thinking from two audio pros: Portable Church Industries’ senior consultant Bob Smith and author/trainer writer John Chevalier whose accomplishments are so many we can’t even list them here.
Portable Church Industries
“So, the aging sound system in your church needs a serious upgrade. What was installed 20 years ago just isn’t doing the job today, and you need to find the best way to communicate this to your pastor. But most Pastors have a very limited understanding of the technology inside the boxes, and don’t really have the desire (or the need) to learn it; rather, they are life-change agents who are generally more focused on people, and not stuff.
That, my friend, is exactly what you need to focus your discussion around. People who attend your church services need to be able to clearly hear and understand the message being delivered, both the spoken word and through music. Not hearing clearly can be caused by a number of things. Here are a few that come up regularly that could be addressed with new or replacement equipment:
• Inadequate Speaker Coverage
• Incorrect Types Of Microphones Being Used
• Stage Monitor Bleed Into The Seating Area
• Noisy Mixer/Outboard Gear
• Low Quality Wireless Microphones
• Outdated Recording Equipment
Keeping your focus on the benefit for your church’s attendees will greatly improve the chance that your request will be heard and taken into consideration. Obviously there can be budget or other ministry issues to be considered, but it’s a lot more difficult for your pastor to ignore a request of this type when the logic is to help attendees to hear the Word more clearly. After all, isn’t that the heart of why we all serve where we do?”
Teacher, Trainer, Producer, Speak and Author
“One question that consistently comes up in Technical Ministries is how we convince church leadership that we need certain pieces of equipment. Whether it’s an equipment upgrade or the need to replace a system, rarely do those in church leadership understand the need and what you’re working with. It’s important to note that the language we speak as a technician and that of your leadership is not the same. On top of that many do not understand the technology or even see the need for it. Let’s a just take a couple minutes and look at some key factors that will help when we communicate with church leadership.
Clearly Communicate “The Need”
Notice that I didn’t say, communicate, “What you need”. Always start with the reason that you need equipment. When you’re in a situation where you’re using volunteers I always ask myself the question; “Am I trying to solve a training or skill level issue with gear?” Because if I am, the purchase rarely helps. Another thing that I’ve tried to do is to begin by answering the “what and why questions”. “What is it?”, “What does it do?”, “Why is it broken?”, and, most importantly, “Why do we need it now?” Starting off the conversation by explaining to leadership the benefits to the church will go a long way in getting the “yes” answer to a new purchase.
Put It In Writing
One thing that tends to turn off church leaders immediately is being asked for something without a well thought through plan. Taking the time to put your proposal in writing will not only give them something tangible to review, but will communicate that you care about what the church is doing and that you want to make wise purchases. Some thing’s to include in this would be.
A. Anything that solves a problem that has been obvious in the worship service. From pop’s, buzzes, feedback, etc… to a dim or unclear projection screen. Whatever it might be that’s clearly an issue, make sure “the fix” for it is in your request. Generally people feel good about purchases when the results are obvious.
B. Give options if possible. Show your pastor that you have done the research. Include pros and cons of choosing different options. Take the time to list out specific equipment. Make things really clear and explain not only why you need it, but show how making an investment at this time will yield positive long-term benefits.
C. Include the benefits of a better worship experience. Here are a couple of examples. “If we had “professional sound system” we will attract a higher caliber of musicians.” Or “By purchasing an “in-ear monitor system” we will fix the feedback issues we’re having and clean up some of the muddy sound.”
Speak In a Language He or She Can Understand
Before writing your proposal or speaking with your pastor, spend some time thinking about how to effectively communicate your request. One main factor here is knowing what your pastor actually knows about technology. You may have to spend some time educating him/her; however if this is the case you need to be able to do it without making them feel stupid. Sorry to be blunt here, but this is really important. We “tech-types” can easily intimidate others with what we know. I have personally found, on a number of occasions, that if I’ve taken the time to make sure your church leadership understands the need, and if I do it in a way that doesn’t come across intimidating, I have rarely been told “no”.
The bottom line is still communication. The worship service is about communication and your leaders care about how that comes across to the congregation. If we want an excellent service we are going to have to have excellent gear. Worship sound has tough competition from the world, which has set the bar very high for quality. Like it or not if we are going to play in that world, we will be compared. However, if we take a fraction of the time that it takes to prepare a service and put that effort into learning to communicate with our pastor, this will go a long way toward getting you the equipment that you need for excellence, and building a solid, trusting relationship as well.”