I grew up in the music industry. My dad, Evan Williams, taught audio engineering and record producing at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, California, for 30 years. He became somewhat of a local legend, as many of his students went on to be well respected audio engineers.
The workflow of a tech director will vary, depending on the size and technical complexities of that church.
In addition to teaching, he ran Sonic Thrills Entertainment, providing high-quality audio/video recording services to his clients. This is where I received most of my training, without even knowing it. You see, being his daughter meant I was free help. But in hindsight, I actually received an education that couldn’t be bought. I've learned more from being my Daddy's little worker bee, than any other job or training I've ever had; and not just in the technical arena, but also about life.
The workflow of a tech director will vary, depending on the size and technical complexities of that church, but here are five key principles that I have depended upon as a tech director for multiple churches, as well as other organizations. I learned these principles from my father, and I believe they are essential for any tech director to have a successful and fulfilling experience in the role.
1. Be Teachable
There’s this misguided notion that a tech director must know everything about anything technical. This just isn’t the case.
I started freelancing for the pro audio manufacturer QSC, LLC, a while back. I’ve had the pleasure of working on postproduction work with QSC Senior Audio Engineer Jon Graves, renowned for his work with top rock and roll acts like Eddie Money, and Motley Crue. Working alongside Jon has shown me how much I still need to learn.
Being teachable means not being afraid to ask questions. Sometimes, it means acknowledging and learning new information from those who don’t have the same amount of experience as I do. This is obviously a vulnerable place to be in, since I’m expected to know a lot already. The truth of the matter is, though, in our ever-evolving technical world, none of us will ever be done learning.
The best teachers are those who are willing to be taught. This brings me to the next key principle.
2. Reproduce Myself
My dad and I used to take long walks together. During these times, he would share the most impressive words of wisdom about life. I remember on one walk (I was 14-years-old at the time), he said to me, “If you want to leave a legacy for others to follow, then reproduce yourself.” In other words, teach others to do what you do. This nugget of wisdom has stuck with me all my life.
In my role as tech director at different churches, this has been a top priority. Most churches depend largely on volunteers who donate their time.
When I’m working with my volunteers, I’m often starting at the very beginning with their AV training. I have them shadow me. I include them in the process. I explain what I’m doing, as I go. I make training videos. I have hands-on classes outside of church events. I try to make every moment a teaching moment.
I need to be honest here, teaching others takes a whole lot of effort. It would be so much easier just to run everything by myself. But the return outweighs the effort, in every way.
Once a volunteer has been trained, they are empowered to skillfully operate the AV equipment with confidence. They feel a sense of worth. There’s a sense of community as we all serve the church. As the director, my time is leveraged when my skilled volunteers are running events.
For those who I teach, I leave them with this challenge, “Go teach someone else to do what you do.” And so, they get paired up to train less experienced volunteers. I have found that teaching someone else a skill that I know further reinforces my understanding of that skill ... and so the cycle goes.
3. Strive for Excellence As A Tech Director
I believe that God wants us to be the best that we can be, so we can serve Him to our fullest capacity. This service is, in fact, an act of worship.
On a practical level, this means further study of my craft. Continual research and development on new equipment, technologies, and techniques. It also means creating innovative ways to teach others.
On a spiritual level, this means staying grounded in the Scriptures through personal times of devotion. It means engaging my mind, as the pastor is teaching from God’s Word, rather than checking my brain at the door when I’m finished mixing during worship. It means applying God’s Word to my life on a daily basis.
It is important that my actions, interactions with others, and the attitude of my heart reflect a proper perspective of humility and worship.
4. Be Humble
I could write an entire book on this one. Needless to say, it’s very easy when you excel at something to lose sight of this character trait. The Scriptures remind me that “Pride goes before a fall.” (My paraphrased version of Proverbs 16:18). I’ve learned that if I don’t humble myself, the day will come when I will be humbled.
Early on in my career as an audio engineer, I remember one time when I really thought I was so cool running sound at a large pastor’s conference, until one of the guys who worked for the worship pastor came back to my mix position. He then told me everything that I was doing wrong and had me step aside. As you can imagine, that really hurt my pride.
Being humble means being willing to receive instruction and learn from it. It means not degrading someone else, in order to elevate myself. It means accepting praise from others graciously, realizing that it’s the Lord who has given me this ability.
5. Remember Who I Work For
The previous four principles seem to fall into place, when I remember who I work for.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Col 3:23-24.
Ultimately, I work for the Lord Jesus Christ. When I adhere to this, God has a way of working through my work. I know it seems silly that God could use a tech director for ministry, but I’ve learned to look for those moments, where God can use me to speak into someone else’s life, and allow his love to shine through me.
I remember a specific occasion setting up for a memorial. A six-year-old girl was scheduled to read Psalm 23 in front of a microphone. She was absolutely petrified, and in tears. Her mother didn’t know what to do, so I knelt down, and put my hand around her and said, “Let’s practice together.” I taught her how to use the mic. We practiced the psalm about five times together, until she gained her confidence. When it came time for her to read it during the memorial, she was flawless, and the entire audience was brought to tears.
More Than Just a Job
I maintain that the role of a church tech director is more than just a job.
Absolutely, yes, as a tech director, even though it may look differently from organization to organization, should be a skilled individual that can oversee the development, management, and implementation of aspects of the AVL (audio, video, lighting) team and operations. I have found, though, that adhering to these five principles that my dad taught me, makes the role a joyous and fulfilling one.