Keeping a Serving Attitude
Nothing is quite as rewarding as putting in hours upon hours of volunteer time, getting the lighting cues programmed and then reprogrammed, dialing in the house mix, getting monitor mixes right, and then getting them right again all to have it noticed by sometimes no one, right? I joke but there’s an old saying that as a sound engineer (or any tech), you know you’ve done your job if no one complains. Now, while I understand where this is coming from, it seems a little demeaning to our craft doesn’t it? But it does beg us to ask the question, Why do we do what we do? Is it for the recognition? A chance to be in control of something? Or are we a frustrated musician that sees it as a first step to getting in with the band! While there may be some truth to these questions, I sincerely hope the ultimate reason is to serve. To serve the music, to serve the musicians, to serve the larger mission of your local church and to be part of a team, who despite the perceived level of attention, all play a vital role in the final product.
So what does it mean to serve? There are quite a few definitions floating around, but one of my favorites is from the Merriam-Webster dictionary which says; “to be worthy of reliance or trust”. This definition puts value and high importance of maintaining a serving attitude when working behind the scenes.
Local churches rely heavily on quality volunteers. We find you worthy of reliance as you are tasked with the week to week set up and administration of our technical systems. We trust you to get the job done and trust as well that you are enjoying what you do. As a volunteer, if you find your serving attitude slipping, it’s very important to evaluate why that is. Have you simply too much on the go and need to look at how to manage time a little differently? Are you looking for recognition in places that you may not find it? As leaders, we need to make sure we don’t burn out our volunteers. We need to remember to let them know when they are doing a great job, and acknowledge the efforts and sacrifices offered.
I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside some very talented musicians in my time as an audio engineer, and I’ve also had the privilege of getting to a point of being relied upon by venues and promoters as a house engineer. While this may sound like I’m tooting my own horn, I’ve counted it a high honor that these folks are at ease when we work together, and the reason they’re at ease is they know my attitude towards the job at hand; to do my absolute best for all those involved. Making sure the band has what they need to do their job, and making sure the house sound doesn’t just suit my tastes, but what the audience or congregation is expecting. When the show is going well and you can feel the energy, the mix is just right, the people are singing along, it would be really easy to get a bit bloated in myself and proud and think about what a great job I’m doing. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with taking pride in your work, but it’s very important to recall just why you’re doing what you’re doing.
I can’t say this enough, if you got into the tech department for the fame and glory, you may have gotten on the wrong bus. You really need to love the satisfaction of doing the job for the sake of getting the job done well and the pure challenge it presents. Getting props from the band, or the acknowledged by the pastor (while I encourage this in the leadership) is simply a bonus.
I want to touch on a comment I made earlier about “if you’ve done your job right, then no one should notice”, obviously this isn’t a full truth. If you’ve nailed the audio mix, or the lighting is moving with every change of the music, then people will notice. The somewhat unfortunate reality that I’ve seen is that people are often far quicker to criticize, or should I say, voice opinions on what needs to be changed. These moments can be dealt with more easily if we stop and remember that we are there to serve everyone; even the folks that may not enjoy the mix or style of music chosen and feel like they’ve earned the right to tell you how to mix, despite the severe lack of technical ability (sorry for that rant). Everyone deserves to be heard, even if we have no intention of making any changes. Hearing them out and perhaps explaining certain things to help them understand why things are the way they are go a long way in winning people over. If nothing else, this will further show the servant attitude, and help you succeed in the tasks at hand.
Maintaining a servant attitude in the long hours and sometimes less than ideal circumstances is not an easy thing. It does take a conscious effort. And finding joy in being part of a team and overcoming the challenges we are presented with is a daily decision. We need to make sure we are being found worthy of reliance and trust.
Leaders and musicians, we need to make sure we let the tech portion of our team know that we do appreciate the extra hours they put it in and the tough task they have of turning our parts into the whole, not just letting them know when we need things. The servant attitude should not be taken for granted or abused, it needs to be modeled, respected and appreciated.