When I got into production at my local church, it was not for the leadership opportunities available in the technical arts. I loved the gear and the opportunity to help create the music through mixing at front-of-house. It wasn’t until years later that I realized I was leading something—a moment when everyone was looking at me for the answers. I remember thinking, “I don’t know, I just want to pull off something amazing. Why do I have to be the one to decide?”
In most of our churches, technology is becoming more and more critical. With the potential to reach more people comes the need for more and more technical support. If you are doing production in the local church, I’m guessing you want to be more than just a button pusher. You want to be a part of what God is doing at your church. You want to use your gifts for the benefit of your congregation.
As our churches grow, our teams grow. As our team grows, the need for leadership grows. If you find yourself in a position of being the leader, you know that you were trained in the craft of production, not necessarily the craft of leadership.[quote]As our team grows, the need for leadership grows.[/quote]
If it is time to make the jump from skilled operator to leader, you need to start thinking differently about what it means to be a tech leader, not just a tech doer.
Here are eight characteristics that can separate a tech leader from a tech doer.
1. Loves what technology can do for the church, not just technology.
When you make the transition to being a leader, you start seeing past the next new piece of gear and how it can make your immediate job easier/better. Instead you start seeing it in the context of how to make more ministry happen through each new purchase. As a tech person, of course you love the gear. But as a leader, you now start seeing what it can do for your organization—instead of just seeing how it will make the mix better.
Now you are thinking about why the mix needs to be better. It’s more than just for your own sense of worth and accomplishment, but how it helps create an environment where people can meet with God.
2. Loves people more than technology.
As a leader, you aren’t just operating a piece of equipment right in front of you. You are leading people who are operating the equipment. In order for your ministry to continue to grow, you need to be leveraging people, not just more gear. When you start working through people, you realize that while you can accomplish more, you also need to care for the people. It isn’t just about gear and the task ahead. It is about the people involved. Are they using the gifts God has given them? Are they able to volunteer in an area that matters? Do they feel needed? Can they be successful in their area of serving?[quote]In order for your ministry to continue to grow, you need to be leveraging people, not just more gear.[/quote]
Early in my ministry life, I experienced some of my greatest production moments on very bad equipment. So I’m pretty aware that the gear isn’t always the most important thing. By far, my most favorite production moments come from watching people use their production gifts for the benefit of the local church. By combining the talents of the people on your team, the potential is unlimited. If it is all about the technology, you will burn through these gifted people and have to look for new ones.
3. Stays calm under pressure.
Doing a new production each week can be very nerve wracking. We try our best to have a plan going into each new service, but how often does our plan actually work 100%? When things are coming apart at the seams, how do you handle yourself? Do you start to panic? Do you hold it together?
Whether you like it or not, your team is looking to you to understand how to respond. If they see you losing it, they will too. If they see you calmly handling things, they will relax. I remember the moment when I realized I couldn’t just panic like everyone else. I desperately wanted to join in the despair, but I knew it would only make the situation worse.
You set the temperature of your team. Is it unnecessarily tense or appropriately intense?[quote]You set the temperature of your team. Is it unnecessarily tense or appropriately intense?[/quote]
4. Is a problem solver.
As you begin to lead your team, you can’t just wish things were figured out, you have to join in with solutions. As a member of the team, you can ask for things you need to get the job done, then wait for someone to come up with a solution. As a leader, you need to be less about pointing out the problems, and more about figuring out how to solve them.[quote]You need to be less about pointing out the problems, and more about figuring out how to solve them.[/quote]
“That idea won’t work,” is an answer you might get away with as just one of the doers. But as a leader, this sentence shouldn’t exist for you. “How can we make this idea work?” is the vocabulary of a leader.
5. Communicates effectively to senior leaders.
As the leader of the production ministry, much of your job is to represent your team’s interests to the leaders of the church. The only way to do this is to learn how to be understood. Most church leaders don’t care about the model numbers you are thinking about buying. They want to know how it will help advance the mission of the church.
Learning how to frame the new equipment conversation is key to being a good technical leader. If you can’t explain why you need to spend so much money on a piece of gear in terms senior leaders can understand, there is a good chance you’ll never get the money. You need to be able to explain things in the context your leaders can understand. Not only how much it will cost, but why the church needs to spend the congregation’s money on that new technology, or how a new piece of gear will help reach more people or advance the primary mission of the church.
6. Sets personal boundaries.
When I was a video editor, I would edit at all hours of the day and night. I was saying yes to pretty much everything. Eventually my family decided that I needed to figure out how to work less and be home more. I didn’t have anyone telling me to work that many hours. I just was.
As a leader, the rest of the team is looking to you to see how much time you are putting in. From there, they will adjust their own boundaries accordingly. If you have no boundaries, chances are your team won’t have any either. And if people matter more than things, your team needs an example of what it looks like to have healthy boundaries. Not only that, but they need you to set the expectations for how much the team will work.[quote]If you have no boundaries, chances are your team won’t have any either.[/quote]
Are we pulling all-nighters all the time, or are we pacing ourselves to last for the long haul?
7. Plays nice with others.
In any situation, it’s easy to care about the things I am responsible for and not care about yours. I can be pretty protective of my stuff—my area. As a leader, you need to care deeply about the production area that has been entrusted to you. But you are also a part of a larger team: the church. Are you territorial? Do you have your own little kingdom set up?
Learning to work across departments is essential to being a great tech leader. If you aren’t able to work with the children’s ministry, or are always arguing with the facilities team, it will be more difficult to get ministry done.[quote]Learning to work across departments is essential to being a great tech leader.[/quote]
Instead of protecting my area, I try to be as open handed as I can. I try to share my resources every opportunity I get—while keeping an eye on my boundaries. I’m not saying yes to everything, but I am being honest about the capacity of our gear and our team. However, spending all of my energy protecting them starts feeling like I care about what matters to production more than what matters for our church.
8. Knows what matters, then shares it with the team. Constantly.
As the leader, someone needs to decide what matters and what doesn’t. As a doer, you were able to hold yourself to certain standards. As the leader, you need to communicate to your team what those things are. If everyone has their own set of values, there is a good chance that not everyone will agree—which means we’ll all just be frustrated.[quote]If everyone has their own set of values, there is a good chance that not everyone will agree.[/quote]
Before you can communicate to your team what matters, you have to know what matters yourself. A good production leader sits down and figures out what he/she believes and why to make a certain decision over others. It is impossible to pass this along if you don’t even know yourself.
Now that you know what matters to you, you need to make yourself talk about it all the time to the people you lead. While you might be sick of hearing yourself say the same things over and over, your team needs to be reminded constantly about the things that matter to the whole team.
You’ll sound like a broken record. But for the team to function as a unified group, they all need to be thinking the same about what matters and what doesn’t.
Making the jump from doing production to leading production is quite a leap. It requires a new mindset toward a bigger picture. While not an exhaustive list, hopefully these eight qualities will help you lead your technical ministry well.