Inside the Mind of the Church Tech Director

Research offers valuable insight into how house of worship technology purchasing decisions are made.

CI Staff
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Imagine walking into church and realizing there’s no pre-service music playing. There’s no countdown or announcements scrolling across the screen. When the worship leader and band get on stage, there’s no amplification of their instruments or vocals. There are no lyrics on the screen.

Even when the pastor gets up to preach, he must struggle to project his voice since he doesn’t have a working microphone.

Basically, without tech team members that’s what church services would look and sound like. The technical folks are those in the sound booth, pushing buttons and levers behind large soundboards and on laptop computers to make everything work.

Click here for infographics of the State of the Church Tech Director Survey

They’re the ones who came in early to do a sound check with the worship band. They make sure the lighting is just right and that the video announcements play at the proper moment. They’re the ones who are unseen until something goes wrong. (Ever notice where everyone’s head turns when the pastor’s microphone stops working?)

The “State of the Church Tech Director” survey
reveals that tech leaders make services happen. Indeed, our survey respondents are a hard-working group. Sixty-five percent reported directing one to three services per week. Twenty-six percent serve at multisite churches (with 94 percent of that group being responsivey comments, common trends emerged.

The comments provided ideas and tips for pastors and senior church leaders looking to take action to help church tech directors.

#1 — Be Inclusive When Discussing Vision

The technical team members want to be able to support the overall mission and vision of the church. They want to provide lighting, sound, and visual elements that support the message and environment you’re trying to create. Too often, however, they don’t know what’s coming up and have little insight into the creative vision.

Here’s what respondents said:

“Our biggest obstacle is a lack of communication between ministry leaders. One example is that our pastor may have a great idea that is very achievable if given enough time. However, I don’t hear about this idea until it is too late to achieve.”

“We have little group planning and marginal communications with the creative director. Most of what we do is by the seat of our pants based on whatever information we can get in advance. There is little or no team approach.”

TIP FOR PASTOR: Invite your technical director (or equivalent) to planning meetings. Make sure your church has an event calendar with the next six to 12 months of services and special events clearly marked. Facilitate communication between ministry areas so everyone can plan together and have some input in executing an understood vision.

#2 — Set and Communicate an Actual Budget

None of our survey participants expected unlimited resources to purchase the flashiest sound or video system (although they probably wouldn’t turn it down). They would, however, at least like to have a budget. Tech arts leaders want their church leaders to understand the constraints of having older technology.

As one respondent stated, “The church expects Star Wars, but only wants to pay for PBS programming.” Another wrote, “I do not have a budget. Every purchase is on an as needed basis and this makes improvement planning impossible.”

TIP FOR PASTOR: Include the technical director in annual budget planning discussions. Ask what his/her team needs to support what you’re asking to be produced.

#3 — Get Real with Expectations

When we asked the question, “What one thing would you change that would be most likely to meaningfully improve your level of job satisfaction?” survey respondents made it clear they wanted senior leaders to hold more reasonable expectations.

TIP FOR PASTOR: Have a frank discussion with your technical director about whether additional hires or technical volunteers are needed (full-time or part-time). Find out what he needs in terms of manpower to pull off what you’re requesting.

Here’s what respondents said:

“A reality check [is needed] on the part of our senior leaders to understand the time and energy it takes to make all of the demands happen that they expect to make happen. “As we have grown, projects have become much more involved and complicated. The expectation level has also risen, but the timelines have not really increased to match. Much of the planning is still done with short notice. Job satisfaction would be improved by having more time to prepare/complete projects to a higher level of quality.”

“Stop filling up the calendar. The church needs to breath. We do not need 25 classes per week and an event every month. There is only so much week to go around.”

#4 — Don’t Take People for Granted

We asked our survey participants if they’d ever seriously considered leaving the tech arts ministry — and, if yes, why they considered it and why they stayed. Many cited too many hours at work (and not enough at home), leadership conflicts, financial pressure, and lack of support or lack of appreciation from leadership. Of those who have considered leaving, several commented that they haven’t left because they feel they’re where God wants them for now.

TIP FOR PASTOR: Talk with your technical team members, and find out if they’re feeling these same pressures. Listen and ask open-ended questions. Showing an interest in their workloads and work-life balance will go a long way toward retention and helping them feel they are a valued member of your team.

Here’s what respondents said:

“One might think that a leadership team would be hesitant to demand excessive time from a volunteer because they can’t ‘force‘ them to do anything. But I find the opposite is true. In the marketplace, the exchange of time and money is implicit and understood by both parties. But when there is no income involved and the work is ‘kingdom work‘ there seems to be no mechanism to resist the ever increasing ‘ask’ until volunteers burn out and quit.”

“I am currently looking for a new position outside of church ministry. It’s been a very tough decision coming to this. The main reason would be burnout caused from long, irregular hours and a lot of last minute projects that could and should have been planned out better to make the best use of time. What has kept me going for the past few years are my volunteers and it will be very hard to leave them.”

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