From Here To Eternity: Improving Relations Between the Preacher and the Visuals Technician

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A few years ago, the church where I serve hosted a gathering of pastors for inspiration and encouragement.  For one session, a famous author and speaker, known for his ministry with teens and young adults, was to give the featured address.  He arrived shortly before the event with his young intern following close behind him.  After brief introductions, the intern handed me a thumb drive containing the speaker’s slides for his presentation.  He followed me to our media booth where I handed the thumb drive to our visual technician, who in turn, quickly loaded the speaker’s 300 plus slide presentation.

“Wow!” said the technician.  “He’s knows this is just one session, right?”

“Yes, he does,” replied the smiling intern, “But you had probably better let me run his presentation.  He’s very particular about his timing and sometimes snaps at the operator.”

“Really?” asked the technician as he gladly surrendered his seat.

“Yes,” said the intern.  “I wouldn’t want you to be embarrassed.”

The presentation began and the intern followed the speaker flawlessly, at least in my opinion.  So, I leaned back in my chair ready to be inspired by this famous author’s presentation.

“I’m always extremely supportive of young people,” he said.  “I have a very important ministry of encouragement for young college students.  It’s more vital than ever for us to invest our lives in the next generation.”

Suddenly, the speaker glanced at the screen then glared at the intern.  His entire demeanor changed.  He was just shy of yelling as he said, “Ok, Buddy, you’re falling behind.  When I say the word that matches the slide, you have to put it up immediately with no hesitation.  Now, pay attention, stop falling behind, and follow me!”

The young intern was mortified as hundreds of eyes locked onto him.  He swallowed hard and nodded his head affirmatively.

The speaker continued:  As I was saying, we have to invest in the next generation with encouragement.  I do this myself as…

Even though it’s been several years since that incident, whenever that speaker’s name is mentioned amongst our pastoral staff, the story of him chewing out his own intern in the midst of his speech about how to encourage young people always becomes part of the conversation.

The rude author story may seem like an exception rather than the rule, but I’ve been in multiple services and events where there were extremely awkward moments between the person on stage and the visuals technicians.  Sometimes I have been the speaker.  Sometimes I have been the visuals technician.  Most of the time, I have been somewhere in between, sensing the enormous awkwardness of the moment and feeling bad for both parties.

Here are three brief awkward moments I received from my social media friends:

My husband was preaching and the tech was trying to wave him down during the sermon because he didn’t introduce a video on the schedule.  My husband had decided on the fly to nix the video due to time constraints and the tech had not worked with him long enough to pick up on his nonverbal cues.   

I was at a women’s conference when the speaker was advancing her own slides with a clicker, but she kept telling the visuals technicians, in front of several hundred ladies, that they were falling behind her.  She forgot she was her own visuals technician.

Back in the day when we used overhead projectors, I was speaking when suddenly, everyone in the congregation started laughing.  Apparently, a roach was inside the machine and was being magnified for the entire congregation to see.  The operator was looking down at her shoes, clueless as to what was happening.

overheadprojector

Even though awkward moments do exist, the truth is that a visuals technician is of vital importance to the preaching pastor.  The visuals technician partners with the pastor throughout his entire presentation, enhancing every scripture read and every point made.   

In hopes of Improving relations between the stage and the media booth, here are

5 Tips for pastors when working with visual technicians.

  1.  Be appreciative.  They are volunteering their time to help you communicate.  Because they are operating behind the scenes, they are most often never acknowledged unless something is going wrong.  Take time to acknowledge them both privately and publicly.
  2.  Be informed.  Learn the name of the visuals program they are operating.  If they are running Propresenter, call it Propresenter.  If it’s EasyWorship, call it EasyWorship.  If it’s Powerpoint, call it Powerpoint.  Even though it might be difficult to understand, it can come across as demeaning to the operator if you reduce it (in their eyes) to an older form of visual presentation they haven’t used in years.  If you’re daring, take time to learn the programs strengths and shortcomings.  Doing so will help you better communicate with your visuals technician.
  3.  Be understanding.  The visuals technician wants to do a good job for you and for the Lord.  One technician I know shared this with me:  “If something is not right, calling the tech team out NEVER helps. You can be assured they are already desperately looking for a solution. They will either find it, or they won’t, and often, they are at the mercy of an equipment failure which takes time to overcome. In any case, tech people do tech because they love making stuff work and getting stuff right. If they didn’t have that passion, they wouldn’t be there.  So, the preacher should be able to trust they are already doing everything they can to fix the problem.
  4.  Be informative. The visuals team wants you to communicate your plans for your sermon with them.  One visuals technician once told me, “Communication is very important.  We need to know what’s in his head so we can illustrate what he’s trying to say.”
  5.  Be patient.  In the end, no matter how many times the visuals technician reads and highlights your sermon outline and no matter how many times they review your slides and videos, they do not know your sermon as well as you do.    

Propresenter

To be fair, some visual technicians aren’t always the best at fostering good relationships with pastors either.  At the end of one worship service I attended, the pastor privately asked the visuals technician to keep some type of ongoing message on the screens until everyone had left the building.  Understanding this meant he had to stay until everyone else left the building, the technician projected a slide with the following message:  THE SERVICE IS OVER!  EVERYONE GET OUT!

So, in hopes of improving relations between the media booth and the stage, here are

5 Tips for visual technicians when serving with pastors.

  1.  Be respectful.  Offer them the level of respect that is due their position.  Often, the person speaking is the lead pastor of the church.  While he wants his message and presentation to go well, he has lots of other worship service items going through his mind.  He is concerned about children’s ministry volunteers, the church budget, the condition of marriages in the church, and connecting with visitors and first time guests, not to mention church members dealing with sickness, depression, and addictions.  Cut him some slack.  He’s got a lot going on.  Because of all of these items, he’s counting on you to help him with his presentation.  So, show him respect by paying close attention to what he’s saying.
  2.  Be informed.  Know the name of the sermon the pastor is preaching.  Do your best to read his outline and study notes prior to the service.  Don’t be afraid to ask him specific questions regarding the timing of slides, graphics, or videos.  The lead pastor at the church where I serve prints his notes for the visuals technician and highlights the areas where he is expecting certain pictures or videos to appear.  If your pastor is willing to do the same, it can be an extreme help to you.  And if he is willing to take the time to prepare highlighted notes, the least you can do is take the time to review his notes.  
  3.  Be understanding.  Remember that the pastor has spent multiple hours developing the content they are delivering.  They’ve spent time seeking the Lord over the words they have to say.  They’ve struggled with whether or not they have the right title.  They’ve searched for quality creative stories and object lessons.  So, remember, the sermon they are sharing is a big deal to them and to the people sitting in the worship center.
  4.  Be obedient.  If your pastor wants you to put up a picture of pig eating an orange in Cafe du Monde in the New Orleans French Quarter, put up the best picture of a pig eating an orange in Cafe Du Monde in the New Orleans French Quarter you can find.  (If you find one, send it to me)  Remember, the one speaking is the one responsible for the content of the sermon, not you.  Unless he’s mistakenly included a picture that is immoral or ungodly, your responsibility is to display the content and help make it as awesome as possible.  
  5.  Be patient.  Odds are, unless your pastor is a former tech person, he doesn’t spend time reading about visual production systems.  So, if he calls your visuals presentation software by the wrong name, forgive him and move on.  You are his partner is presenting the Word of God to hundreds if not thousands of people.  That’s much more important than whether or not he says the name (or even knows) the correct version of your presentation software.

In the end, both preachers and visual technicians are people.  And people make mistakes.  People miscommunicate.  People fail to listen.  People say the wrong things and people press the wrong buttons.  Preachers are people.  Visual technicians are people.  Problems and mistakes will arise.  The important thing is to work through the issues and try to continually improve your presentation and your relationship.

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Why Church Greeters Are Important

handshake

Not long ago, I noticed a church billboard I had not seen before.  It had the name and address of the church with a picture of their smiling pastor and his wife.  The following words were displayed across the bottom:

The friendly church with the friendly pastor

“Well,” I thought, “That certainly sounds like a friendly church. I should visit there some weekend when I’m free.”

Ironically, at that moment I was on my way to visit another church in town for their regular Sunday evening service.  One of my friends was going to be leading the musical worship and had invited me to observe and participate.

My friend, let’s call him Mack, had warned me not to tell anyone where I was from.  He told me his church was internally focused and did not trust pastors, leaders, members of other churches, or guests of any kind.  I thought this was a little strange, but I guaranteed Mack that I wouldn’t speak with anyone about who I was or what church I was from.  I even decided to dress down for the evening.  (Not the best decision)  I suppose I was trying to look like someone who decided to attend the service on the spur of the moment.

I arrived at the church building about 10 minutes before the start of the service.  The building looked deserted, but I walked through the empty foyer and found the worship center without encountering another human being.  As I entered, the worship team was just breaking from their pre-service music run-through.  Mack came and shook my hand, but none of the others on the team spoke to me.  After interacting with Mack, I took a seat near the back row of pews and waited for the service to begin.

After a couple of minutes, a man in a suit entered and spotted me from across the room.  He immediately headed my way.

“Ah,” I thought, “He must be coming to greet me.”

I was wrong.

“Hello,” he said without extending his hand for me to shake.  “I’m the associate pastor here.”

“Nice to meet you, Pastor” I said.  “My name is John.”

“Ok,” he replied, putting his hands on his hips.

“This is a very nice church building,” I said, trying to make conversation.

“Yes.  Why did you come tonight, John?”

I was somewhat taken aback.  I was dressed down, but I didn’t look like a homeless person.  I replied, “Oh, I know Mack and he told me he was singing tonight.  I had the night off so I thought I’d come hear the music.”

Suspicious-eyes

The man looked me over cautiously.  I expected him to shoot me the I’m watching you hand signals, but instead, he replied, “I guess that’s ok.”

“Thank you,” I answered, not knowing what else I could possibly say.

Without another word, He shifted on his shiny black loafers and walked away.

“Man,” I thought, “I should have gone to visit the friendly church with the friendly pastor.”

I wish I could tell you the pastor redeemed the church with his sermon, but I left shortly after the music ended.  Up to this point, I’ve never returned, much to Mack’s dismay.  Every so often, when I drive past the building, I shake my head, remembering my dreadful experience.

And then I wonder…

  • How often have people gone unwelcomed in the church where I serve?
  • How many guests have felt like the foyer of my church building was deserted?
  • How often have our church leaders failed to have someone greeting guests as they enter to worship?
  • How often have I been guilty of turning away visitors by my words, actions, or disposition?

The answers to all of these questions should help us all remember why it’s important to build a culture of friendliness in our churches, especially surrounding our worship services.  This is one reason why church greeter teams play such a vital role in vibrant, growing churches.

Greeters are groups of church members (or regular attenders) who work cooperatively to ensure that every person (first time guest, regular visitor/attender, or long term member) entering the church facility is welcomed warmly and directed sufficiently.

When I think of church greeters, I can’t help but think of Wal-Mart.  Many Wal-Mart stores around the country hire greeters to stand at the door in their blue vests with the sole purpose of greeting people as they walk through the door.  So, you may ask, what does this accomplish for Wal-Mart?

A lot.

  1. A friendly welcome at the door helps the customer feel (at least the slightest bit) welcomed, can serve to put them in a better mood so they have a more pleasant shopping experience.
  2. The Wal-Mart greeter is an instant source of information to the customer entering.  It doesn’t matter if the person wants to know how to find sporting goods, electronics, home office, or the nearest restroom.  The Wal-Mart greeter, often with the words How May I Help You? written across their back, is a plethora of knowledge, especially when you don’t have it.
  3. Wal-Mart is known for hiring Senior Adults as front door greeters which creates positive feelings (for some at least) for a company which hires people in this demographic group to fulfill these roles.

willie

Church greeters accomplish a lot for the church as well.  Here are just a few of their responsibilities:

  • Monitoring the cleanliness of the gathering place entryway.
  • Opening the door for guests and greeting them as they enter.
  • Passing out worship guides to people as they enter the worship service.
  • Assisting the church ushers, pastors, and staff with unforeseen emergencies.
  • Helping guests know where to go for the worship service, children’s ministry, or restroom.

All of these tasks are extremely important, but not one of these tasks fully describes the full realm of responsibilities fulfilled by the church greeters.  I think a better description of church greeters was made by Dr. Nelson L. Price in the following:

Greeters are the personification, the representative, the exemplar, that is, the church embodied.  Their very presence is the first living impression of the church body.  Greeters need to realize they are more than themselves.  They are the style and spirit of the church in human form.  Greeters are the Ambassadors of the Door.  They are the gatekeepers in the House of the Lord; the envoy of the Lord of the House.*

Well said, Dr. Price.

Church greeters aren’t just bulletin passers, information sharers, door openers, and direction givers.  They most often serve as the church’s first contact with the unsaved, unchurched, curious, misguided, broken, hopeful and hurting people who enter our places of worship.  Church greeters provide a tremendous service for the Kingdom of God that impacts people for Christ just as much as the Sunday morning preacher or worship leader.

Imagine how different my story at the beginning of this article would have been if I had been greeted warmly, given a welcome packet or worship guide, and directed to the worship center.  Their friendliness would have impacted everyone in the building.  I might have stayed for the sermon and left with a smile referring to them as the friendly church with the friendly pastor.

*Nelson L Price, The Importance of Church Greeters 

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