Silence – Mother Teresa

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.

– Mother Teresa

Recruiting Volunteers

Twice this week I have been asked by different churches how we go about recruiting volunteers. This a giant weight hanging over the heads of Tech Directors and Worship Leaders in all kinds of churches. I know because I have asked this same question many times in the past and still do. What I have found, is that there is no magical formula for this. Some things work well at one church and flop at another. I have tried many things as a TD, most have gained me zero volunteers, but my current model seems to be working.

For the last 2 years, there has been a “Join the Tech Team” slide in the pre/post announcement rotation. From that I think maybe I have had 2 people contact me, neither joined the team. We created a video story of one of our key volunteers (See it here) which went over really well, but did open the flood gates of volunteers. What I began to see was that to get people motivated to serve on tech, I needed more than a commercial – we needed a personal touch.

Much like inviting a friend to church, I began instilling in our current team that similar to a doctor’s office: referrals are our best recruitment tool. Someone is much more likely to come to church if they are asked, same with serving, a personal touch goes a long way in getting people in the door.

I encourage our team to bring people with them. I’ll put a headset on them, or even put them to work on an open position. People experiencing the behind the scenes for themselves and realizing it’s not as scary as it looks from the audience’s perspective. New people will believe the a current volunteer who says it’s easy than a paid tech guy. There is that assumed idea that of course I find it easy, that’s my job.

This is what I have found that works for us. I still leave the bulletin asks in every so often, I don’t want to give up the print real estate. The pre/post service slides are still running each week too. Every church is different so some ways may work better for you than at another church. You can’t go wrong with becoming more personal though. So get out there and start trying new things.

What are ways you recruit?

What hasn’t worked in the past?

Dark Sky

This week’s app was introduced to me by my friend Trenton Jones over at Church Media Blog.

As a wanna meteorologist and amateur storm chaser this app is just cool. I have become addicted to it.

Using your current location Dark Sky gives you up to the minute information on when it will start raining/snowing.

I have to say it is scary accurate.

As a Live Production guy, rain is not my friend. I wish I had this app a few years ago, instead of just guessing when the rain would come.

I recommend grabbing this beautifully designed app before planning your next family picnic or out door church service.

The Beat Goes On (Part 2)

This post is a follow up to The Beat Goes On: Part 1  Here I have taken our Heil PR30 top firing mics and recorded them from under the crash cymbals and then again from overhead. This was recorded live in the Nothview Auditorium from our Venue Profile direct into ProTools. The audio is raw: without compression, or EQ.

 

 

 

Crash Mics Under

The Heil PR30 mics are amazing. I have actually come to like them even more than our Earthworks Cardiod SR25’s I had been using.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[iframe src=”http://shaunrmiller.com/wp-content/uploads/onlineaudiomixer/audiomixer.swf” width=”100%” height=”280″]

 

Crash Mics Over

I like the sound of using them in this pattern. The warmth of the Heil mics here too is astounding. Listening to the two recording below I think actually prefer this sound. So Now I am on a mission to get the under mics to sound like this. I just don’t think I can give up the clean look mic-ing under the cymbals is giving me.

 

 

[iframe src=”http://shaunrmiller.com/wp-content/uploads/onlineaudiomixer2/audiomixer.swf” width=”100%” height=”280″]

 

micFrequency

My first iPhone App recommendation:

micFrequency by Spectrum Bridge

Here is a handy little app for locking on available wireless frequencies in your area. Works on the iPhone and is available in the App store for $4.99.

The app uses the location services to pinpoint your location:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see here, where my church is at is a wireless nightmare.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clicking the info button on the top right side shows you the actual frequencies you can use:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This app has helped me out of several jams, especially when Super Bowl 2012 was in town.

Good luck Locking On!

The Beat Goes On: Part 1

I love audio, and if PeeWee were here he’d tell me to marry it. What I love about it, is that there are so many ways to do something. There are very few right or wrongs and millions of opinions. There is a freedom to always push boundaries and try new things. I enjoy those spirited discussions that arise over different microphone types and placements. The people who swear by one brand and swear at another because of something that happened 10 years prior. I am asked all the time why our drum set has 12 microphones on it. Well I will start to answer some of those questions here.  So in the spirit of open dialogue and full disclosure, I thought I would share my latest thoughts on the drum microphones and how we use them at Northview.

Our Mics include:

  • Shure SM91 (Kick in)
  • Shure Beta 52 (Kick Out)
  • Yamaha Subkick (Kick Boom)
  • Shure Beta57 (Snare Top)
  • AKG C451 (Snare Bottom)
  • Shure SM81 (Alternative Snare Bottom – Just depends on what I am doing with the C451 that weekend)
  • AKG C1000 or SM81 (High Hat – with SE Electronics Filter)
  • Sennheiser 421 or Heil PR 28 ( Rack Toms)
  • Sennheiser 421 (Floor Tom)
  • Earthworks SR25 or SM81 (Ride)
  • Earthworks SR25  or Heil PR 30 (Overheads)

Here is where I start to get the weird looks and people start the name calling. I took our overheads and mounted them under the cymbals. Now this isn’t that crazy of a technique. I had thought I might end up with some weird resonance under there but remarkably I get a crisp, clean sound. Since I am already putting individual microphones on everything else, I don’t really need the benefit of an “Overhead” mic.

This individual approach really helps to isolate each piece of the drum set, and in a Live environment I end up with more control. It is also a huge deal for our video guys, gone are the days of giant boom mics in their shots. The drums have a nice clean look to them. I am currently working up another post with audio to demonstrate the audio difference between the Overhead and Underhead approach. About a month after I started doing this, Andrew Stone Production Director for Church on the Move in Tulsa, OK released this blog post and video. I was really excited to see this and thought he did an excellent job explaining it, I encourage you check it out.

What is that thing on you High Hat? – The high hat shield idea I stole from Andrew after he posted his video. I immediately ordered one and put it to use. The #1 complaint I get from the band is bleed on the high hat mic. The SE Electronics Instrument Reflection Filter was amazing. Now there is still some bleed, I mean it’s an acoustic drum set after all. But the high hat sound is much more defined. I highly recommend this approach. 

Why 3 kick drum mics? – Well, when I am mixing, there is this particular sound I want from that drum. You might as well call me Ishmael because that distinct sound is my white whale. For me, the Yamaha Subkick gets me closer to that sound. It adds that the extra boom the Beta52 doesn’t offer. Now I only use it in moderation, it’s not a ghetto blaster, but in our 2100 seat room, our people like to feel that low end. We feed our subs through an Aux (I’m a control freak I guess.) The Subkick is only routed there and not through the mains buss.  Because of the design of the subkick it basically has very little response above 600Hz. This means the bleed from other piece of the kit rarely interfere with it. With that information, I use the subkick to trigger the gates on my other two kick mics through the side chain. The Subkick alone is not enough. The SM91 gives me the attack and the Beta 52 does a good job with the low end, the subkick becomes the icing on the cake and allows my subs to really move some air.

Why a bottom snare mic? – I am a firm believer in the bottom snare and I have no more scientific reasoning other than years of practice. Adding the bottom mic, gives you that snap and crack of the snares. I switch out this mic a lot, trying different mics with different snares. I have pretty much settled on a condenser over a dynamic for the bottom, but that is just my preference. I know a lot of guys that use an SM57 on both top and bottom and get a great sound. When using the bottom mic, be sure to use reverse the phase on it.

Where are the mic stands? – I should really buy stock in LP Claws. If you are not using these yet, you should be! I use two mic stands on the entire kit, one for the Beta52 and the other holds the SE Electronics filter. Everything else is held in place with LP Claws. These really help you keep your drum area clean and easy access to move mics. We also went away from using stands on our percussion setup and went to all Claws, but that is for another post.

Part 2 has the audio files demonstrating the different mics. I have recorded them in different orientations to give a better idea of their sounds and placements.

What drum microphones are in your locker?

 

 

Back to work (soap box speech)

I am back to work today after some much needed time off. It was a great time of reflection for myself and a time of healing for my family. See, in my previous post I discussed coming face to face with burning out. I was able to use this time to show my family how important they are to me, even more than my job. To prove it, I left my phone off, purposely didn’t check my email, and just spent time with my wife and young son. It was refreshing. I came back into work today to prepare for the weekend service, over the past several months this time preparing has been done by the “Grumpy Tech Director” because resentment and bitterness was welling up inside me. Today, I kid you not there was a song in my step (the assistant technical director wanted to slap me). God refreshed my spirit, I feel awesome and empowered to go about the work I have been called to do.

As I pulled into the parking lot that after a week off, I noticed that the church was still here. Now I know that seems silly to notice a 100,000+ square foot building, but I have somehow convinced myself that if I took time off the church wouldn’t survive. This ill-conceived need causes me to have a such a hard time unplugging from work. The weekend services won’t happen if I’m not there, the volunteers won’t know what to do if I am not there to lead. That’s pretty prideful isn’t it? To think that without me, God couldn’t meet his people is pretty outrageous pride. God has showed me that He’s in control and He wants me to rest. God rested on the 7th day and the universe didn’t fall apart did it?

I recently talked with a volunteer on my team. At one time he was a full time tech at another church in town. He shared with me that he had gone 2 years without taking a break. Working weekends, mid-week rehearsal and all the other things that go into the job. I feel so bad for him, because now, he’s just beginning to get back into church. These kind of work habits snuffs out your spirit like a candle.

I encourage you to take that vacation, use your day off, remove yourself from work. There is never a good time to take a vacation – there are always big things going on, crises will always happen. Believing in that false “need” that things won’t work if I’m not there is a dangerous place to get. What I have found is that coming in fresh from a vacation allows me to be much more productive. Now I know many people who say that coming back from vacation just adds stress. Don’t let that keep you from taking that time. No matter what you tell yourself, your body and mind needs you to take that downtime.

Start with jut your day off, then a weekend, then a week. Ease yourself into it, I assure you, you’ll never be the same. Take it from a recovering work-a-holic.

 

Burnout

Burn out is all to common in today’s church. Maybe it has been rampant for years, but I am only familiar with it going back as far as 1995 or 96 when I started getting involved. Those in ministry know that Christmas and Easter are busy and there are no complaints from me there. The problem comes in when every week is like Christmas, and there is no rhythm to the work load. This leads to burn out. I have looked burnout in the eyes twice in my ministry time. I have been so close to burn out, I offered it a Tic-Tac.

I love to work hard, and it doesn’t help that in the church I am paid to do the thing I would work just as hard for if I was a volunteer. So, in a way I am predisposed to burning out if left to my own. Burnout leaves only two options in my mind – Option 1: Leave that Ministry or Option 2: Realize what it is, seek help from those you trust, and fix it. I have tried both options, Option 2 is by far the better. Option 1 leaves you bitter, angry, and hurts relationships. God has not called us into ministry so that we can be used up and tossed aside. He wants us to be healthy and productive, but how do we get there?

This past week I had hit a wall, our team was down a guy and before us was not just any mountain of work, this was back to back mountains. There wasn’t a nicely paved path either to ascend to the top. Due to situations out of our control our buffer window on these two projects had collapsed and both had to be done simultaneously. Now, a week of hard work isn’t bad, but this work was on-top of my already full plate. I had finally hit a wall and this left me zombie-esk wandering around the building in a sleep deprived state. With weeks of 10 hour days being a “DOer” I’d come home, open the laptop and put on my “Leader” hat for another 5 hours. I was seeing my family more via FaceTime than in real life.

When you hit a wall, it hurts…

My ministry was left bloody and hurting, wondering what was going on. Suddenly I was not doing my job for the glory of the Lord. Resentment had taken hold, anger was brewing and frankly I was about to Auto-Tune the sermon and walk away. I was no longer a team player, I was a team complainer. This is a very dangerous place to be in ministry. If left untreated it leads to wounds that are very hard to heal. Knowing this, I reached out to the leadership team above me. Surely, they do not want me to fail, surely they don’t want my job to cause a disruption in my marriage. But why were they allowing this to happen? Can’t they see what’s happening to me? It turns out that as tech people, we’re very good at making what we do seem simple. We blend into the background – we’re the closest thing you’ll see to an actual ninja. We make it look easy, and we push until the job is done. I have yet to meet a tech guy that keeps banker’s hours. Our schedule is based on projects not work hours.

I cried out…

God is very creative in His timing. This past weekend while I’m hitting the wall, my senior pastor preaches a sermon on “Play” a sermon about having margin in your life. (I highly encourage you to watch it here.) This sermon, empowered me to go to my leaders, and in tears tell them I need their help, or I was going to suffer from total and utter burnout. They heard me and without going into details of all the fixes, I am writing this post from time off that was granted me, and with much higher morale. I found out through just talking to those in leadership over me, how valued I was to the team, how much my sacrifice meant to them and that I was not just a mule hired to get the job done.

Preventing Burnout…

Preventing burn out is a team sport. I really takes you understanding yourself, and your leadership understanding your limits. I love what I do, so I tend to become a work-o-holic, pushing through to complete my tasks. I don’t always see what I do as work so those lines get blurred as well. Since as I like to say, I “*Make miracles happen,” (with complete humility, of course) my leadership has a lot of trust in me. That trust usually means more and more responsibility. Then with the added responsibility I don’t want to let them down even more and a vicious cycle  ensues.

  • Communicate your needs, no one knows you better than yourself, if you’re not telling those in authority over you that you’re in danger of overload there isn’t much they can do. They may just think everything is fine.
  • Surround yourself with people who know you. My wife is my biggest cheerleader, she’s also my biggest reality check. I also take part in a monthly Tech Director Lunch, if you don’t have one of these group in your area, start one. This is such a pick me up each month.
  • Establish boundaries and stick to them. I have wanted to full out smack people who tell me, I just need to learn to say “NO.” My response was always, No isn’t an option, I need this job, if I can’t do it, they’ll find someone who can. This is not a healthy attitude, if your church or business is asking you to sacrifice family on the altar of ministry or work, it’s time to leave. I have started forcing myself to turn off my work email on my iPhone when I come home. That way I can still play Angry Birds, but not be tempted to check it. Even if I get a personal email, my work email doesn’t show up in my inbox. I also have a contact policy for when I’m on vacation, Only call me if people’s salvation is at risk. Meaning, if it is going to keep someone from engaging with the Lord that weekend then call me, and I’ll help. If one of the Line-Array falls from the ceiling, you still have the other 2 arrays, people will hear the message. (Realistically, if the Line-Array fell, I would want to hear about that.)
  • Go home at the end of the day. If you’re at all like me, you have a To-Do list longer than Santa’s naughty and nice list. You’re not going to complete it all in an 8 hour day (sorry to be a downer.) Do what you need to do that day and get home. I try to tell myself to work smarter, and as a very ADD person, this can be a challenge. I love starting projects, I need to stay busy, but my family needs me more.

I know these may seem like you have heard them all before and that’s true, you have. I haven’t found the secret formula for weekday success. I am just trying to apply what other people much smarter than I am have implemented. I don’t have this all figured out, but am trying daily to keep a healthy work/life balance and not burn out in ministry. I’m no good to the Kingdom if I become bitter and burned out towards it.

 

What are some ideas you have or use to avoid burnout?

* Disclaimer: I am not calming to be able to pull off actual miracles