Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Microphone Cable Replacement

Andy Chang commented on my last post:
Got a quick question for you: our church board here is divided in its opinion in "how long cables should last." ... Some of our cables (standard garden variety XLR & instrument cable... LiveWire grade, not expensive/premium cables) have died. We haven't replaced cables in 1 year. Our church sets up & tears down twice a week, 52 weeks a year. I tell the church board that we need cables, and cables going bad is no surprise.
Thanks for the question, Andy.

In short, a microphone cable should last you at least 10 years.

Now for the more precise and extended answer...

First, Andy is absolutely correct that "cables going bad is no surprise."  Most cables set up and torn down twice per week will stop functioning properly at least once every couple years.  However, most cables can be repaired easily with a soldering gun, solder, wire cutters, and a cable tester.  There are tutorial's online that explain the process.  Here's an example of various wiring schemes that I pulled up from the top of the list on a Google search for "microphone cable repair."

Typically, cables stop working because the wire and the connector are no longer attached to each other.  Those "broken" cables can be repaired.  Sometimes, however, the cable itself gets damaged by being crushed, bent strangely, or wrapped incorrectly.  This will typically lead to significant loss of voltage, shorts within the cable itself, or noise when the cable gets near an electrical source or cell phone.  Throw those cables away (after cutting off the connectors for spare parts).  But be careful.  These symptoms could also occur as the result of a repairable problem, so troubleshoot first.

At Covenant Life, we have quarterly repair days, called Work Days, when we test and troubleshoot all our broken cables.  Sometimes we throw them out, but we repair all that we possible can.  We've found that four times a year is a good rhythm to ensure that we have enough cables to keep each of our systems functioning.  However, that only works because we have a plentiful supply of extra cables in various types and lengths.  If you don't have extra cables, you may need to repair them ongoingly.

One way to ensure that cables last as long as possible is to wrap them up using the over-under method.  This is the first thing I train our new tech volunteers to do, and I highly recommend this video to see how to do it yourself.  Cables that have been wrapped around the arm or with the over-over method will deteriorate much more quickly and require replacement rather than repair.

Finally, an honest note from the leader of a great volunteer team: setup and operation of a sound system can be stressful for non-experts, especially when things aren't working correctly.  While I'm not saying this is necessarily true at Andy's church, my experience is that roughly 3 out of 4 cables labelled "BAD" by a volunteer are actually working just fine.  There was an operator error somewhere in the process, and in the hurry to get ready for the service, the cable was incorrectly placed into the repair pile.  Anyway, just another reason to test before tossing.

While they do require some care and feeding, your mic cables should last you quite a long time.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Back From the Beach

Well, I'm back from a week at the beach.  There really is nothing like enjoying God's creation and making memories with family on the oceanshore.  If you are intersted, you can see pictures at our family blog.  Some highlights for me included:
  • Family dinners and devotions filled with laughter and thoughts of God.
  • Dinner alone with my wife at the Black Pelican.
  • My daughter, Meg, beginning to say people's names (Mama, Daddy, Nana, Grandpop, Nena, and Cub).
  • Seeing Meg eating up the beach (figuratively and at times literally).  She loved the water and the sand and the sun and the whole experience!
  • Flying my stunt kite almost every day, and teaching my father-in-law and brother-in-law to fly it.
While it is difficult to get back into the swing of real life, I'm glad to be home.  My wife will give birth our first son in less than a month, so being near the hospital and the midwives is reassuring.  I just finished plowing through my email (I received less than 100!) and now it's back to the weekly routine and hopefully some more posts in the next few weeks.

It's wonderful to feel refreshed and rejuvenated!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Tech Effect @ Leadership

I'd recommend that everyone read this very interesting discussion about the use of technology in preaching.

Unfortunately, there isn't a place for comments there, so leave your thoughts here! I'd love to hear what you all think of these different viewpoints.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Another Successful Work Day

We set a record today. We had the cleanest work day ever!

About four times a year the tech teams take over the building for a day to fix, clean, move, improve, organize, and generally maintain our stuff. We call these days Work Days, and they are hard work.

Today, we knocked out the following projects:
  1. Stencil labels and distribute all of the floor monitor carts.
  2. Rebuild the backdrop flats.
  3. Rewire our sermon media audio disbribution system.
  4. Relabel all the mixer boards with a more condense band list.
  5. Replace 1/4" jacks in the headphone snakes with XLR.
  6. Create a storage box for our six new wireless in-ear beltpacks.
  7. Label the 48 new recievers for Spanish Translation
  8. Label the new personal headphone amps with switch position directions.
  9. Run cables to wire the remotes to our side screen projectors.
  10. Shorten the projector mounts on the side screen projectors to get them closer to the ceiling.
  11. Remove all bad bulbs in the events center lighting system and order more.
Just like the process of cleaning your room can lead to a temporary disaster area, our work days normally requires hours of cleaning up our clean-up mess. Somehow, today, we managed to keep things relatively clean as we went along, and we actually finished up at 4pm as planned.

Thanks to all who came out today to help! As I told someone this afternoon, you accomplished in one day what would have taken the staff several months. More importantly, God was glorified as you gave your time to serve the church in mundane ways with supernatural joy.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Volunteer Roles

I got a bunch of comments on last week's post, Made it to Monday.  Here's another from Josh:
David, You mentioned in your post that you had over 150 volunteers for you Sunday morning services. I was wondering how you organize the scheduling of those volunteers and how many people were assigned to each area (audio, video, lighting, etc.).
Thanks for the question, Josh.  I will try to break my answer up into four different quick posts:
  • The different roles volunteers play.
  • The rotation on which they serve.
  • The way we recruit for specific events.
  • The way we communicate requirements for these events.
Today, I'll tackle the different roles our volunteers fill.  I'm feeling very close to the topic today, since I've been working on creating and updating and improving the checklists for each of these roles.

First, the tech volunteers serve in two different rooms on Sunday, our main auditorium and our Discovery Land production (children's ministry) for 2nd-5th graders.  So, here's a quick list of our roles and a brief description of their responsibilities:

Auditorium Sound
Audio Producer | leads the sound team
Mixer | runs the FOH board
Assistant Mixer | is in training on the FOH board
Monitor Operator | runs the monitor board
Monitor Assistant | is in training on the monitor board
Stage Manager | runs soundcheck and helps translate the bands requests to the monitor operator
Stage Tech | helps set up the stage, and solve problems as they arise
Setup | we have two slots for newer people to get their feet wet by helping set up the stage

Auditorium Lighting
Lighting Operator | aim lights and run the lighting board during the service

Auditorium Video
Video Producer | leads the video team
Camera Director | calls camera shots and runs the camera switcher
Assistant Director | sets brightness on cameras and helps call focus
Cameras 1-3 | three people operate cameras to get amazing shots
Playback Operator | plays videos and slide shows as well as records the videotapes
House Director | runs the graphics switcher that determines what goes on what of our three screens
SundayPlus Operator 1 | puts lyrics up on the screen
SundayPlus Operator 2 | does the same in case the first computer crashes!

Discovery Land Tech
Discovery Land Producer | leads the Discovery Land tech team
Mixer | runs the FOH board
Monitor Operator | runs the monitor board
Monitor Assistant | is in training on the monitor board
Stage Manager | runs soundcheck and helps translate the bands requests to the monitor operator
Stage Tech | helps set up the stage and solve problems as they arise
Lighting Operator | aims lights and runs the computerized lighting system
SundayPlus/Video Operator | puts lyrics and DVDs up on the video screen

We also try to have five people each week who come in to tear down all the equipment and get the storage areas back into a usable state.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Project Management vs. Human Resource Management

Last week, in response to Made It to Monday, Wes wrote:
"David - Can you flesh out your last comment 'human resources instead of project management.' I think I know what you mean, but I would enjoy to read your thoughts."
I'm a list-calendar-deadline guy. I like getting things done.  Few things are more satisfying to me than checking off the box in my online task manager and seeing that to-do item disappear to the bottom of the list.

Click.  Check.  Ahhhhhhh....

Now, don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't like people.  Nothing brings me to life like working with others to proclaim the gospel.  But when it comes to my natural definition of productivity, I am inclined to think of projects, not people.

With glee, I acknowledge that my responsibilities at Covenant Life are very project and calendar and deadline oriented.  And that can sometimes be a pitfall.  In my leadership of our teams, I get too focused on execution of the next event, and I stop making the effort to help people serve to the glory of God and the fullness of their gifts.

A great example is related to our current "re-upping" campaign.  I've asked everyone who is currently serving on our tech teams to decide if they will continue next year.  As I get responses, I fill in a spreadsheet.  6 slots open here.  3 slots open there.

My first thoughts are: How do I fill those spots?  Who can I ask to double up?  Can I get a recruitment announcement from the stage?

My first thoughts probably should be: Who could be better positioned in order to be more fruitful in his or her service to the Lord? Which of these people need to be challenged to serve more? What type of people could I call on to bring their gifts to bear here? Who could I retrain to take on more significant responsibility?

I need to not just check the box and not just fill the slot.

I need to see how God might be using the church's projects to shape and mold the servants who will complete them.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Baptisms Last Sunday

Sometime this week, I was going to try to post about the baptism service we did this last Sunday, but Bob Kauflin beat me to it.  You can read more about some of the changes in Covenant Life's approach to baptism in his post, "Baptism and Worship."

Check out the temporary baptismal we used.  On my stage layout drawings, it was labelled, "One Very Big Pool."  It should have been labelled, "One Very Big and Very Blue Pool."

The Announcement Crash

A friend of mine attended a church which had a consultant come in to evaluate their Sunday services. One of the consultant's comments was that the singing was passionate and the sermon was powerful, but the announcements in-between were, well, boring. The level of engagement in the content crashed during the announcements, losing much momentum that could have served the sermon that was coming next.

The consultant recommended scrapping the announcements altogether. Part of me would love to see us do that at Covenant Life. But the practical part of me knows that's not very likely to happen in the near future, if ever. That makes me grateful that we are trying to improve the way that we do announcements each Sunday. We are aiming for engaging, motivating, welcoming, family-room-style "conversation." I think the extra effort has helped.

Church Communications Pro posted some guidelines for delivering announcements today that are worth reading and considering if you want to avoid the announcement crash.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Sunday Production Department

In a recent post, Sunday Matters Most, I alluded to a new approach to Sunday Mornings that Covenant Life adopted this spring.

After realizing that our Sunday services were frequently getting less attention than our monthly meetings (youth, singles, parenting), we decided to make some significant changes.  We needed to help the staff keep Sunday in it's rightful place as the most important meeting of the church.

The biggest change is that we restructured the whole staff, creating a new department: the Sunday Production Department.  This new department includes:
  • Executive Pastor of Sunday Production
  • Pastor of Outreach and Evangelism
  • Music Director
  • Director of Communication
  • Technical Director
  • All of Our Staff and Volunteers
All of these roles have existed for some time except for the Executive Pastor of Sunday Production.  After many discussions and even having one person act as an interim Pastor of Sunday Production, two things became clear:
  1. This person must have a significant leadership gift.
  2. This person must have the full trust of the senior pastor.
Who fit that bill?  Well, after serving many years in various roles as the worship leader, singles pastor, youth pastor, family pastor, and executive pastor, Grant Layman is now the Executive Pastor of Sunday Production.  (This change is so new, it isn't even reflected on the website, yet.)

I have already felt the affects of his leadership as he's helped me decide who to hire next to support the production teams.  I'll write more on who that will be in another post.  But suffice to say that he's lightened my load substantially, which positions us to do many things that we just haven't had the capacity to accomplish.

I thank God for Grant's flexibility in moving over to this new role and look forward to what the Lord has in store for our church as Grant helps us make Sundays matter most.