Courtney: Welcome back to Monday Morning Church. Today, we’ve got Dave Collum from the church at Chapel Hill in Douglasville, Georgia. Dave great to have you today.
Dave: Great, thank you for having me.
Dave, you are the technical director at Chapel Hill, what was your path to get to your current position?
SO I started off by way of being a musician, I guess. And so I played music through high school, and then got some great opportunities to play in some different venues and different churches and things like that. So one of the underlying frustrations that always had is with the sound guy, is always the guy, “do they have me turned up enough? I practiced this for a week. Am I being heard? Why won’t you fix my monitor?” So I was always kind of itching to get behind the sound board and fixed things myself. So that’s how I got to run sound.
So you’re running sound, how did you actually come on to become the actual technical director at chapel hill?
I started with sound obviously, and then over time working at the church, it just kind of grew. So we had someone else that was kind of over the entire tech team. When they left, it kind of made sense for me, I’d already kind of started some relationships from other volunteers. And so it just made sense for when we were just one location to oversee just all the AV here. And then it just grew. It just kind of grew to my understanding of lights and video, and then as our campuses grew I just kind of stayed in that position and then we were able to add people underneath me.
Okay, so you go from musician to directing the sound board, to actually being on staff at the church. What was that transition like going from the regular church volunteer to actually being on staff?
That was pretty interesting because I, as a volunteer, you had other stuff going on during your day, you might be working your regular nine to five job or you’re a student, and you had your weekends open. So a lot of times, if you’re really involved in church, you’d spend the major of your weekend at church, and then if you’re a key leader, you have other responsibilities that you’re doing at the church that they really call for a lot of your time. And I remember thinking, if I was on staff, I would have all this free time to do all these things they want me to do. And when I got here, it was the opposite. It was so much stuff added. And so it was kind of a hard transition at first just learning how to juggle everything new that came under working at a church. But it’s been the most fulfilling sales ever had, even though it takes the most amount of hours. It’s really exciting to see a good service go off the right way, and the people be kind of… they’re growing closer to god through the efforts that we’re doing.
How long have you been on staff there?
Our church started in 2001, and so I came on as a volunteer then I stayed as a volunteer till about 2007. 2007, I became part time just kind of running sound the weekend, just a help and do different things. And then in 2008, I became full time and it was over at our media department and that was 2008, I did that for about two years and 2010 I transitioned to a technical director and got delivered from the media post production side of things to where we’re overseeing all the live elements.
So I wonder a lot of times people talk about the difficulty of being on staff in a church and you don’t ever actually get to go to Church yourself, especially in the position you’re in, where you are responsible for so much that goes on, on a Sunday morning. How have you found that balance yourself? Is that something you’re working towards?
Okay, that’s a great question, if you’re on staff, we do weekly meetings here that are kind of like staff meetings, the first part of them always incorporate worships mostly, you’re able to have a few minutes there where we’re not having to push any buttons because it’s kind of an acoustic set. The guys may bring an acoustic guitar out. We do have some times like that, but a lot of times it’s just going outside of your current building, you have vacation time, you go to another place, another meeting somewhere else during the week, this is not in your building for me but, if I’m in our main auditorium, I see work that needs to happen it’s really hard for me to worship or focus on what’s going on if I’m in my workspace, I’m always wondering what the next thing is I need to be doing, or why is that happening. So, anywhere outside… I may not even have the right plan, it’s just anywhere outside of our church, is a great place to go.
I think that’s a great idea; what specific items fall under your responsibility as technical director?
My areas are everything, AVL, all audio, lighting, video, and then our procedures going down to our volunteers. So I work real closely with our lead pastor and the worship guys to make sure that whatever’s planned gets carried out, and a lot of communication going to other key leaders, whether it be a volunteer or a staff member at the other locations, making sure they know the plan that needs be carried out and making sure the right kind training is going on. Usually things will funnel back to me, if something’s kind of broken, needs to be fixed, worked on during the week. We’ll make sure that somebody on our team will handle that. So it’s big role because with four campuses, there’s a lot of moving parts of production, but all of them at some level come under me, and then I’ll kind of funnel them out to different people on our team.
With four different campuses, how do you manage to just keep that communication chain up?
Okay, text and email is great, but text is the main thing and that is an ongoing struggle, trying to figure out how you get what you know to other people. We usually have some certain common practices that we just do, and then those things go to key leaders at these other locations, and then from there it funnels down. But that its attention to manage, I guess, is what Andy Standing might say to work with these people at those locations to make sure they know what they need to be doing. Like the text is great, constant phone calls, I make lots of phone calls from the week to everybody. Meetings are hard. We do meetings, but we try to keep them to something quarterly because everybody’s busy, everybody’s time is precious. We don’t want to kind of go over here for something that could be done through just a conversation that could be done with the phone or an email. We’ve tried doing documentation, but usually by the time you get something written down, it’s already out of date. So we just try to make sure that we try to keep in constant communication with those key leaders as much as possible.
Have you experimented with any kind of automation?
As far as like a group text or something that went out to everybody?
Yeah, just where you will have something that needs to be done, it gets done. It simplifies the processes, I guess.
Yeah, we schedule our services, a platform which 99% of churches use, which is planning center online. And so if we have, that is the hub of all of our information that needs to go for any kind of service, whether it be a Wednesday night service, which we call our prayer service or the weekend worship experiences, everything goes on planning center. And that’s probably the bulk of our communication goes to that. So anybody that’s scheduled on a weekend to kind of go in, they can go in and kind of see what the flow of the services is, what it looks like, who’s preaching, what songs are we doing, and they kind of rehearse everything. We’ve tried some different things as far as different apps, but for a team that’s constantly changing. It is hard to make sure everybody’s got the right app and is taking that away and knows how to use it. So playing center seems to be the most full proof way that we can communicate with everybody one time.
So, how do you make sure you’re staying fresh as church technical director, and not just getting caught up in every week at your church, but really knowing what the trends are and how you’re going to kind of get things to flow as best they can.
That’s a great question. What I do is, I normally try to take any kind of downtime I have, to at least listen to a podcast or two every week, Andy Stanley’s got a great leadership podcast, so does Gregor Shell, Bill Hibals has one. They actually have an app, the GLS next app. It’s great. And there’s tons of information on there as far as leading teams, but I also try to make sure that I know people at some of the other locations, the other big churches here in Atlanta. So for example, we have North Point Community Church, and so I know a couple of the key guys there, and I’m always asking them, “hey, can you meet me for lunch? I’d love to see what you’re doing.” My brother in law is a church leader at Church on the Move. Always asking them, “hey, what are you doing? How can I spy on you guys to see what you’re doing?” So seeing what everybody else is doing, and then just kind of re-thinking how it might work for our organization has been a big help, asking lots of questions, continuing to learn on my own, and just read as much as I can, and then trying out new things and see if it works for us or doesn’t work.
Since most of the people listening to this podcast are executive pastors, would you speak a little bit into what your relationship is with your executive pastor and what kind of oversight he gets to you?
Oh, okay great. My relationship with my executive pastor is probably different than most technical directors. My executive pastor is also my father in law.
That’s a twist.
That could be something you could look at as being good or bad, our relationship, I guess there’s some job security there because how would he fire his son in law, but it is a little bit different. But I’ve learned no matter where you are, no matter what role you take… you know, production, if you’re in production or pastoral, is have a conversation about what your needs are. So if you’re a technical guy and you’re kind of feeling there’s a tension or there’s some friction there, the best thing to do is just go and have a conversation about it. It seems if he’s always kind of harping on one certain thing and you just can’t fix it, the best thing to do is go have a conversation. And then usually once you start that you can come to some resolution or he could understand where you’re coming from. A lot of it is trust. When your lead pastor trusts you, he can go out of town and know that things going to be handled good. But if he doesn’t trust you, it really can make a weird dynamic there, but if you’re usually upfront about everything and you’re just saying, “hey, if something bad happens on a weekend, if it was your fault, take the blame.” The last thing you wanna do is push it off to something else that may not have been the case and he finds out, “hey, that really wasn’t exactly what happened.” I learned it’s, a lot easier upfront just to say, sorry, it’s my fault. I hit the wrong button. OR, hey, it’s my fault I forgot to tell this person, that’s what we were doing.” But building trust is so important and starting a conversation about things is one of most important things you can do.
Now if you were just sitting in a room with other technical directors of other churches, what kind of encouragement would you want to give to other people who are in your position?
The most important thing you can do is trust other people. I think as technical people we get prideful on, “this is my spot, or this is the role that I have, I’m the one that can do this best. I have to do this,” but I don’t think that really needs to be the case. If you have someone else, bring them along with you to train up and over time, they can kind of help run the sound board, help with lights, but trusting someone you know, and how do you know if you can trust someone? Well, you just trust them, so giving someone an area of responsibility and give them some guidelines to work in so they know what they’re looking to do. It’s a big difference. If you say to someone, “hey, here’s the light board, go to town” and say, “well, here’s lights, this is what we do pre service.” And then you give them some guidelines on how to use it, it’s a lot there than just kind of letting them hang themselves. So give somebody some guidelines and let them know what it looks like to win. But the main thing is, trust somebody to do something, never stop learning on your own. It’s just so important because in our world the gears are always changing and there’s new ways to do things… there’s faster ways to do things, a lot times there’s cheaper ways to do things, so never stop learning, never stop growing your team. If there’s a young person come up, that kind of shows some interest. Yeah, it’s going to take some time to teach them to mentor them, to work with them, but long term, you may have someone that you can really rely on long term, so never stop growing. So as you seem to have your team, this is the doable level or we’re good now, someone inevitably moves or change ministries, or something happens to where they’re gone. And now you’re looking for someone again, so always be growing your team.
That’s great. So just to end with… and still thinking on that line of encouragement, what kind of encouragement would you give to executive pastors? Especially when it comes to maybe interacting with the technical director, or if they don’t have a technical director, just helping to manage the technical side of things on Sunday mornings at their church?
Yeah, another great question, I would say, to lead pastors or executive pastors. Your technical folks a lot of times aren’t people that had formal training. They may not know exactly what they’re doing, and their hearts are usually always in the right place, they’re trying their best to do what they’ve been asked to do, but they really might not know exactly what you’re looking for, and they may not know exactly how to get there. Definitely send them to some great, to some other churches that are doing the right thing. So send them to churches that are hosting conferences, send into places where they’re doing kind of some trainings and others, Highlands does this kind of thing where they bring people in for day or so let them see what they’re doing. Most churches even will let someone come in and just be with them on a weekend. Have your person gone for a Sunday to go see what the other people are doing, have them ask the question it never hurts to ask for help, but lots of times they just don’t know. Another thing is having weekly meetings with them. So if you’re an executive pastor and you’re working with a volunteer team, I at least call them weekly, to check on them to let them know what the service looks like before Sunday, let them know “hey last week we did this, it didn’t go so well, I think because of this, how can we change that?” I think having a constant communication with them would be a huge help.
Now that’s fantastic. I think it’s going to be really useful to a lot of people listening. Dave, thanks so much for being on the podcast today.
Great, thanks so much for having me.