How to train when every event is important

We face this dilemma nowadays when it comes to training: there are no “unimportant events” to use as a training ground.


A few of us on the team have been working together since high school. Back then, the media team looked very different. Sunday morning was THE event; that and special events like Christmas and Easter productions. Youth group however, was our playground. Before we started into it, youth group’s tech consisted of maybe a mic, a guy playing acoustic guitar, and an overhead. There were no expectations, and everything we offered to do was a bonus. It was a no-fail situation.

Well, no fail isn’t quite true. We failed plenty of times. Videos that were supposed to be played sometimes didn’t, audio issues definitely existed – we were experimenting! But we had a haven to explore and to fail without major issues.

Fast forward a bunch of years – today’s “youth group” looks nothing like ours did. It’s a full scale, high quality production. Full band, big lighting rig, video playback, and more.


So without a training ground, how do we raise up new people and train them to the level that we got to without all of those opportunities to fail and learn from it? Well, 1st I want to examine why that time of experimenting worked and why it was so beneficial:


  • We were passionate about it: No one was telling us to do this. We were begging others to let us do it.
  • We were our own critics: No one stood over our shoulders and gave advice (might have fast tracked some of our skills if we were willing to listen), but we didn’t just settle for ok. We were critical of ourselves and each other, demanding better.
  • We had supporters: Our youth pastor and others in the church, while they weren’t focused on this, they did give us permission to try and experiment. Without that, this wouldn’t have been possible.
  • We had very little to work with: We got creative with what we had, and learned HOW things worked so we could use them fully.
  • It was consistent: This wasn’t a one-off opportunity. We had years of a weekly gathering (if not more) to play, tweak, adjust, and discover.

So we truly have faced this dilemna – we’ll never again be able to recreate that environment for other people. Now that we’ve set that bar of quality and consistency, there won’t be an environment where it isn’t expected, by others or us. So does that mean that the cause is lost? No, but it will take a different approach. Here are some ideas that we’ve implemented to provide good training.

  • Find passionate, committed people: Direction and opportunity is our job to provide, but without the passion and commitment, the person you’re investing in won’t push themselves to new levels.
  • Create non-threatening environments for them to play: With audio, we actually will record a Sunday service on a multitrack unit and play it back through the system, giving them those same seperate inputs to work with. While there are certain aspects they won’t encounter with this (feedback, stage volume, monitor adjustments, etc) they can slowly build a mix from the ground up, and it can sound terrible while they figure it out. We can come in and offer input, but only after they’ve tried for themselves.
  • Provide consistency: Don’t write someone off right away. YES, they will look incompenent when they start – that’s why training exists. While there are those who will get it and those who won’t, give the trainee a consistent training process and stick with it for awhile (months at least).
  • Put them in not-so-prestigious positions: Let these trainees do the boring stuff. Yep – there is boring stuff and we all know it. We also know that usually people want to be trained so they can run the cool concert or “big church”; whatever is viewed as important. Give the expectation upfront that this will happen last. Having them babysit a board for a funeral, sit through an event with two inputs, etc – this will build confidence (even when they think they already have it) and will instill a servant’s mindset.
On the other side of this process, maybe a year later, you’ll be surprised with the results! Trust people, give them a chance to succeed, and create opportunities outside the stress of live production to train.
What do you do in your training process to overcome this issue of high expectations for every event?

Author: Jon Cook

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