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Lights Out

Lights Out

It's a beautiful thing when a church service is firing on all cylinders. The musicians are together and grooving. The vocals are tight and in perfect harmony. Most importantly, the entire congregation is responding with sold-out worship. It's an amazing experience! And then it happens: your sound system dies. Or the lights stop responding to your console. Or, worse yet, you lose power. Now what?

Service Killers

There's no way around it, when something this big happens, there is likely going to be an awkward interruption. You can't have music suddenly drop out, lights die, (or worse) and expect it go completely unnoticed. But I don't believe these moments have to be service killers either. In fact, with some advanced planning and quick thinking, I've seen these moments become even more impactful than what was happening before things went wrong. Let's look at some takeaways that can help turn a "service killer" into no big deal.

Discuss a Plan B Ahead of Time

One of the key differences between amateurs and professionals in production is having a plan B ready to implement at all times. If you haven't spent some time discussing a potential plan B with your leadership team, can I recommend that you set up a meeting soon in order to do so? While you can't know when your sound system may stop producing sound, your projectors stop showing video or perhaps you lose your lighting all together, discussing some of these potential scenarios ahead of time will better prepare you to deal with the scenario if and when it happens.

For example, we had a service where our video switcher went out so we could no longer get lyrics or cameras to the screens. Because we had discussed this as a possibility ahead of time, our Worship Leader was able to play along and use the time we were down to talk about the song we were doing and teach about it's meaning, all without skipping a beat. By the time he got back into the song, we were up and running and people ended up worshipping more intently because he had spent time discussing the meaning and application of the song.

Have Knowledgeable People Ready to Troubleshoot

If there was one area that the folks at the Super Dome had covered, it was having plenty of qualified people at the ready to tackle and fix the problem at hand. To have the power back on in 30-35 minutes meant that they had capable, knowledgeable people on-site in multiple places ready to help get things back online. Do you have people nearby or at the very least on call who know your systems? Reports from the Super Bowl are that the issue was at the main panels where power came into the building. Can you imagine how much power comes into that building and how many electrical rooms they have? Do you even know where all of your breaker panels are? The first time my church lost power in a service, I didn't. It wasn't until I found the third electrical room that I found the breaker in question. You can be sure that I created a list of what breakers were where after that week! In order to successfully troubleshoot in a hurry, you need to know your systems and where they all are.

Minimize the Effect

Sometimes your situation is too big and obvious to ignore. Half of the lights going out during the Super Bowl would be one of those times. But if you lost your monitors, could you still carry on with a scaled back, more acoustic worship? Sure! I remember a service when we were in the middle of a special song and we had much of the stage dark except for some key dramatic lighting. During the song, our lighting console shut down and we lost control and it froze on that look. If we had rebooted the console right then, all of our lights would have reset and the moment would have been killed. Instead, we used our in-wall push button controller to add some down-stage lighting when Pastor came back on stage to wrap up his message. Was the lighting perfect? No. We were missing a few lights and all of our color fixtures, but people chalked it up to dramatic lighting. Did anyone notice? Pastor didn't stop what was happening to apologize for the missed lighting, in fact he didn't even know. We didn't reset the lighting mid-song or during the wrap up. Most people didn't have a clue anything happened, which frankly is the way it should be. And, because we handled the failure seamlessly, no one missed the point of the message and creative elements to be distracted by the technology.

Wrapping it Up

The moral of the story is that stuff is going to happen. If it can happen on one of the biggest stages in the world, it can and probably will happen at your church. But with preparation and preparedness your production problem doesn't have to be a disaster. Work with your team to create potential plan B scenarios. Be sure you have people around who can troubleshoot systems if and when they go down, and then focus on minimizing the distractions until you can get things back online. It's just possible that if you cover it well enough it could be even more impactful than the moment you had planned on originally.