I wish the complexities of a mobile church could be solved with an easy, one word answer, but unfortunately there are a lot of variables that are worth thinking about when trying to execute an excellent mobile church meeting. Let’s dive right in!
Here is how our situation works:
We meet in various auditoriums on campus at the University of Missouri. There are 11 of us on staff with two of us directing the music. We have a big covered trailer to haul all of the sound equipment and we put all of the instruments into a Chevy Suburban that pulls the trailer. I like putting the instruments in the car mainly because I can see if they are shifting or floating around as opposed to them all banging around in the trailer. Our meeting starts at 8 p.m on Tuesday nights. So we start loading up around 4 p.m. and we take a 15 minute ride to campus and start unloading on campus at 5. We setup the sound system and other things till 6-6:30 p.m.. We try to start our worship run-thru no later than 6:30 p.m. and we play no later than 7:45 p.m.. Then we give the band a break to chat with students and friends; we also do a mic check on the speaker. Then we start around 8:05 or 8:10 p.m.. This is the big idea of how our system works but there is much more that goes into it.
Since we are limited to space and time, we have a practice before our Tuesday Night meetings that usually take place on Sunday afternoons in our staff office (That’s the only place we can be loud). We spend 1 ½ to 2 hours practicing parts, arrangements, and other essential things (like finding keyboard patches or finding the right three part harmonies). We do this so that Tuesdays run-thru can be fast and smooth; not a time to play through a song for the first time. I believe that leading people well, just in general, means knowing your material/ information / direction / purpose to lead them. That’s mainly why we have practice days prior to our meetings.
Creating a non-church space into an aesthetically pleasing worship space
This is not the most important part but nonetheless can be a crucial element if you have the time/manpower to pull it off. This is the type of room we work on without aesthetics:
This is what we can do with a little bit of thought and an extra 5 minutes before each meeting:
All we do/all we have time to do is a handful of lamps without shades and Edison lightbulbs. These lightbulbs are great because they can fill up a completely dark room pretty well but they aren’t too bright or distracting either. Here’s a link where you can buy them. Sometimes I try to do something special or different to keep our space looking fresh and creative but more often than not I am wasting valuable time that should be used for more essential things.
Priorities vs. Excellence
There are many times where I find myself trying to do lots of little things excellently and seamlessly. For example, I like the cable for the floor box that we use to be almost unnoticed and with no loops or tangles that could be a potential tripping hazard. That is a good thing to worry about, but if your trailer gets a flat tire on the way to your meeting or the building is locked and you don’t have a key, there are other things that should be done before you do small things. Then if you have extra time right before your meeting starts, go fix it to at least be safe and to not a tripping hazard. There are certain things that should take precedent over others. For example, if you have to choose between cleaning up the stage before a run-thru or checking through your pro presenter slides, you should do the latter. I would honestly rather have the stage be mildly messy than to have the congregation confused on where we are going next in a song and liturgically if the slides aren’t in the right order.
When things go sour
Most likely if you have been leading worship for a while, you’ve probably encountered some difficult hurdles along the way. If not here are a couple basic tips when things go awry:
- If the sound system all of a sudden freaks out, turns off, has a bad buzz, or just isn’t working; don’t use it. I would rather have no sound system than a distracting problem with one. We’ve had to do that a couple times and honestly that’s been a couple of our best times of worship. I would only choose this option if you have less than 300 people.
- Take a deep breath and troubleshoot for no more than 5 minutes on whatever goes wrong; especially if its in the middle of the service. If something goes wrong during the sermon like the pastors wireless mic pack dying, tell your sound guy to always have a generous supply of AA and 9 volt batteries nearby and that he should always be ready to run down to help out. Better yet, keep a pack of each battery type close to where the sermon will be given and let whoever is speaking know that there will always be batteries there.
- The devil is constantly looking for ways to make our services unattractive and distracting. One time we were singing a song and there was feedback that was so bad that you could barely here the vocalist. The sound guy didn’t know what to do and was motioning for me to make the call. I had stopped the song and started over twice before realizing that this just wasn’t going to work. We turned off the system and finished the song; I’m definitely not proud of that memory but here is the lesson: train your sound guy. If you know a lot about sound, take a reasonable amount of time to train him on your board and how the system works. If you aren’t a trained sound person and you have $200 in your budget to spend on music stuff, go to a big concert venue in your town and pay their sound guy to teach your new or first sound guy basic soundboard operation and how your sound system works. I would ask if he would be willing to teach on your board and if he minds to be videotaped (your sound guy will want a copy to refer back to). In a lot of ways, the sound guy is probably more important than everyone on the stage because he ultimately is keeping the service flowing and audible.
- Lead your team well and gracefully. If your slide person skips a slide or two, make sure you correct them with grace patience. It can be easy to have an ideal, smooth worship service in your head and then when many things go wrong in the real run-thru to get frustrated and angry. All in all, it might also mean that you haven’t showed your volunteers “the ropes” thoroughly yet.
- Never have your pastor bring his sermon slides an hour before the meeting. 70% of the time this would be fine but I have had my fair share of having problems with slides looking funny or being flooded with typos. Try to push them to have their scripture readings, pictures, and videos sent to you preferably the day before your meeting or sooner.
Create good systems
Lastly, I think it’s worth mentioning that the way to thrive when every minute counts is by having a simple, consistent system that your whole team understands.
when your walking back from parking the trailer a few blocks away, text your sound guy an input list for the night because he most likely doesn’t know who will be playing beforehand.
having the same person setup the same thing each week (one person on front of house speakers, one person running the snake and projector cables, one person supplying power to the stage and creating a nicely stage blocked band arrangement)
using Dropbox for everything from sheet music to recordings to slides and announcement jpegs (that way if something wasn’t saved in Pro Presenter or a band member left their music at home, there’s a way to get that figured out quickly and conveniently.
Having a good system is not only beneficial to making things go smoothly, but I think it also reflects Christ. Our God has created this world with a sense of order and creativity and we should follow his example by being organized as we lead. I say this to myself as much as I do to anyone else.
I hope this information is helpful to you and your team. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also keep up with me on my blog at andrewmcamp.com