Have you watched Sunday services online? Have you encountered God? Has He spoken to you through these services?
Besides the people you saw on your screen, others had a part in bringing the services to you.
“Beautiful to watch.”
Those are Dwayne Holland’s words. He was talking about the work of “unsung heroes behind the scenes” who put in lots of hard work to bring us what we see and hear online. “When COVID hit, without such a team church wouldn’t happen,” he said recently after watching the tech team in action.
Do you remember when we were in the church building on Sundays? Perhaps, arriving early, you said, “Good morning” or “Good evening” to a camera operator sitting behind one of the three cameras near the back of the sanctuary. On occasion perhaps you watched a service from home.
Since mid-March we’ve all been watching from home.
That huge change took us all by surprise, didn’t it?
No, we know it didn’t take Him by surprise.
Long before the COVID-19 restrictions hit us, God was preparing people to bring CrossRoads Church services into our homes. So far I’ve only had the privilege of meeting a few of them. There are some 25 to 30 on the tech team, some of whom are called on more often than others. They’re mostly volunteers. Like most of us they have lots of other commitments. Yet, they take the time and put out the effort needed so that we can participate in worship with them.
It’s their hearts desire that we don’t miss the message God has given our pastor for us. They want us to worship God as we sing along with the musicians.
Whether we tuned in online during a “live” service on a Sunday or watched it later in the week, it was recorded earlier. The announcements and scripture readings were recorded on Wednesday, and the rest mostly on Thursday evening. That’s when the worship team were on the stage in the sanctuary without us. That’s when our pastor poured his heart out to us. Then God met us as we listened a few days later.
Prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, tech team volunteers were busy for 2.5 to 3 hours on Thursday evenings and then again during the morning and evening services. Since the shutdown, Thursdays have been much longer. They’ve been arriving shortly after 3 p.m. to set up and practice so as to be ready for the rehearsal beginning at 5 p.m. If all goes well they may put in “only” 7 or 8 hours. But if it doesn’t all go so well, and the sermon or worship songs need to be done over again, it obviously takes longer.
As Wally Hildebrandt, Technical Director, talked with me recently he expressed his great appreciation for all of the volunteers who work together behind the scenes. Week after week there have been three people in the media room, several more operating the cameras, and a couple of others looking after the audio, all working together for our benefit.
Most of them had no prior experience before joining the tech team. He admires their dedication and willingness to learn. He said anyone who volunteers needs a willing heart and a sense of having been called to serve.
There is a lot to learn. So Wally is careful to give them new information and skills in “small chunks.” He tries not to overwhelm them with too much at once. It’s essential that they can pull it all together.
“I’m so very thankful for every volunteer,” he said.
What these volunteers are learning on the job, someone in the broadcast business would have taken 3 years of full-time schooling to learn. He’s also thankful their equipment was updated 4 years ago. With the new technology he can set a program so a volunteer only needs to push one button instead of eighteen.
“Wally is a good mentor and coach,” said Dwayne Holland, Communications Director. “He’s an amazing leader who cares about the people.”
Speaking of Wally and his team, Dwayne said, “God has put these people in these places.”
I had conversations with just a few of these people. God has brought them together “for such a time as this,” even as He put Queen Esther in the time and place where she lived (as referenced in Pastor Dan's message from For Such a Time as This, available to watch anytime on YouTube).
As you can imagine our inability to gather as a congregation on Sundays has required the tech team to make adjustments. I asked several of them about that. They spoke of the challenges they face, the joys they share, and the goals that motivate them.
Eric Halchik noted that, previously, several thousand of us were in the building during the three Sunday services and a much smaller number viewed online. Although the content hasn’t changed, Eric has had to think through what it takes for online viewers to feel connected from home. He spoke of “capturing moments” and “reaching out through the camera.” To achieve this, he’s not only paying attention to technical details but also listening to the songs and the message.
Stacy Mattheis and Eric work closely together in their roles directing the camera operators and several others in a fast-paced working environment. Stacy said there’s been a steep learning curve in the last few months.
“There have been weekly modifications to how we’re doing things,” she said.
Eric said if they try something that doesn’t seem to work as well as desired, the next week they try something different.
“I like to learn,” said Stacy.
Wilma Vander Leek also plays a major role in the media room as a producer helping to keep things flowing and being “extra eyes and ears” for Wally.
Stacy and Eric said they have good synergy as they work together. Wilma confirmed this, and also spoke of how well she and Wally work together. The volunteers and staff all share a common goal of serving where God has called them with a love for Him and His body.
When asked about changes resulting from the COVID-19 shutdown of the church building, Wilma said that previously Sundays were her busiest days. She often put in ten hours on Sundays. Now, her Thursdays are “like a Sunday on steroids” often stretching to 12 hours.
“The intensity is amplified,” she said.
Previously after rehearsals on Thursday evenings, there were a couple of days to make sure everything was ready for Sunday services. Now the worship team runs through all of the songs once with the technical team. Then live recording begins. The pastor does not rehearse the sermon with the technical team.
Wilma said now rehearsals begin at 5 p.m on Thursday and ”by 7 p.m. it’s as if it was Sunday.”
Because there are so many technical things to focus on I was surprised to hear Stacy say she heard God’s voice while recording services. She talked about being able to “feel the Spirit and sense Him working.”
She said that after a service Pastor Dallas Lundell will ask a question like, “What did God say to you?” She said God speaks to them even while they’re busy in their various roles.
Eric told of a time when Stacy directed the focus on one of the singers. Unaware of this, the singer then became visibly emotional as she worshiped the Lord. Did God nudge Stacy and point to this singer before her emotional response to Him became visible? Eric would say so.
He and Stacy spoke enthusiastically about the joy of serving the Lord in this way. They said sometimes afterwards they “have a high-five dance.”
Speaking of the need to make quick adjustments, they told about once when they were all set for Pastor Dan Cochrane to come on the stage. When he did, he [suddenly] moved his chair to the far side of the stage.
”We had to adjust quickly,” laughed Eric.
They believe God has given the pastor a message for the church each week and their goal is to avoid distractions in any way so God’s message is communicated clearly.
“This is where God has put us, so this is where we serve,” said Stacy. She wants people to connect with God, not to watch a show.
Eric agreed and added, “It’s a lot of fun.”
They spoke well of the training and coaching they’ve received from Wally over the last couple of years. They also expressed appreciation for other members of their team. One volunteer was called and asked if they could come in right away. They said, *Yes,” and arrived within just a few minutes.
Before joining the church staff, Wally put on huge shows and concerts all across North America. But what he and his team produce each week now is not a show. As he sits alone in the church building on a Sunday he can see how many viewers are on the website and on Facebook. He said although they are in many locations “there’s a body that’s meeting together. People are being connected.” His goal is “to bring them into worship.”
Considering that online viewing is so much more visual than being physically present, he has put a lot of thought into how to invite online viewers to participate in worship.
He wants to “take what Jesus is doing on the stage and make it accessible to the online audience.” He coaches his team to highlight what God is doing both during worship moments and during teaching moments. He tells technicians they need to check in spiritually and be engaged themselves as they look for what God is doing.
Wilma said the goal is never to make it “just a production.” Rather the goal is to produce an online worship service “for the congregation, and ultimately for God.”
“We love what we do,” she said.
In the stress of it all there is sometimes some friction, she acknowledged. “We’re human, but we get along well for the most part.”
At an age where he is looking forward to his first grandchild, Wally has had many years of training and experience. On the other hand most of the volunteers on his team have come to him without any technical background or skills.
He keeps in mind that there can be a lot of stress for an inexperienced volunteer. Unlike musicians, who often practice without an audience, technical volunteers may feel exposed since thousands of people are watching while they’re learning. He recognizes how stressful that can be.
“I appreciate their willingness to put out effort to learn and to serve in this way,” he said.
Sometimes between Thursday evening and Sunday morning he is able to correct some mistakes. Wilma said that during recording sessions she makes notes for Wally that he uses when he is editing.
Both Wally and Wilma talked about the need to not only be aware of what’s happening in the moment, but also to think ahead to what’s next. They also talked about how fast-paced it is.
As an example of the fast pace of action, Wilma told about something that happened with the video background of a blue sky and white fluffy clouds behind the pastor as he was bringing the message. The video loop was supposed to play for 39 minutes and then start over. As it turned out it was much less than 39 minutes.
She realized that when the video ended the screen behind the speaker would go black until she could restart it. Not wanting viewers to be distracted by blackness suddenly replacing the blue sky and white clouds, Wilma sprung into action. She quickly told each of the three camera operators to motion to the pastor so that he turned from facing camera one to facing camera two, and then to camera three. This gave her six seconds to restart the video loop.
As a result viewers simply saw Dan from three different camera angles, always facing the camera, and talking without missing a beat. They didn’t see the sky go black behind him.
Eric and Stacy also talked about the importance of being aware of whatever is happening at the moment while also thinking ahead to what’s coming next, and being ready to adjust in a matter of seconds.
“It’s like driving a bus while blind,” she said, “or maybe a train.”
In the conversations I had with this team I was impressed with their joy and enthusiasm and with their motivation. I believe God brought them together for such a time as this.
Wilma said, “As a producer, I find the most joy in watching all the pieces come together and knowing we each play our part to glorify God.”
What about you and me? Are we finding joy in serving the Lord?
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24 NIV
There are so many volunteers unnamed in this article that are our Tech Team. Because of this team, the good news of Christ is broadcast each week. We are so thankful for each and every one of them! Would you keep them in your prayers?
Adam Minke Jordan Rein
Kent Sutley Richard Vander Leek
Rob Lewis Eric Halchik
Mike Fleming Steve Sogge
Jean Breault Jeffrey Dawson
Jim Petriko John Nobel
Matthew Janz Maxine Quesseth
Mike Fehr Mike Martin
Paul Taylor Jan Reid
Rob Bayne Ron Dueck
Roy Astudilo Sheila McNamee
Stacy Mattheis Greg Lytle
Wes Peacock Aaron Ward
Ali Misener Allan Quinn
Ben Rempel Brent Carson
Dan Tiechroeb Darryl Brown
Dave Krause Dennis Yuhasz
Don Edwards Connor Hinsperger