Forgive me for using Revelation 2:7 completely out of context.
The question I want to consider for a moment is this – should I use “in-ear” monitors or not?
The three really good reasons to use in-ear monitors are these: 1) if you use rhythm based instrumentalists in worship, the best way to control the on-stage volume is for your players to have individual monitor stations and to use in-ears (eliminates floor wedges), and, 2) the easiest way to sync up the timing of your players is to create a click track that counts everyone in, counts out all timing changes, and establishes a consistent tempo throughout. It also makes it easier to use video with your songs because they can sync up to the click track, and 3) it takes the human error out of setting tempos.
Sounds like a “no-brainer.”
But, there are reasons not to use in-ears, too. My big three are these: 1) they create a “private mix” that can isolate you from the corporate experience as far as what you are hearing (you can’t hear the congregation) as well as affect your own singing experience with an annoying click in your ears and 2) they add a layer of complexity that can affect the worship service – case in point: have you ever seen a vocalist rip out their “ears” and leave them on their shoulders through the rest of the song? And, obviously 3) you lose the opportunity to be spontaneous with tempo changes or reprises (unless your team is prepared ahead of time).
There is a compromise, and it’s the one I usually take. Let the rhythm section use “in ears” while the singers sing with a different mix – this means the floor monitors are back on stage, but they are only serving the singers so they shouldn’t have to be as loud. You have to really trust your team to play accurately to do that, and one of them has to trigger the click each time giving you less control over the start of songs. If you want to deviate from the click, you can signal your “trigger” man to stop it and play on. The other compromise is “one ear in, one ear out.” That way you hear some of both worlds.
In-Ear Monitors can be a wonderful tool if used correctly. They can also be a distraction if they require too much focus and are not used properly.
Do your homework and make the best choice for your ministry. More than anything, let the focus always remain on the worship of God’s people and not on the tools you use to lead.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.