Becoming A Partner


Most church techs I’ve met (including myself) hate to be on-stage. We’re perfectly happy behind the scenes in our chosen supporting roles. While we withdraw from the spotlight of attention some occasionally feel our work goes unnoticed, dare I say unappreciated. Unless resolved we may go through periods being conflicted. We don’t want attention, but we also don’t want to be unappreciated. Being conflicted unchecked over time can consume us.

I used to work at a successful A/V Staging company based in New York City. The company was owned by five partners all of whom had their offices on the top floor of a private six story midtown Manhattan office building. It seemed most of the partners earned their way into ownership positions as a result of extraordinary sales prowess, technical know-how or their people management skills. It also appeared the current partners had over time made themselves indispensable to the previous owners until one day they themselves asked the existing partners for admission to the top floor ‘partner’s club.’

Becoming a partner was no small deal. Most of us who were not partners viewed being a partner as nirvana. After all, it seemed partners strolled into the office just an hour or two before lunch time, drove sports cars, had fancy upscale apartments in Manhattan or estates in the country. When we were all on show site together at a posh resort on a corporate gig, while all of us were unloading trucks and schlepping road cases into the venue it seemed partners carried only their tennis racquets.

The experiences of a friend whom I’ll call ‘Les,’ (his name changed to protect the innocent) taught me an important lesson. Both of us had risen about as far as we could within the company without being named partners. Both of us had offices on the 5th floor of the building … so close yet so far from the coveted top floor. Les one day marched himself into the President’s office, made a compelling argument for why he should be made a partner and when all was said and done Les was denied. A few more months went by. Les continued to do good work anxiously awaiting the recognition he felt he’d earned. He made his appeal again. Denied! More months went by, Les continued to do good work and made his plea. This time the President simply said, “ok, if you want to be a partner, you’re a partner.”

Les was ecstatic! He told everyone about his promotion. He was beside himself with joy! A few weeks went by and he made an appointment to speak with the President again. Les asked, “It’s been a few weeks since our last chat and I was just wondering when the ‘partner stuff’ would start?”

The President responded, “what do you mean?” Les said, “well, you made me a partner a few weeks ago and I was just wondering when I could move my office to the 6th floor, start new responsibilities and I also noticed there hasn’t been a change in my paycheck.”

The President responded, “You said you wanted to be a partner and I agreed, but I never said anything about a change of responsibilities, a pay increase or a new office.”

Now Les was heartbroken. The long awaited recognition he hoped for seemed to be slipping through his fingers. He thought a bigger paycheck, a new office and new responsibilities would be his reward. But what the President had really offered him was the title he sought and the opportunity to further serve the company and our clients. The President said, “partnership is the opportunity to bring everything to the table, to enrich not just yourself but more importantly our clients, the other partners, our employees and the company as a whole. It’s not the end and it’s certainly not a reward. Becoming a partner does not look backwards on what you have already done. It looks forward toward what you will do. In a very real sense, every single one of us who work here are partners!”

Les never got what he was looking for … however I realized that although painful there was an important lesson to be learned.

Many years prior to this story when I was a church Media Director I very much wanted to become a Pastor. Not unlike Les’ story, my dream was equivalent to Les wanting to become a partner at the church where I served. I also wanted to serve in a more meaningful capacity than I had previously. One day I had a meeting with one of the Pastors and shared my heart with him. Comparing me to his own son he suggested that I probably was not a good candidate to become a Pastor because as a 1st generation Christian I had not grown up in a Christian home. He also mentioned my lack of a Bible degree and other criteria. I was heart broken. I was discouraged. Emotionally inside my heart I “quit” and my dream of becoming a Pastor was never realized. It’s no surprise that my work as a Media Director suffered then as well.

Many job applications at churches for an Assistant Pastor require the applicant be married, have a college degree in theology, prior work experience as a Pastor on staff at a similar sized church and references from the same. Funny, but our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ couldn’t get a job as an Assistant Pastor based solely on these metrics.

Now, what if during that time of discouragement I just purposed that while serving as a Media Director I would just start acting like a Pastor, formal title or not? What if I called my tech team during the week and invested myself into their personal lives? What if I prayed with my team members who were going through trials? What if I challenged my team members to submit themselves further to Christ by the example I lived before them? What if I committed myself to pray for them daily? What if I led them through book studies? What if I placed their relationship with Christ as a higher priority than how well a service went technically?

Is there someone you want to be? Why not just start being that person? You probably need to get permission from fewer people than you think.

Photo Attribution: wolfgangfoto

Tom D'Angelo

Tom D'Angelo has worked in television production and AVL corporate theater for nearly four decades. He is Emmy Award nominated (Best Director category, Mid-Atlantic) and has been part of various teams nominated or winning national Emmys.  As the Media Director at a megachurch in the 1980’s he developed a love for the Church and church performing and technical artists.