By John Chevalier
Serving in the local church can be a joyful experience, especially in technical ministries where we get to apply our tech skills to mix our musicians as they lead our people in worship. But at times the leadership piece can be challenging. Most churches are too small to hire a technical staff to oversee services and have to rely on volunteers to get the job done. In most cases the Technical Director is also a volunteer and leading a team of volunteers – as a volunteer – can be challenging.
Your audio engineers have full time jobs and, in most cases, families. However, the need still exists to not only have a team ready to run audio, media, and sometimes video production, but there is scheduling and training that needs to be constantly happening. I find that there is a constant tension of balancing commitment with the understanding that those serving in technical ministries are making a sacrifice by being there. Along with the worship leader and musicians, your tech team spends more time at the church than do most other people involved in ministry at your church. Because of this, there is a huge need to build a team around you so that you don’t burn out yourself or others. I want to encourage you by sharing some things that have worked for me as a volunteer leader of volunteers in a ministry that requires a serious commitment.
The main thing you can do for people is support them. Support is more than just encouragement, although that goes a long way. If you want to have a team for the long haul, you should support your team in three specific areas: Professionally, Personally, and Physically.
There is nothing that helps keep a team together more than when they know what they are supposed to be doing, how to do it, and have confidence that they are good at their task. I have always worked to keep myself and my team educated. I have gotten them subscriptions to Mix Magazine in the past. And there are other options out there, including Technologies for Worship Magazine, which you are reading right now. I would send links for the digital version to all my tech team, even suggesting certain articles for each person. Sometimes I’ll run across an article online and send an email with the link to my team. This lets them know that I’m not only reading myself, but that I’m thinking about them and investing my time to drop them a note.
Have meetings and training for your tech team. I have clear communication between worship and tech ministries so that the musicians know when they are rehearsing that this is also the audio teams time to rehearse. After I get them set with a basic mix so they can get to work, I use this time to try new things and to teach. Sometimes we will have a discussion about an article I have sent out. On top of this we have quarterly meetings of just the tech team to check in and make sure everyone not only feels supported, but also is confident in their abilities.
Another thing that is really important here is give your team the authority to carry out their ministry. They don’t have to come running to you with every little change. I teach them to think for themselves, and we talk about problem solving on a regular basis. I make sure that when they’ve had a great service or have gone above and beyond it gets recognized, and I always remember that, even as a volunteer, if I am their leader, I take the hit when I have to.
There’s an old saying that is 100% true. People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. You have to remember your team has chosen to GIVE their time to this ministry. This is not something they HAVE TO do, and they can leave at any moment. Make sure they know they are important, and are recognized as people and not robots. Some of the ways I do this is simply inviting them out to coffee or lunch on occasion. I have been in situations personally where this would be hard on me financially to do. If this is the case, I would go to your pastor or worship leader or whoever is your direct ministry contact and explain to them what you want to do. I have never had anyone deny me a reimbursement for when I am investing in our people.
Other simple things are birthday cards for them and their family. If they have kids, get them a gift card for ice cream. Send anniversary cards – yes, real cards! Remember their family is making a sacrifice to be without them while they are at the church doing ministry. Even on Sunday morning they don’t get to sit with their family. Years ago, one of my volunteers lost their dad to cancer and it was a very hard time for him. I certainly gave him the time off he needed, but also made a note on my calendar to remind me on the one-year anniversary of that day. I year later I gave him a quick call to say that I was thinking about him today and acknowledged I knew it might be a hard day for him. This is how you keep people engaged in ministry. You really care about them.
This is not always necessary, but at times your volunteers will have needs. If possible, try to meet them. One time our media persons husband lost his job to downsizing. I couldn’t really help there, but I knew times would be hard, so I talked with a local ministry and made sure that they got groceries from the food bank delivered to them every week. It didn’t fix the problem, but it sure did help. It’s also ver important to support them in prayer. This is something we often talk more about than we actually do, so make it a point to actually do it.
Also, it’s good to remember to give a lot of encouragement. The best thing you can do for people is to believe in them and let them know they belong. Building confidence and encouraging will go a long way in leading your team of volunteers. By investing in them professionally, personally and physically, you will keep your volunteer team together and you’ll even find they will share the leadership with you. Think about that. You might just get to sit through a service without having to touch one slider or turn one knob. Not a bad thing!