When have you ever heard any church team complain about having too many volunteers? At your church on Sunday, were there eight people waiting at the car park for you? Not only to show you the nearest space, but to offer to park and clean it for you? Were there four people serving you your welcome coffee? One taking your order, one pouring it, one popping a lid on it and a final fourth person to take it over to you in your seat? Thought not.
All churches, no matter how big, rely on a huge volunteer network to run and no team ever has too many people. Over a series of four blogs, I’m going to share some ideas and practices we have implemented at Kerith Community Church, and what the outcomes have been. Both the successes and the failures. No two churches are the same however. We have over 50 volunteers serving across three sites every month, and what has worked for us might not work for your community. I hope that my experiences spark an idea for you to help create a thriving technical volunteer team at your church.
For years, we have been putting up fancy screen slides advertising the latest tech training evening whilst hoping and praying someone would see it and come along. About a year ago, it struck us ‘Has anyone ever join our tech team this way?’ The answer was no, not a single person. This was also true across all our ministries in church. If someone has joined your church and not introduced themselves to the tech desk in the first four weeks, chances are they probably never will. People are relational. They love to be asked to join something and to feel wanted. Don’t wait for people to come to you, go to them.
We regularly ask our tech team volunteers to think if there is anyone they know, who isn’t already serving in church, who would make a great addition to the team. If so, go ask them to join up. Don’t hold the responsibility of growing teams to just your technical team leader but instead find inventive ways to spread the load across all your volunteers. This is especially important in larger churches, where it’s near on impossible to know everyone in your congregation.
Now, the next stage is so important – MAKE IT SUPER EASY FOR THEM TO JOIN!. Don’t lose future volunteers before they have even started by making it difficult to join your team and get training. My top tips would be:
1 – Have a central email address they can contact and make sure that is being looked at and followed up on a regular basis
2- Pair them up with another tech volunteer straight away so that they are being looked after
3- Book in training for them within the first three weeks of contact them, don’t make it a drawn-out process. In my next blog, I’ll be explaining some training processes we use to get people serving as fast and effectively as possible.
People are serving the Lord, not you.
‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters’ Colossians 3:23 – yep, I’ve dropped a bible verse on a tech blog! But this verse has been a huge one for me in my mind set as a tech team leader. People are not serving at church to help you out. Don’t ever feel you need to apologise for asking someone to serve. ‘Hey Joe, I know you have a really busy job, and sorry for asking but, any chance you could do lights for me one Sunday a month?’ Joe isn’t serving you, you’re asking him to serve his local church. God holds the local church as a crucial piece to all his plans, no matter your location. It’s so high on his priority list. We shouldn’t use that as a baton we hold over people’s heads, nor should we make them feel condemned for how much they should or shouldn’t serve. But we should remember, and remind others, God loves seeing us serve the local church. It’s an act of worship. In our production office, we make sure we constantly remember that by having a huge sign that reads ‘To be creative, is an act of worship’.
Don’t rule anyone out
I’ve recently found myself being humbled by the progress I’ve seen in one of our volunteers, who I wrote off months ago. You know the type of person who you have seemingly shown how to add songs in ProPresenter eight times and yet they still ask you each time? Or who seems to always be one second behind on the song words? Or who always turns up 10 minutes into sound check? If these people are not dragging down the morale of the rest of your team, don’t rule them out. Nearly every volunteer is teachable if you give them the right support and training. Some of your team you will be able to get up and running in two weeks, some might take two years. But we are playing the long game here. We should be building all areas of church to last the test of time and that applies to our tech teams as well. Maybe you’re just not the right person to be teaching this particular volunteer, that’s ok too. Maybe you need to look at yourself and see if your showing that person enough grace and patience. Is there someone else who could be doing this training, who is more used to dealing with people of this nature? It is undoubtedly a skill being able to work with a slightly slower learner, just know how to recognise where you can delegate.
Go scouting at your Youth group
We are very blessed at Kerith that we have one of the most thriving youth groups I’ve come across. One thing that did take me a while to get my head round was to stop looking at the youth group as a bright red ‘DANGER’ sign.
When I leave my office on a Friday, I’m not leaving our Auditorium set up ready for our Sunday Service, it’s currently being overrun by approx. 30 of our youth setting up for their Youth Meeting that night. This, for a while, left me driving home on a Friday white as a sheet, wondering if any of our equipment would survive the night. But I got them completely wrong. In the 10 months I’ve been on staff at church, not a single thing has been broken by our youth group, and they use it all to the max! Each week they are experimenting with new things, from song words layout, to lighting set, which is now feeding into our main Sunday meetings. It has become a training ground for all things tech and we are now more than happy to support in every way we can!
As of this September we have started to offer them more advance training where they need it, listening to their suggestions closely, and supporting them through extra equipment for their flagship nights each term. In return, we are starting to see God’s gifting flow out of these youngsters, and starting to incorporate them into our Sunday ministry. They are pushing the boundaries, trying new things, taking risks, and keeping us all on our toes at the same time. Could you be tapping into your youth teams more? By closing the gap between the Youth events and your Sunday meetings, you could see a huge growth in gifted youngsters flow into your team.
That’s just a few things that have been successful for us this year. In the next post, I’ll be talking about how we grow our interested volunteers into tech team leaders. I’d love to hear what’s working for you at your church, so feel free to comment below.