Many years ago I wrote an article on ChurchTechArts that included the following question — I seem to get asked this one a lot and it’s a great way to lead into this article:
“How do you keep your volunteers sticking around? We are a large church – approximately 3,000 members with five services, and everything is volunteer run. The engineer that runs the services that weekend is there for about 20 hours on the weekend, and the schedule has them running every other weekend. At what point does a church hire a position to ‘lead’ a technical group in scheduling and training?”
Not surprisingly, I have some strong opinions on the topic. But before sharing my thoughts, I have to admit a certain amount of confusion when it comes up. Here’s my translation of what I think the question really is:
“We’re a good-sized church that places a high value on our production values. We want good sound, good lights and good presentation. We’re not getting it however, because our volunteers don’t seem to have the skills or desire to learn or stick around. How can we fix this (without spending any money)?”
Often, the churches in these situations are pretty well endowed, technically. I’ve talked to one church that has a Yamaha PM5D audio console, a big Strand lighting console and some high-end video gear, yet no staff dedicated to technical leadership. And yet, for some reason, the volunteers either don’t really know what they’re doing or burn out and quit. Pardon the touch of sarcasm.
Does this church rely strictly on volunteers for their kids ministry department? Nope. Youth ministry? Nope. Adult ministry? Nope.
However, do they have a full-time worship leader/music director/worship pastor? Yup.
Why? Because these are important ministries that require the attention of a staff member to keep on track. And yet, I find church after church expecting great things from their technical volunteers without providing them any leadership.
The results are predictable. They don’t show up when scheduled. They get tired. They don’t do a good job. Or, worst of all, they quit.
Now, keep in mind, this is not a ding on volunteers. The ones I know are dedicated and really want to do a good job.
Just as you would never send an infantry unit into battle without someone in charge to say, “Here’s our objective and here’s how were going to achieve it,” you can’t tell a volunteer, who already has a full-time job, that you expect full-time performance out of them.
Well, you can, but you’ll be disappointed in the results.