Gateway Church, located in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas is one church that meets in five different locations. All five campuses are led by just one staff team, and although weekend services start at slightly different times, congregants receive identical teaching via video which is complimented by live programming and music. One of the many roles that staff member, David Leuschner, fills is to ensure that church-goers have a similar Sunday morning experience across all Gateway locations. We recently had the chance to sit down with Leuschner to hear his perspective on technical leadership.
Worship Facilities: How did you find yourself becoming involved with the technical arts?
David Leuschner: I was born in Texas, but grew up in Orlando Florida. , that's where it all started. When I was about eleven years-old I began working in audio video at our church. At fifteen I went to work at a local TV station—which today would have violated every child labor law in the book. I did a late night talk show which got me home every night at about 1 a.m. in the morning; it was great! Also, I did production work with all the local affiliates but specifically WFTV Channel 9 news. During that time I worked with many political figures which including President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry.
WF: What was your first full-time ministry position?
DL: That was when I went to work full-time at Calvary Assembly in Orlando Florida. I was nineteen years-old. Prior to that job I was working both news and jobs around the Orlando area: Disney, Universal, SeaWorld. I pretty much worked all the major entertainment entities by the time I took my first full-time ministry job.
WF: So, back in the day at Calvary what did your job look like?
DL: Calvary Assembly at that time was a 5000 seat church that did quite a bit of outside groups. As a church we brought in acts like the Newsboys, Petra, the Japanese Drummers as well as other Christian and secular acts. During my time working with Calvary I continued as an audio engineer with the local television station.
WF: What is your current role at Gateway Church?
DL: I've been with Gateway for eight years. Earlier this year I was promoted onto the senior leadership team at Gateway so now I oversee all the technology areas: including I.T., apps and websites as well as technical arts at the church. That includes live audio, video and lighting.
WF: With a church as large and far-reaching as Gateway you must rely heavily on volunteers. What is the size of your volunteer base?
DL: In the technical arts area we have more than 500 volunteers that handle over 800 events per month across all of our campuses. The main worship room at each of our campuses is in use every Saturday through Wednesday with some wedding and funerals scheduled on Thursday and Friday. Essentially our buildings operate in a SaturdayFriday, 24/7
WF: Logistically how do you oversee and coordinate 500-plus volunteers?
DL: We manage our volunteers by having managerial oversight at each campus that care for and communicate with the volunteers—essentially a volunteer coordinator that makes sure our volunteers feel appreciated. From a technical standpoint our facilities operate from 7a.m. to 10p.m. with the help of a dispatch center which operates from the main facility. Our dispatch staff administrates volunteers and equipment for any unscheduled event that might suddenly come up.
WF: Many churches struggle to get volunteers up and running just to fill roles at their weekend services. How do you attract, manage and train so many volunteers?
DL: One thing that is different at gateway church is the way we treat our volunteers. We respect them, praise them and make them feel appreciated. Also, we never want a volunteer to feel like we don't need them. At Gateway we treat volunteers exactly as we treat our paid staff. So, the volunteers are held to the same standards as paid staff with the same requirements for training, work and performance. If a volunteer is consistently showing up late that individual is talked to—and sometimes released if they can't show up on-time or can't perform their functions at levels we've set. I think that makes us a little different than most organizations. We want the best out of our volunteers and staff; we don't deny opportunities for our people to get better or contribute more to the organization.
WF: How has your leadership style evolved during your eight years with Gateway?
DL: That's a really cool question for me to answer. When I started out in church tech I was always hands-on. What I've learned over the years is that there is always going to be someone more talented than you are. You have to grow those people and surround yourself with people that are very talented, people who can run with things and are good teachers.
Also, what I've noticed as I have grown with Gateway Church is the only way our people can survive without being burnt-out is to understand biblical and spiritual principals that keep people whole and help to keep families strong.
When I started as a technical leader I started on a very technical basis. As I have grown I've realized that in order for teams to run efficiently and effectively they need to be taught from a spiritual standpoint.
So, I really try to move our teams towards a scriptural perspective on what we do. For example—we're fulfilling the technological great commissionMark 16:15. That's what we are doing with technology. We are reaching 200 countries through Gateway Church and we haven't even left Dallas, Texas. When you do that it not only inspires people but it also focuses them on the "why" we serve—it's not to look cool or fancy.
Initially my mentality was the approach of here's "how" you mix to make it sound good. That approach tends to foster the mentality of "we are here to look cool." But as I grow as a leader I realize that I have to focus people, especially in a church environment, to the spiritual reasons of "why" we are doing our work. I want them to show up as a team to impact the Kingdom no matter what their skill set is. That's where I've tried to grow the most.