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Duke DeJong: Why I Stopped Recruiting

Duke DeJong: Why I Stopped Recruiting

Take every opportunity you can to show your team how what they do impacts people. It's what fuels us all to do more.

Many years ago, as a Technical Director in eastern Iowa, I came to the realization that recruiting artists (musicians, singers, techs, etc.) just doesn't work and I decided I would never do it again.

Announcements from the stage, volunteer drives or bulletin blurbs might get me a person or two occasionally, but rarely did I get good, long-term people out of it. It was around this time that I realized that artists need more than being told "we have a hole you can fill."

I regularly teach a session at conferences on how I learned to successfully build technical teams, and it all began with a shift in my mentality as the leader. I realized that few musical or technical (or you name it) artists become committed team members simply because there is a spot available for them.

Truth be told, being needy can be more of a turnoff for artists, as a fear of being "sucked in" or becoming over-committed can set in at the thought of being needed. But as I dig into this shift we needed to make, I realized nearly all artists want four things. They want to be connected to a community, feel like their art makes a difference, know what the greater mission is, and have a clear role in achieving it. These four concepts literally changed how I did ministry, and how I began building successful teams.

1. Create a Community of Artists

We used to do a big yearly production, where 11 of us would spend a lot of time together for three months, handling everything from the tech aspects of the set build through 10 nights of performances for more than 12,000 people.

Every year, we were exhausted, but we loved it and felt close to our team for months after. But every week, we'd have five to eight people get together to do similar work, yet the results in our community were very different.


For production season, we would eat together, rehearse together, pray together, and share life together. What would happen for weekend services? We would all show up at our respective call times, rock services, and go home.

There was very little connecting, and it showed.

When we began shifting our mentality in how we led ministry, the first change we made was to start meeting as a team 30 minutes before a weekend service to have some breakfast, do a service run through, and pray for one another.

We also began doing a debrief after services to discuss anything that needed to be addressed, but mainly so I could pray over our team before they left. Those 35 minutes of extra time quickly began to change the relational landscape of our teams, which led to changing the size of our teams. It wasn't until we began this intentional connecting time, that we began to see growth in numbers.

2. Making a Difference

Over the course of 10 years on staff at various ministries, I still remember so many of the stories of people whose lives saw dramatic change. A song that that helped someone who was going through a hard time break loose in worship, a message that gripped someone's heart and prompted them to break out of addiction, or a testimony that really resonated with another enough that they committed their life to Christ.

I heard these stories constantly in meetings and other conversations with our Pastors. It fueled me for many long weeks and weekends of hectic service schedules and special events. So why did it take me years to realize that I needed to constantly share these same stories with my volunteers who never heard them, unless I communicated them?

We all want to make a difference and see that our work, our art, means something. Take every opportunity you can to show your team how what they do impacts people. It's what fuels us all to do more.

3. The Cause

When we began shifting our ministry mindset, our leadership team gathered to brainstorm everything that our ministry currently did and wanted to do in the future. It was a big list, but for the first time we had a clear vision of everything our team was responsible for already, and everything we wanted to grow into. That brainstorm document became a permanent part of one of the walls in the tech office so we always has it in front of us.

Everyone on our team had a part in making that list and from that day forward our people knew very clearly what we were about, could see exactly where we were shorthanded, could see what still needed to be done and could quickly step in. And anytime someone asked about getting involved, we could show them where we were, where we were going, and exactly where they could fit into our community. 

4. Having A Clear Role

One of the biggest concerns I hear from potential volunteers is that they just don't have the time to commit. It's almost like they expect their entire life to be sucked away by this volunteer experience!

Can anyone relate?

When our team did our brainstorm of all the current and future things we wanted to do, we divided things into specific roles and created job descriptions. We also defined what a reasonable span of serving was, which in our case was once every three weeks.

When you show a new recruit a clear job description of what would be expected of them and that they only have to serve once every three weeks from 7 a.m.to noon (or whatever makes sense for your team), and they get to join an awesome community of artists on top of it, it's hard to say no.

If you lead technical artists, you need a thriving team of people around you to help you serve your church well.

Recruiting doesn't work, there is a better way .

Focus your time creating a community for your artists, make sure your team knows the difference they're making, clearly document and communicate the cause of the team, and define clear, fair roles for each member. Not only will you be one of the most organized ministry leaders at your church, but you'll have a growing, thriving team that does amazing things for God.

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