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Getting volunteers beyond the basics Ralph Hicks
Among ways to practice things that are not on 'game day,' have choir or band rehearsal on Wednesday nights, where your Sunday ProPresenter operator, can come in and practice running lyrics with the actual songs.

Getting Volunteers Beyond the Basics: Tips to Avoid Heartache, Loss of Time

Sundays are the worst day for extensive training. If you’re a coach of a sports team, would you throw a player on the field without any practice before the game?

If you’ve lead volunteers for a while, you know some things that work and some things that don’t. 

Give your volunteers encouragement, to know what they are doing well, and what needs to be critiqued.

Here are a few advanced tips for serving volunteers that I’ve ended up learning the hard way. 

Evaluation

Volunteers want to be well-informed and feel comfortable executing a worship service. In my experience, they actually do want honest, productive feedback. They want to know if they are executing things the right way, or if they can improve on anything. It’s OK to evaluate your worship experience, whether you have a quick evaluation after your run-through, an evaluation between services, during the week, or all of the above. 

Give your volunteers encouragement, to know what they are doing well, and what needs to be critiqued. Yes, they are volunteers - so be gracious and loving - as you would with anyone, but don’t be afraid to work with your team on things that could be executed better.

Also don’t forget to evaluate. Let them speak into your process and share their opinions – it’s your job to sift through the ideas and steer the ship where you want it to go.

Nonstressful Environment Practices

If you can, provide environments (not on a Sunday!!) that volunteers can practice. Whether it be camera, ProPresenter, audio, lights or another position - any time you can give your volunteers practice time on the gear or with live people on stage, that’s not on ‘game day,’ do it. 

For example, have choir or band rehearsal on Wednesday nights that your Sunday ProPresenter operator can come in and practice running lyrics with the actual songs.

Is there a time during the week that you could be available to let volunteers come practice on the gear by running audio snapshots, lighting cues on the board, or practice on your video switcher?

Sundays are the worst day for extensive training, in my opinion.

If you’re a coach of a sports team, would you throw a player on the field without any practice before the game, and expect them to play at a high level? That’s exactly what you’re doing if you throw your volunteer on a piece of gear on Sunday, without allowing them practice to get comfortable with it during the week.

Willing Seasoned People to Help

When I got to a place in my ministry, where I was basically doing ‘nothing,’ to where we had teams of people training each other and taking care of all the logistics of our team, it freed me up entirely to do more ministry. 

I know the myth - “but I won’t have a job”…

But the truth is, leaders don’t do anything.

So I would suggest that you work really hard to train people to take over every single responsibility that’s on your plate. 

Once you take on more responsibility, then give it away.

If you can get willing seasoned people to help you do every aspect of your ministry - I mean everything - scheduling volunteers, training volunteers, leading volunteers, executing Sunday … your ministry will start to explode.

If you spend most of your time leading leaders, your ministry will be more effective.

Get willing seasoned people to help you.

Consistency

Be consistent with the processes and systems you have in place.

Do you have position checklists, training guides or other material where everyone is being trained the same way? Or does it vary based on who trains them?

Try creating a training manual so that training is a consistent as it can be across the board.

Be consistent with your evaluation.

Are you saying one thing one week, and something completely different during another?

Do you change your mind frequently on what you think “looks” or “sounds” good in worship experiences?

If you are a revolving door of opinion, your volunteers will struggle knowing what you are after. Be consistent in what you want to see each Sunday.

Be consistent with your encouragement.

Are you always criticizing, or is your critique mixed with encouragement?

Do your team members know that you are proud of them?

Do they know when they did something well?

Do they know when you’re pleased with how the service turned out?

Let Volunteers Fail

What? Let them fail? 

Are you constantly in your control booth standing over people’s shoulders, waiting for them to miss something?

Put your competent volunteers in place and walk away occasionally!

Walk around the auditorium and see what the congregation is seeing.

Go outside the room and watch the livestream on your laptop, or in your office, for a few minutes. 

Go sit with your family and worship for a few.

You may want to explain to your leaders beforehand what you’re doing - that you may not be in the booth every little second, to give your volunteers some space, to feel the weight of the worship service without having you there.

Don’t let things completely fall apart, but loosen your grip on the rope little by little, where you can completely let go of the rope from time to time.

This also allows you to take a Sunday off occasionally, and not be paranoid that the church is bursting into flames while you’re gone. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about….

These advanced tips have been painful for me. It’s not been easy to learn that these are true.

I hope that by reading these tips, and implementing them into your own practices, I can save you some heartache and time.

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