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volunteers and lighting
A view of a musician on stage during a Harvest Ministries worship service.

Lighting: Create A Volunteer Training Process To Help Them Succeed

Working on various lighting elements, for example, will allow for them to appreciate and be intentional with fixtures that do have those features when they move up into our main sanctuary, where those fixtures exist.

An area I think that can really grow volunteers creatively is in lighting.

Lighting can play a huge part in the creativity development of an individual, using colors that help convey the mood and story of a song to the audience or congregation, combining color, texture, along intensity with music, which is one of the most effective ways of helping immerse the congregation into worship and experiencing Jesus.

Lighting within houses of worship, though, ends up being an area for the most part that lures few volunteers. At my church, Harvest Christian Fellowship, in Riverside, California, we only have about three strong lighting volunteers that help out the rest of the staff. By comparison, our audio crew has more than 20!

I still love lighting, though, and once people become a part of the lighting team, they find a lot of joy in learning how to be creative. Some of the most creative people I know are incredible at lighting a stage, and some of them had never done it before, prior to becoming a part of our team.

What are some things to things to look at, when it comes to lighting and volunteers?

Let’s cover a few things that I have seen play a huge role in setting up your volunteers for success when learning lighting and applying that creativity effectively, while still keeping the overlying look and vision of your church alive.

Knowing Gear

It’s always important to spec gear that you feel fits the pace of your church. If you are fast paced, where you don’t find much time for rehearsals or run throughs, like our church, a console that is very quick to work around, set up, and program is key to setting up your volunteers to succeed in such an environment.

That being said, I like to also use gear that’s used in real world situations.

I feel using equipment and gear that will prepare your volunteers for a possible career in lighting is also key. An example I love to share is how my assistant lighting designer, Nicholas Valdez, used to be a volunteer in our department. He used to hang out during children's ministry in the sound booth, and began to show an interest in lighting, when one of our other lighting guys, Friend, -- no really, his name is Friend -- shared with him the awesomeness about all things lighting!

Once we did some one-on-one training with him and really started to put him through the paces of how to work on lighting, it wasn’t long before he was a very great programmer and designer, programming our main services as a volunteer.

It doesn’t come easily or fast, because we have high standards, since we are on TV every week, but Nicholas succeeded with flying colors. It was such a success, that  eventually we brought him on staff.

Because he worked with gear and consoles that are used in the real world, he is now a fantastic freelance lighting programmer, working for notable artists and massive festivals throughout southern California.

Training process

I think it important to come up with a process, much like we have at Harvest, which is as follows. I train my lighting volunteers in a room we call our Children’s Theatre. It’s set up like a traditional theater lighting rig, so they can learn the basics of lighting, proper key lighting, shadows, how colors work, how textures work, how to properly focus a lighting rig, and how to work with fixtures that don’t move and change colors.

Working on these elements allow for them to appreciate and be intentional with fixtures that do have those features when they move up into our main sanctuary, where those fixtures exist.

The primary programming and operation training process is:

• You watch us,

• We train you,

• We watch you run a service completely,

• You then graduate to running it solo.

This process speed is all dependent on how many hours the volunteer wants to put in serving, but because of this process, they can go through it as fast or slow as they would like. This process has developed many great volunteers who have made it onto our staff, as well as into the world as great lighting technicians, video directors, or audio engineers.

Such a process might work for you, or come up with a process that works for your pace, your needs, and your availability.

Ask around at other churches and see how they run their process. You’re always welcome to shoot me an email as well, and ask me questions!

Team attitude

Something that I try to instill in our volunteers is collaboration and teamwork. Teamwork is such an important aspect to a great running service, you’re not the only person running the service, you’re not the only person who is paying attention to lighting, and you’re not the only person who matters.

Learning how to work as a team with the worship team, video team, and even audio team, is such an important skill.

You can be the best lighting designer, but if you’re not a great team player, that’s not going to matter, because nobody is going to want to work with you.

At Harvest, we have definitely had to deal with a few people in the past who have not been team players and needed to be told to be on the same team as video, for example, when they want more key lights, because you’re lighting in the moment what they will be recording and archiving for years of playback.

Most importantly, it’s just not biblical for us to not work as a team with other departments. Training in the skill of teamwork, and collaboration is crucial.

Appreciation

Show your guys the appreciation they deserve! They are coming in for many hours, not being paid to help you clean lights, and make your paid job easier.

So show them some love.

I love to treat people to lunch or dinner, Bring doughnuts in, and give them gifts for their birthdays. Also coordinate events such as team appreciation and it is also helpful to hang out with your team members! I like to hang out with my assistant lighting designer all the time, as we have the same mindset when it comes to lighting, because we find the value in teamwork and being in sync. Sure, we butt heads every so often, but it always develops a stronger working relationship in the end.

Appreciation and relationship with your team is important!

Remember who it’s all really for and remind them of it

In the end, it doesn’t matter about the gear, the training techniques or any of that, if they don’t understand who we are serving and why.

We serve Jesus.

Our goal is to bring people closer to Jesus and create an environment, one where they can experience him and his presence. Part of that is encouraging your guys in Jesus and reminding them this isn’t a normal work venue, it’s a church.

As frustrated as they may get sometimes, bring it all back to the fact that it’s all about Jesus.

If we aren’t here to serve him, then why are we here at all?

Harvest’s tech director, Mike Smith, has done this so well, where we have a weekly department meeting, where he leads us in a devotion and it’s honestly something I look forward every week. When we have to miss it for an event or something else, it always makes the day feel so long, like it’s dragging on.

Make sure to do this! And if you do, then I know you will succeed in setting up your volunteers for success!

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