It’s Sunday morning.
You’re the first one in the building.
While you’re turning on the sound system and all the lights, you’re already thinking three steps ahead. Song choices? Lyrics on the screen? Did the pastor get me all his notes? Beyond those questions, you realize that you can’t forget about setting up an extra microphone for the youth leader, so that they can make that announcement about movie night next week.
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Then your phone vibrates. “Oh no,” you mutter, upon learning that the sound guy won’t be here today. He forgot to tell you he is on vacation, and out of town.
Bzzzzz … There goes your phone again. Now you learn that your pastor needs you to download a YouTube video that he wants to incorporate during his sermon.
You can handle that, right? No big deal?
You sigh and pray. “God, please let some people respond to the message we have in the bulletin, asking for more volunteers for the Audio/Video ministry. I can’t do this by myself, and I’m burning out.”
Maybe you already did burn out three months ago, but you’re hanging on, because you know that if you don’t do it, it just won’t get done.
Sound familiar? We’ve all been there …
During these moments, we all feel the loneliness and isolation.
So, let’s build a team. Sounds easy to say, doesn’t it? Is it difficult to implement? Perhaps it should not be as hard, as we make it seem.
Perhaps it’s possible that the biggest challenge to building an Audio/Video team is our own leadership style, and the culture we create around ourselves.
There it is. I said it, and I will gladly point the finger right back at myself.
As a technical director, I have acted rude, abrasive and hurtful. And then I wondered to myself, why is no one helping me?
Let’s talk about that.
Pete Scazzero, founder of New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York, does a good survey in his book, Emotionally Healthy Leader, published in 2015.
Take a minute and use this list of statements to evaluate your leadership practice when it comes to culture and team building. Use the following scale:
5 - Always true of me
4 - Frequently true of me
3 - Occasionally true of me
2 - Rarely true of me
1 - Never true of me
____ 1. I invest in key people from my team, both in their transformation in Christ, and in their skill or professional development.
____ 2. I directly and promptly address “elephants in the room” (tensions, lateness, hostile body language, sarcasm, unkind remarks, silence, etc.)
____ 3. I consider healthy rhythms and loving union with Jesus of team members, as the indispensable foundation for building a healthy culture and team. Our schedule and agenda reflect these values.
____ 4. I explore and ask questions when people are highly reactive, or triggered, rather than ignoring them.
____ 5. I negotiate differences and clarify expectations, when there is frustration and conflict.
____ 6. I communicate in ways that are clear, honest, respectful and timely.
____ 7. I am intentional to set aside time and space in team meetings, to install particular values (e.g., Scripture, expressing appreciations, sharing new insights on leadership).
____ 8. I dedicate the necessary time to explore the root causes of inappropriate behavior, seeing it as a spiritual formation opportunity.
____ 9. People experience me as willing to take the time to “tune in” to them.
____ 10. I ask specific questions about the quality of a person’s marriage or singleness because it is a key factor to build a healthy culture and teams.
Understanding your assessment
If you scored…
Mostly 1’s and 2’s - You probably have not given much thought to, or perhaps received much training in, building healthy cultures and teams. You might take a first step by listing the desires and values you have for your team. Consider inviting a trusted mentor or team member into your process.
Mostly 2’s and 3’s - You are somewhat engaged in healthy culture and team building. I encourage you to take a few hours to prayerfully reflect - alone or with others - on your team and culture. Make a list of characteristics that presently describe your culture and team. Then make a second list, noting the values, desires and dreams that God has given you for your team. Identify three to five specific steps you can take over the next three to nine weeks, to bridge the gap between your current culture and team, and the culture and team that you envision.
Mostly 4’s and 5’s - Congratulations! You are building a healthy culture and team. Reflect on specific examples from this chapter that would increase effectiveness - or perhaps stir new ideas of your own. Challenge yourself to invest in others on your team, in such a way that causes them to build other teams in other areas.
Practical Challenges We All Face
Guys, I’m going to just say it. Church bulletin ads don’t work to recruit new volunteers.
There is only one way to recruit, and that is face-to-face conversation.
“But Steve, how do I get them to come and talk to me?” Answer: You will have to go to them.
Believe me, I know that many of you just had your stomach do a back flip. We techie folk are not exactly known for our people skills.
Doing what I am suggesting here will force us to slow down, but I know a secret. Slowing down and loving people along the way is not the most efficient way to accomplish goals. Empathy is not efficient, but it is effective at building teams. And it is absolutely the example set by Jesus.
Let me give you an example.
One Sunday morning, while I was managing a team of A/V technicians, I happened to look up and noticed a young man eyeballing all the tech equipment. He kept glancing over again and again. Immediately after service I went up to him, smiled with a bit of smirk and said something like, “You know you want to play with all the knobs and buttons. I caught you staring. Why don’t you stay for the next service, and I’ll introduce you to the team, and show you what some of it does?” He resisted a bit, but his mom was sitting right next to him, and she gave him the nudge he needed.
He joined the team and became an amazing light technician. I later found out he had been eyeing up the systems for weeks and didn’t have the courage to come talk to me. When I talked to him, though, it broke the ice and he was all in. Takeaways from this: I was watching others. I was being observant. I slowed down and made time for him. I was not so busy doing tasks, that I didn’t have time to see this. (But I’m sure that has happened, and I have no doubt I have missed other similar opportunities.)
Pray. Ask God to show you who to talk to. He will. If we listen.
It’s time to be brutally honest.
We A/V people tend to have big egos, which can often make it difficult for others to work alongside us.
I challenge you to fix that.
Stop it! Kill the ego.
Our job as team leader is not to get everything done. Our job as team leader is to equip others so that everything gets done. This means it is us going to get the mic cables or sermon notes or pictures that the technicians need, while they stay at their posts ready and willing to act when needed. We support them just as Jesus supported, and led His disciples.
It is OK, if things are less than perfect. (It’s not OK if things become a train wreck, because of poor planning.) While training a rookie light technician, I let my pastors and leaders know that the lights this particular week might be less than ideal, and I told them why. A few missed light cues happened and sure enough, the lights were not as perfect as they could have been. Nobody blinked. Nobody fussed at me. Actually, the opposite happened. Pastors and staff came up to the A/V booth to thank him for helping, to congratulate him on his first service running lights by himself, and to just love him. He ate it up. He’s been a great team member for us since then. Oh, and by the way, he is 15-years-old. There is a culture at my church of team building and loving others, and it is felt all the way up in the A/V booth.
Building teams takes a major culture shift away from what we have all thought to be ‘normal.’ We are not the only person in the building that can do what needs to get done. Yes, it really is OK to meet with the pastors and set some guidelines on when sermon notes and song choices need to be submitted. And it’s OK to allow some room for last-minute changes. (As long as the last-minute changes are not ‘the norm.’)
Now go, build your teams by leading your teams in a healthy way.
Love them. Invest in them.
You’ll be surprised how this will very quickly attract new team members.