We need volunteers, but how do we recruit them?
What systems should we use to get volunteers involved?
I was thinking about these questions when visiting a new church one weekend. I toured their facility and looked at their systems. Every tech area had an abnormal amount of tension. It wasn’t the expected we-have-to-hit-a-cue headset tension. This was physical, in the air, and on-the-faces-of-the-team tension.
Even me watching the team was creating more stress.
Some kids came by, looking at the booth, and they noticed the same thing. They didn’t comment, but kept on walking. The vibe I got was that those kids didn’t want to be a part of that atmosphere. This confirmed to me that there are a few steps we need to take, when recruiting and keeping new volunteers.
1. Fun/Loving/Inviting Atmosphere
Showing appreciation to volunteers is important. This is more than just being nice. For example, one such way is to create a volunteer lounge, displayed prominently, and stock it with snacks and drinks. This shows that you take care of your volunteers and value them. Or have team members or other volunteers monitor the experience and help coordinate everything.
I believe one of the most critical positions on a technical team is a volunteer coordinator. Whether this is a staff member or a volunteer, this person should be organized, relational and friendly. They are often a determining factor in retaining volunteers.
Since talented technicians are not typically wired to be relational, seek out people who are relational and create a spot for them on the team. It will create that atmosphere you need to be successful.
2. A System
Before you can recruit anyone, you need a system. I suggest a monthly volunteer orientation. This should be a short meeting that lays out the vision, next steps and what will be required of each volunteer. You can also address background checks, training steps and any other elements that your volunteers need to step through, to become a part of the team.
Training is a huge part of any system, but make sure you don’t swamp your people with so much detailed information, that they run away scared. Keep your training broad.
When volunteers show up, explain how things work with enough details, to be able to operate at a beginner level. People don’t normally step into your program as pros. They will first need to see you work and learn from experiencing it.
Even a professional who does technical work for a living will first need to understand your system, training and needs. This means you need beginner positions as part of your team. Your training should be an overview of those positions.
Among volunteers working in video, camera operators are a good beginner position. Other examples are Front of House Audio Assist, Lighting Assist, Video Director Assist, ProPresenter Assist and stage crew. These positions allow people to learn, see how it works, and not to be intimidated. Depending on their talent level, they will then have the opportunity to move into a more operational slot when ready. This system needs to clearly identify who is in charge, when a volunteer steps on site.
In my experience, many church tech volunteers are under the age of 18 or are very new to the church. Therefore, we need to make sure our systems have leaders in key roles, to look out for people who slip through the cracks of our volunteer recruitment policies.
All of us are on a life journey. We never know where others are at in their walk with Christ. Having a system that people step into, with leaders that are always watching for those who want to take the next step in life or with Christ, is a must.
While your system may show people what you expect from them, your standards should help them understand what you are trying to achieve technically.
While I recommend you create standards for showing up on time, clothing and how you treat each other, you should also have technical standards. Technical standards should address items like how loud one runs things, along with what you expect from lighting, video switching, staging and more.
One technical standard I use for all production areas is “Was it an audience noticed mistake?” If the answer to that question is “yes,” we talk it through, and figure out how to rework procedures to avoid the issue in the future. If the answer is “no,” let the technician creatively and naturally correct the issue.
Nonetheless, don’t have a lot of standards, but at least have one or two for each area. An audio example might be tied to the sound decibel range. For lighting, an example might be that we don’t shine lights in the audience or on the screen.
You want the standard to guide your techs in the overall technical mission. This helps everyone to understand their creative box, empowering them to operate in that, and allowing them and you to understand when a discussion on a creative technical issue needs to be addressed.
4. Backing from the Top
Recruiting volunteers involves advertising through the use of social networking, video commercials, bulletin announcements, signage or any other means that reaches the congregation. However, I have found that none of this is very effective, unless you have the backing of your leadership. When your senior or lead pastor is involved in this process, your recruitment plan will have a larger impact. The involvement can come in the form of a sermon on participating in the church as a volunteer, talking about different volunteers from the platform or thanking them for their service.
Another way your leaders can help is when a mistake does occur, that they take a minute and talk about how hard the techs work to get things right, and how appreciative they are of them. It will not only buy time to correct the issue, it will also take the pressure off the tech team members. Your leaders can also point at a camera and say, “that camera is not a distraction, but a missionary, helping us take the gospel all around the world.”
Having your pastors on board and verbal about your tech team will increase recruitment and establish a culture of respect for the technical teams.
5. Report Results
The last item that you need to incorporate is reporting results. I’m not talking about recruitment results, but spiritual results. For example, that might mean how many people attended, became Christians, how many homeless were fed, single parent families helped, etc. These results are important and drive the tech teams toward a vision. A vision that shows them they are not just being button pushers, but spiritual leaders that are a significant and meaningful part of the church. It allows them to be part of the worship team, not outsiders in the back just facilitating a service. This establishes an environment that takes the gospel not only to those who attend, but to the entire world.
If you see that type of hunger to serve in your team’s eyes, they will replicate themselves, bring in their friends, family and use your technical ministry as a witnessing tool. This will ultimately bring more people to your ranks and help accomplish the goal of recruiting more volunteers.
I will leave you with this final thought. Jesus’ disciples were from all walks of life, fishermen, tax collectors, professionals, common people, uncommon leaders, poor, educated and uneducated.
Clearly, we are not to limit our teams to only professional technicians, but welcome people from all walks of life. Creating a small group that will experience Jesus. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” – Jesus Matthew 18:20