To the audio guy working at a church, who I had a conversation with the other day, about how to get people to volunteer in the audio ministry, there are a few things that need to be said.
Technology can be intimidating, and the people that jump at the chance to serve tend to be musicians, not engineers.
First things first, your audio department, like any other, simply does not work without volunteers.
The hardest part of leading volunteers is getting them to commit and show up. Among the reasons that might trip up a volunteer, could be declining a scheduled serve date, not showing up because they forgot, or losing interest entirely and moving on to another church. With so many possibilities, you will likely find yourself in a constant flux trying to keep your team of people in place.
Make sure that your volunteers enjoy what they are doing, which by itself will help with minimizing that flux. Recognize that some volunteers will be committed for the long haul, while others will only unfortunately last a few weeks.
The big thing is to make sure you don't forget about the ones that have stayed with you for years, because you find yourself distracted by constantly being on the lookout, trying to find new people for those that have left.
Next, a word on recruiting.
Technology can be intimidating, and the people that jump at the chance to serve tend to be musicians, not engineers. This means that you will have to put some time into finding those that have technical abilities as part of their skillset. Keep in mind that those that do are usually introverts, so you may have to seek them out.
Remember, recruiting will be much harder, if you develop a reputation for burning people out, which is just a catchy way of saying that the leadership doesn’t care about the church’s team members.
So, don't do that!
Learn everyone’s name and get to know them on a personal level. There needs to be a camaraderie between volunteers; otherwise, everyone tends to do their own thing, instead of working together.
When community is not important, it is easier to say no to an opportunity, or to ditch a commitment at the last minute.
That being said, it’s important that you keep things interesting for your volunteers.
You must continually invest in your volunteers and give them a reason to stay on your team. You can only get so far in saying, "It's the right thing to do.”
Training is essential, and it needs to be regular. It must consider the style of ministry and the design of your space. No matter how much experience anyone has, they really need to reset and account for the vision of the department.
In terms of working with sound in the space, when working with a mix, I like to start with what I call the "Theory of the Mix," by looking at the mix organically. This is too much to get into right now, but a short story: Performers and equipment on stage, cables, amps and adapters, soundboard, hardware and/or software, EQs, limiters, gain structure, and then amps pump your sound out. This is signal flow in a nutshell.
At several points in this process, there is a possibility for things to be made better or go catastrophically wrong. This is where the theory of the mix comes in.
There’s an art, you see, to making your sound, sound good.
To achieve a quality mix, there is underlying knowledge, of course, with execution being the hard part. You need to take time to focus on the full mix, fine tuning channels, and everything in between. Separate training events for these aspects of sound, would be a good idea.
Once you have recruited some volunteers and have started to train them, you will need to develop them as part of a team. Every ministry leader knows (or will know soon enough) that they can't do it all on their own. This is both philosophical and practical.
You need a team that has your back, people who can do things that you can't, and be there when you’re unavailable. To accomplish this, you must show some humility. I embrace the idea that everyone is equal. It's important that all who are serving realize that they are an essential part of the team and have something to contribute.
In addition, emphasize goal-setting and help your team members learn and develop. We don't want to ask people to come into ministry, get them to a particular level, and then leave them there, without some area of growth to work on.
Now that you have a team, and you are developing them, we should talk about casting a vision and sharing expectations.
It's not all technical.
What we are doing is ministry and art. We are on the technical side of it, but we are also the people who execute the dream.
Every ministry has a vision (they typically call it a "Vision Statement") and inside those ministries, every department and team, whether they know it or not, has a vision.
Your volunteers will be mixing in a demanding environment, so it’s important that you share a few things with them. Being invisible is a good thing.
During a weekend service, the mood of the room and the dynamics of the room are an outflow of what our sound team is doing, and how they do it.
If your sound team is apathetic, the whole room usually feels it. Church attendees may break out of the spirit of worship and could begin to think critically of what they are hearing.
Even with clumsy or ill-repaired musicians, a good sound team can make the difference. While there are certain limitations and rules, encourage them to add their own personal style on a mix.
What’s been discussed here should be enough to get you started, but don't forget through all the training, planning and scheduling, this is Christian service - a ministry.
While we each have a separate calling, we are all serving as one body.
Your community needs to grow beyond showing up, doing the job, and going home.
It's ministry, it's a calling.
You have an opportunity to pour into your volunteers in more ways than just the technical acumen. Remember to keep your team spiritually healthy, pray with your team, and give them the opportunity to grow together.
Even the simple thing of asking if they need prayer for anything, can change their entire outlook. Without spiritual health, then the end goal is worse, than if they didn't volunteer at all.
(Ross Jewett is the technical director at Vineyard Church in Kansas City, Missouri.)