Using the words, “volunteers” and “audio,” together is enough to make some tech directors cringe. Such a reaction is typically the result of how many of us have been in environments with poor, inconsistent, or consistently bad audio mixes.
When we need to find where to place the blame for that poor audio mix, we often place blame on our volunteers. I hear it all the time. “One of my volunteers doesn’t like the bass,” is one common response, or, “So and so hates using effects.” I could go on and on with comments I’ve heard, but as the team leader, we may need to look in the mirror.
Our volunteer teams are usually a reflection of our leadership.
No matter the level of expertise or talent you have on your audio team, I believe that great mixes start with a clear vision and values.
A clear vision gives direction and provides a basis for evaluation, for your everything your audio team does. Your vision doesn’t need to be complicated or overly churchy. I would say that a simple and clear vision is best. Think of it as a one sentence job description. The vision for your audio team could be as simple as, “provide a well-balanced, and distraction-free audio mix.”
Even by keeping your vision clear and simple, don’t ignore that people often will find their way to interpret that vision. Team values and procedures are a pathway to fulfilling the vision you are giving to your team.
Think of values and procedures as direction signs that point people where they need to go, and that your vision serves as the destination.
The values you set also should be simple and easy for people to relate to. Things such as preparation, ongoing education, punctuality, flexibility are a few examples of values that I’m referring to. The value of preparation for example, would help to guide audio team members toward the vision of “providing a well-balanced, and distraction free audio mix.” This is because part of preparing to mix a service would include listening to the songs, knowing the service order, and reviewing the band roster for the service(s), and these processes lead to a better mixing experience.
Procedures are much like values, but they give practical application to the serving position, in this case, the audio engineer.
Procedures are repeatable processes that support consistency and awareness. Often, volunteers only serve in a role for a few hours each month, so the things that are needed to be done from week-to-week can easily be forgotten or overlooked.
By assigning standard-operating-procedures, or SOPs, to a role, volunteers can know what needs to be done each time that they serve.
Procedures should not be a step-by-step guide or a “how to,” for a particular role, but should act more like a checklist or a breakdown of helpful tips, in order to achieve consistency.
British author and motivational speaker Marcus Buckingham once said, “Talent is the multiplier. The more energy and attention you invest in it, the greater the yield.” Ongoing training is one of the best ways to invest and equip your audio team.
Most of a church’s volunteers are not skilled or highly trained specifically in audio. We must be willing to invest time and other resources, to get our volunteers to the skill level required for them to capably serve.
Look to magazines, blogs, and online content as feasible resources that your volunteers can use to grow in their skill, on their own time. Also, be willing to pay for your volunteers to attend one of the many conferences offered throughout the year, to help in their development.
In addition, don’t discount the option of looking to a highly skilled professional to come to your campus, to help train your team. What I often find is that ministries often neglect to budget proper resources, to equip their volunteers. Understand that every dollar that you spend, though, investing in a volunteer, is often returned multiple times over, in their knowledge and appreciation that they gain.
One thing you should never neglect is to celebrate the wins. Celebrate early and often. As Andy Stanley, founder of North Point Ministries has said, “What gets celebrated, will get repeated.”
As technicians, we many times focus on the problems or issues, and there is certainly a time and place for that. If we spend too much time focusing on our problems, though, then your volunteers will feel like the problem is with them.
By celebrating the wins, your volunteers will feel that the time and resources that they put into their serving, is highly valued. And it should be. So, don’t miss recognizing and celebrating a job well done!