Having volunteers serve in audio is great. Even so, it can also be a lot of work having volunteers serve in audio.
It does take a team to make production happen in our churches, as we all work together.
Having volunteers in audio is definitely a cost-effective option, but it is also a great way to get people involved in the ministry, and build quality relationships.
There are many places where someone can have a place to serve, and there are plenty of different tasks that need to be performed, even by those that are the least experienced.
Now, what can we do to set up our new volunteers for success?
The first thing I like doing with a new volunteer is making sure they are feeling at home on the production team.
It does take a team to make production happen in our churches, as we all work together. It is important that anyone serving on any of the production teams feels at home with the team in general.
In some cases, the new volunteer may be the only audio person that is serving in a particular venue or is serving in a role directly with the other teams specializing in audio.
One way to make them feel good is to introduce them to all the other leads on the team. I also encourage a team hang out night, where the entire production team gets together and just fellowships, and maybe ends up eating too much pizza.
Another way is to teach the culture of the team. As one gets more and more involved as a volunteer, it is important that they learn about the team’s culture.
It is a big deal to establish who the team is, and what the expectations of the team are. It is much easier to train a volunteer about being ontime from the start, for example, rather than let a bad habit be established, only to try to break it later.
One specific part of my local team’s culture that I try to emphasize is having a good attitude. Good attitudes are not always the easiest thing to have, but with a good attitude, even the worst situations can be made good. Having a healthy culture on a team can make a team much more productive, and just a much better place to be.
After a volunteer is established, it is important to start checking on them and working with them on their spiritual health. This is something we can do with our church staff.
It is incredibly easy for a tech to get caught up in the day-to-day operations and training, while forgetting about making sure the people who work with us directly have heard and understand the Gospel. I am not perfect in this, I once had a volunteer serve next to me in audio for a couple months, and I didn’t realize that they did not even have their own Bible. As soon as I found out, I went and got him one and then connected him with our youth pastor.
Since then, it is exciting to see how much he has grown in his faith.
Audio is not the easiest thing to teach, and it also takes years to learn. I often get asked, “Where do you start?” My answer is always signal flow.
To make a good mix, one needs to be able to troubleshoot and make signal get to and from the console. It does not matter how much prep goes into making everything perfect, you have to be ready because something will get messed up. For instance, it is super easy for a guitar player to accidentally pull their line from their direct input and cause the signal to be lost. It is nice being able to have a volunteer that can easily find and fix a problem, along with it often being rewarding to a volunteer being capable in such a way.
Start getting the volunteer involved as soon as possible. It may be as simple as having them put the batteries in and out of the mics, but batteries are an important task that someone needs to do.
Once working with a volunteer on those basics, it is a great opportunity to explain to them how mics work, or even how wireless works. As the volunteer learns these things and does well with them, continue showing them more and more things.
Begin by showing them the basics of how audio works and look out for what they may be really good at. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. Take those strengths and help them run with what they are good at while helping them with their weaknesses.
It can be surprising where a volunteer can end up and excel.
Running the main house mix may be glamorous, but it is not the spot for everyone. Some excel mixing ears, running broadcast, maintenance, and the list goes on and on.
Experience and knowledge can be planted, by showing and doing some trials in different areas and showing volunteers how things work.
Rehearsal is a good time to learn on an audio desk, for those ready to make that step. During rehearsal, it is nice to let a volunteer get behind a desk and see what the console does and how it is a tool to shape what is heard.
Even let the volunteer give mixing a shot, for a song during rehearsal. If there is a volunteer running part of rehearsal, make sure whoever is running the actual service has plenty of time to be set up for success. More often than not, a volunteer can be surprising on what they can do on a desk. At the very minimum, it is a good learning opportunity.
After an audio volunteer gets to pick up some experience and is running things on their own, starting to run things, it is imperative they are set up for success.
Yes, things will happen, and there will be times where a volunteer will need to use their training to resolve an issue.
On a day-to-day operation, it is not great to expect a volunteer to need to rebuild a Dante network each time they arrive to serve.
Having volunteers do extensive prep work and expecting things to be done timely is not a great way for volunteer retention or doing the worship team any favors, by causing rehearsal to be delayed.
Express gratitude for your audio volunteers. I am extremely blessed to have had the audio volunteers I have had. A simple “thank you” goes a long way and shows how they are valued. Occasional gifts, such as a small gift bag at Christmas, also goes a long way for showing the volunteer is valued, and they are appreciated. Little gestures go a long way.
There are many different ways that are not mentioned here on how to set up volunteers for success.
Hopefully, this is a good start or a good different perspective. It is a privilege getting to work with volunteers in audio, and I am grateful for them.
Good luck building your team!