Leadership Lessons From My Mentor

Last time, I told you the story of how I ended up in technical ministry. It's really all due to my first Pastor, Ron Bohem. He recently suffered a medical emergency that nearly cost him his life. And it cost a lot to keep him here. I asked you to consider donating to his medical expense fund, and if you haven't, go back and read that post, then help out. This blog exists in large part due to his influence in my life, so if you've ever learned anything from me, you can pay it forward by helping my friend Ron

And, after reading this post, you can't say you never learned anything because I'm going to share with you some things I learned about leadership from him.

Serve Alongside

When I began attending Western Reserve Grace Brethren Church—which we all called WRGBC or Grace for obvious reasons—they met in a middle school. Everything had to be brought in and out every week. Guess who was leading the charge? Pastor Ron and his family. I started attending in the summer, and I will never forget the first big snowstorm of the winter. I had a long drive, so I left plenty of time and got there early. It was blowing and snowing and freezing outside, and there was Ron, bundled up in a parka with his snowblower clearing the sidewalks so we could get into the building without tracking through snowdrifts. 

A few years later, when we built our first building, the congregation was a bit larger, but the budget was still tight. He negotiated with the builder that we could do some of the labor. Again, Ron was right in the middle of it. He spent many days alongside other men in the church pulling cable through conduit, framing, painting and whatever else needed to be done. He didn't just walk in, tell everyone they were doing a great job then leave, he worked with—and in many cases harder and longer—than the rest of us. 

I've never forgotten that lesson. In my years as a TD, I always strived to be the fisrt one there and the last one out. I'm pretty sure no one on my team would tell you I worked less than they did. Whether it was a weekend service or a big event, I was there with them, getting dirty and sweaty, making sure we were getting things done. 

This kind of leadership creates a team that will do almost anything. I know my guys and gals would have done anything for me, because they did. And I'm pretty sure it was because they knew from experience that I would do anything for them. 

Empower High Capacity People

When I offered to start the student ministry, Ron said, "Go for it!" And while he gave me plenty of support, he largely stayed out of it. If he saw there was a better way I could be doing something, or someone I should meet, he told me about it. But he never micromanaged.

I led my tech teams the same way. When I came across someone who I knew had mad skills and a heart to do the right thing, I stayed out of their way. I resourced them as much as possible, and always stayed close in case they needed something. But when you find someone, paid or unpaid, who is good at their job, let them go! Chances are they will accomplish much more than you could.

Invest in People

While doing student ministry, Ron helped me get connected with other staff youth leaders in our district. He took me to conferences. The church paid to send my wife and I to the SonLife course one year, even though I know it was a huge stretch financially. He saw the value in helping people get better at what they do.

As much as I could, I tried to do the same for my staff. Through regular training, we raised everyone's skill levels. I've paid to take my staff and volunteers to conferences when the church wouldn't  because I think it's that important. Everybody wins when we all get better at what we do.

Love People

Ron is a lover of people. Which is good because I was likely pretty hard to love back then. I was a cocky 22-year old who thought he knew a lot more than he actually did. But he loved me through that, and gently shaped my thinking so I would be much more effective. 

We often find people who are hard to love in our tech ministries. The type of people who gravitate toward tech are not usually the super outgoing, happy-go-lucky types. Instead, we tend to be introverted, quiet, smart (and sometimes pretty proud of that), and maybe even moody and dark. 

In spite of all that, as technical leaders, we need to love people. This can be a challenge, because often we fit those descriptors pretty well ourselves. But never lose sight that it's about people.

And sometimes it's just about treating people well. I remember how Ron treated the crusty old electrician who wired our building. This guy didn't like working for churches because he felt they were full of hypocrites. But Ron brought regular coffee and donuts, listened to him complain, and just genuinely cared for him. To this day, the way I treat outside contractors is influenced by what I saw there. 

There are many more things I learned in the nearly 10 years we served together. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't take any credit for what is happening here at CTA or in the technical arts community in general. But his influence was great in my life, and as I said, it's unlikely I would be doing what I am today were it not for the investment he made in my 20+ years ago. 

And that's why I'm not going to be shy in using my influence to again ask you to donate to his medical expense fund. Think of it as a small price to pay for what you learn here. Thanks in advance for helping out!

Roland

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Pay It Forward

My friend, Pastor Ron Boehm and his wonderful wife, Chery. Read on for the story of the eye...

My friend, Pastor Ron Boehm and his wonderful wife, Chery. Read on for the story of the eye...

ChurchTechArts readers, I need your help. It's not very often I come to you with a request; for the most part, I simply share my thoughts with you. But today, I need you to pitch in and help a dear friend. 

But before I get to the details of the request, I want to give you a little background on me. This is some of the "never before seen, behind the scenes footage" of the journey that brought me here. 

I had an encounter with Jesus in the summer of 1988 and it changed my life. Not long after that, I got connected with a small church plant on the southeast side of the greater Cleveland, OH area. 

This church met in a middle school cafeteria, and when I walked in the first time, there were about 70 adults there. I soon got to know all of them and still count many as friends to this day. Little did I know that my encounter with this church, and particularly the pastor and his family, would change the course of my life. 

Pastor Ron Boehm had planted the church a few years earlier. We quikly became friends and about a year later when God called me to start a student ministry in the church (there were about 8 middle and high school students at the time), he encouraged and trusted me with pretty much the whole thing--despite the fact that I had virtually no experience. 

As I lived 45 minutes from the city where the church met, and we had youth group on Sunday evenings, I began spending Sunday afternoons with the Boehm family. They truly welcomed me into their home and family and I learned a ton from all of them. Ron and I would often sit on the back porch after lunch and discuss ministry, theology, technology and occasionally Greek. I truly received my theological training from him. 

After I moved closer, we began meeting every Wednesday for breakfast. We studied books, read the Bible and talked about life, ministry, theology and more. We met almost every week for 5 years. It was a blessed time for me. While I've learned a lot about ministry in the past 10 years of being on staff, the foundation was all laid by Pastor Ron. 

In fact, the reason you are reading this website right now is in large part due to the fact that he was honest with me in the spring of 1993. We just had our first daughter, and I was feeling anxious to get off the road (I was doing corporate production at the time). Our little student ministry had grown to about 30 students, and I had about 4 other people working with me on the ministry. I felt a clear call to ministry and figured that the standard career path was to become a youth pastor.

But I also began to realize that I was really good at this tech thing. I noticed that I could build systems in my head, connect the dots and visualize how things would work almost effortlessly. I also realized not everyone could do that. I felt I was at a crossroads. So, at one of our Wednesday meetings, I laid it out for him. I asked him straight up, should I quit my job, go to seminary and become a youth pastor or find a way to serve God somehow using my technology skills. 

I'll never forget his answer. First he asked, "Do you want the truth?" I said, "Of course, that's why I asked." He responded with, "I think you're really good at the tech thing, and you should continue doing that." The die was cast.

Now, I didn't know it at the time, but I'm now pretty sure he knew that his answer was going to cost him his youth guy. But he loved me enough to be honest with me. 

About nine months later, I found myself starting the in-house video production group of our denomination's Christian Ed department. And pretty much from that time forward, I've been somehow involved with a career that serves the Kingdom using my technology skills. 

I was going to try to share with you some of the key things Ron taught me about leadership in this post, but this is going long, so I'll save that for next time. 

But here's where you come in. Ron has been busy helping churches get planted all over Ohio for the last few years. He raises his own support and does an amazing job serving young church planters. He recently had a pretty scary medical emergency. 

He suffered an abdominal aneurysm, which apparently, is a big deal. A very small percentage of people who have something like that even make it through surgery. He made it through two, and after 10 days in ICU, is home recovering. It's truly a miracle, especially when you consider as the situation was developing, he passed out and hit his head on a sink also fracturing his skull (hence the nice shiner in the picture above). 

As you can imagine, the LifeFlight, surgeries and 10 days in ICU did not come cheap. His kids have started a fund to help offset some of the medical expenses. I've made a sizeable donation as he had such a significant impact in my life. But there is a long way to goal to reach the goal. 

So here's the deal: About 14,000 people read this website monthly. If everyone gave a dollar, it would meet their goal; exceed it actually. If everyone gave up a Starbucks or a Caribou this week, we could really bless them.

Now, he doesn't know I'm asking you guys to pitch in. And as I said, I almost never come to you for anything. But I'm not exaggerating when I say you would not be reading ChurchTechArts if it were not for the influence of Ron in my life. So if you've ever learned anything, been encouraged or found a better way to do something by reading this blog, it's time to pay it forward. 

Here's the link to the GiveForward page they've set up. It takes under 3 minutes to donate, and I think this would be a great way for the Church to be the Church. I really want him to be able to focus on his recovery and not how they're going to pay for it. What do you say, can you spare a fiver or a ten-spot? Go do it now so you don't forget. And next time, I'll share with you some of the leadership wisdom that shaped the last 10 years of my ministry. Thanks for reading this far, and thanks for helping my friend and Pastor, Ron Boehm. Give now

“Gear

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Our Volunteers are Different

My crack squad of volunteers and staff from Easter weekend. We spent a lot of time together that week...

My crack squad of volunteers and staff from Easter weekend. We spent a lot of time together that week...

I got to spend some time last weekend training a bunch of volunteers of a church we were working with. It was a lot of fun for me to show up at a church where we just installed a new lighting console and see 8 guys standing there who wanted to learn how to run it. And this is in a church of under 1,000! As I was training, I got to thinking about something my former boss once said as we were discussing how we develop volunteers. 

One day he was standing in my office and our conversation turned to developing volunteers. He said, “What we do in worship arts is so different from other ministries in the church. Most ministries get their volunteers to do their work for them. We spend a ton of time with our volunteers and do the work with them.” Think about that for a minute, then pause to consider what it means for our volunteer development programs. When our church leaders say we need to bring more volunteers into our ministries, we have a much tougher road ahead of us than most do. This is not to knock what other ministries do; on the contrary, I’m simply pointing out how different our ministry process is.

Consider children’s ministry as an example. To bring a new volunteer in to teach a Sunday school class (or whatever your church calls them), you might sit down with them, lay out the expectations, the rules and show them the teaching materials. You might give them a mentor to work with for a few weeks, but after a relatively short time, you send them down the hall to lead their class. 

Now contrast that process with bringing a new FOH engineer on board. Taking someone from, “I’m interested in learning to run sound” to actually being able to run a service on their own can easily take a year, depending on the complexity of your system, your band, and services. Someone who has some experience may be able to get up to speed in a few months. Either way, you’ll spend a ton of time with that person one-on-one helping them learn the system, develop their skills and improve their mixes. Along the way, there may be mistakes that you’ll take heat for and you will probably spend dozens if not hundreds of hours with that volunteer.

Again, this is not to minimize what other ministries do; however bringing on a new FOH engineer or lighting tech is not the same as bringing on a new usher. That’s an important distinction to make when you start getting heat from leadership about why you don’t have more volunteers on your team. What we do takes a lot more time and investment; and the truth is there aren’t a whole lot of people in our congregations who even want to make that investment.

Now, none of this should dissuade us from wanting to develop volunteers. In fact, it should be one of our primary missions. It simply means we must be way more intentional about doing it, and we have to have the right expectations. We need to be the ones developing training programs, improving our systems to make them as volunteer-friendly as possible and keeping an eye out for people who have an interest in what we do. 

It’s easy to get discouraged about all this, especially when you see other ministries having their fall kickoff with dozens new volunteers and you’re still struggling to get one or two up to speed. Just remember, what we do is hard. It takes a lot of time to become really proficient in the technical arts (not unlike musicians or vocalists), and we need to pour into those volunteers until they get there.

Roland

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