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.


Today's post is brought to you by Heil Sound. Established in 1966, Heil Sound Ltd. has developed many professional audio innovations over the years, and is currently a world leader in the design and manufacture of large diaphragm dynamic, professional grade microphones for live sound, broadcast and recording.

Design or Art?

Photo courtesy of Kevin Dooley

Photo courtesy of Kevin Dooley

The following is a guest post from Scott Carman, the Executive Director of Flexstage, a Visioneering Studio. 

Recently, I had the pleasure of being a part of the SALT Conference in Nashville.  SALT is a celebration of visual worship with some of the top talents in the industry. Just prior to this event, our friend, Stephen Proctor, put together A Night of Illumination. When I arrived at the event I truly had no idea how illuminating it would be. 

The night was held in a space that was quintessentially Nashville while also being a great representation of its owner, a true artist.  Stephen invited several people to share musically and through their words of encouragement and creativity. The evening culminated with Mike Sessler and Van Metschke recording their ChurchTechWeekly podcast with Stephen and some of the performers. During the podcast a question was posed about whether there is a difference between Design and Art. At that moment, God grabbed my attention and I contemplated this question through the lens of the evening and God’s heart for how the church is presenting His truths.

Is there really any difference between design and art? We tend to use the terms interchangeably. Often we will see a design and declare how artistic it looks. Just a few thoughts about the distinctions we should keep in mind when presenting God’s story.

Often, when we design graphics, a stage set or a building, we are seeing an artistic expression. Design asks everyone to have the same reaction or experience from interacting with it. Design seeks continuity of message and interpretation to maximize its proposed impact.  Its purpose is to incite commonality in the response to its product. It is intentional. Interaction is most often external. In other words, design is for the head.

Conversely, art invites people to experience it and interpret it where they are in their lives and individually. It doesn't demand or expect a singular view or right answer. Art has intention but its impact is often unintentional. Its purpose is to cause introspection and a personalization of response.  Interaction is most often internal; art targets the heart.

Design has a demographic profile, art does not. Design is often created for sameness, to build a reaction over time. It likes continuity and creating a familiar-ness. Art is meant to change over time.

Art can be expressed through well-executed design; or can be facilitated by design. Keep in mind, when art becomes part of the design, we have chosen a specific interpretation or portion of the art to facilitate our designed message, a desired result aimed at a subsection of the populace.

Now, let me be clear, I don’t have any problem with design and do not place one above the other in this analysis. Our team spends most of every day “designing” the facilities and systems that will be the home to so many church goers. Design is critical to the “creation” process. The bible makes very clear when God says in Jeremiah 1:5 “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.” He designed us in His image. He goes on to say in the second half of the verse, “Before you were born I set you apart…” It is unspeakable joy that we can see His art fulfilled in each of us through the lives we live. This is God’s artwork expressed through the design. 

Using this logic, design provides us the template within which art can be better expressed. This allows for some commonality of design across several different facilities. However, it does not need to be confined to sameness. The art is expressed through the unique story that you and your congregation present. God’s greatest beauty can be expressed through the art of this story.

There is room for both art and design in the creation of a church space or the implementation of an AVL design. The proper execution is accomplished only when we are honest about the intention of each in the space. Ultimately, we are only trying to convey the unique story that God has created in and through us. It is up to us to find the art in our story.


Today's post is brought to you by myMix. myMix is an intuitive, easy-to-use personal monitor mixing and multi-track recording system that puts each user in control of their own mix! myMix features two line-level balanced 1/4" TRS outputs and one 1/8" (3.5mm) headphone output, the ability to store up to 20 named profiles on each station, 4-band fully parametric stereo output EQ recording of up to 18 tracks plus stereo on an SD card. Learn more at myMixaudio.com

Time Management Hacks

I am often asked how I manage to get done all that I get done in a week. When I was a TD, people regularly asked me how I was able to work full-time at the church and have time to write this blog, produce a weekly podcast, attend trade shows and have a family. The short answer to that question is that I don’t really do much else besides work. And I do that because I enjoy it and because that’s how God made me. I have a very high capacity for getting a lot of things done. 

But with that said, there is always room for improvement. And at some point, I’m going to want to slow down and do something besides work all the time. I came across this slide share quite some time ago, but it’s been sitting in my queue of things to write about. Having looked through it a few times, I thought it would be helpful to share, and of course, comment on. 

Plan for Less Work Each Day

I love the quote from David Heinenmeier of 37 Signals (#2). Too many of us plan to accomplish 8-9 hours of work each day and go home feeling like we failed because we kept getting interrupted. This is especially true in ministry, when interruptions are really opportunities to serve people. But if we have committed ourselves—even mentally—to getting 8 hours of tasks done, we’re going to be frustrated, or working longer. Now, there are times when we really do need to put our heads down and power through, but if we leave ourselves some margin, we actually get more done and are happier in the process.


#5 Reminds us that multi-tasking kills our focus. Now I know most of you out there are severely ADD and will answer email, order materials for a project, schedule the tech team on PCO and upload the sermon. All at once. I’m guilty of this as well. But I can tell you, when I turn off distractions and focus exclusively on one thing, I get a lot more done. At work, I’m known to put my IEMs in, quit Outlook and Safari and just work on a design. After 2 hours, I’ve usually made incredible progress, and then I have time to check in on email. Give it a try.

Working Longer is Not Better

Study after study is showing us that working 9, 10, 12 or 14 hours a day is just not productive. After about 8, our productivity falls off to the point that we’re really better off going home. I remember a time when I had been at it for about 16 hours and was trying to patch a lighting system. I had the patch list on one computer and the plot on the other. I was so tired that I could look at the patch list, then to the plot and forget what fixture I was dealing with. It was time to go home. 

Again, I get that there are times when we need to push through. But I know I get tired, slow and cranky when I work too long, and I’m not really helping anyone. Knowing that I have to get things done in 40 hours makes me work more efficiently, and I go home feeling a lot better. 

Delegate. Often.

John Maxwell reminds us in #20 that if we can get something done 80% as well by someone else, we should let them do it. Now, I know this goes against the grain of all my fellow perfectionists out there. But I can tell you that your standards are too high. I know mine are. For the vast majority of tasks, if something is done to 80% of our high standards, it’s still darn close to 100% for everyone else. So let it go and focus on the things only you can do (#18).

This may even mean getting a volunteer to do something you are currently doing. At my last church, I enlisted one of our most committed video directors to schedule the video teams. It wasn’t a ton of work each month, but he had a passion for video and the team, and did a great job of making sure we were staffed each weekend. In fact, in the four years he did that while I was there, I rarely even thought about it. Having that task out of my queue freed me up to do other things; like upgrade the system the team worked on. 

What is your favorite time management hack?


Today's post is brought to you by Pacific Coast Entertainment. Pacific Coast Entertainment is the premier event production company servicing Southern California and the western states. PCE offers a complete line of Lighting, Audio, Video, and Staging equipment for rentals, sales and installs. Where old fashion customer service meets high tech solutions. PCE, your one stop tech resource.