It's All About The Volunteers, Baby!

Not the Benjamins or the Pentiums (sorry for the obscure pop-culture references...).I'll get right to the point, a technical ministry in a church runs on volunteers. That may seem obvious to some, but I've become more aware of what I consider to be a disturbing trend in some churches. As churches get larger and begin to add specialized staff, it seems that volunteers sometimes become regarded as a necessary evil.

I was recently talking with some folks from another church about technical arts directors they encountered. It seemed most had little regard for the "volunteer thing," and would actually just prefer to do it themselves. One thing I've felt God teaching me over the last 2 years or so is that people matter so much more than the process or product. If we as church staff are not investing in the lives of our volunteers, we are not only missing a huge opportunity, but also failing to do what God's called us to.

Something I've seen happen far too often in my 20 years of church life is a pattern of tech people being part of the team for a while then suddenly, feeling like "it's time to move on." They leave the ministry, sometimes the church and go somewhere else where they will serve for a while, then leave again. Why is this so? Here's my theory:

Tech people, by nature, tend to be less relational. We like our gear, and we like to make stuff work. After a few years of watching the people on stage get all the accolades for "a great service," and never feeling appreciated, they leave--hoping to find something better down the road. Because a tech arts director or worship pastor never invested in them, they feel no sense of connection to the ministry. We all need someone to invest in us. Because the tech ministry is likely to be the primary point of contact with the Body, that task should fall to the tech arts director.

But how can that happen with volunteers are viewed with disdain? That's what I find troubling. For me, the volunteers provide the energy for what I do. And I'm not a people person! But I really get excited seeing volunteers grow--whether in skill level, personally or spiritually. When we have the opportunity to invest in the life of someone, that pays dividends that we may not even appreciate in this life.

I really believe the role of a church leader is not to become indispensable, or even to multiply themselves. Rather, I think we should be multiplying our influence. By building teams of growing capabilities, and investing in the lives of others, we can truly make an impact on our world. Sure, if the church just hired "professional" talent to produce media, mix sound, run lights and video, the overall quality of the production would likely be higher. But the quality of the ministry would surely not be. When we allow volunteers to use the gifts given them by God in service to the Body, everyone wins. It's up to us to figure out how to make that happen.