Why Finding Tech Volunteers Is So Hard

Photo courtesy of Paul Townsend

Photo courtesy of Paul Townsend

A few weeks back, I was having lunch with a young TD. He was telling me about his experiences coming into a church with a much older volunteer tech team, and how he was able to rally them together into a well-functioning team. I said, “That’s great because finding good volunteers is one of the hardest things most TDs have to do.” As a natural people person, he asked why it tended to be so hard. As I shared with him my answer, it occurred to me that this might make a good post.

What’s Your Type?

A number of years ago, I was in a career change process. During that process, I took the Meyers-Briggs personality type assessment. Thankfully, not only did I take the assessment and get a result, I had a certified assessor interpret the results for me. That was the best part. I am an INTP; Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, Perceiving kind of guy. 

That all made sense to me. What I didn’t know is that the 16 personality types are clustered around the four sets of middle letters; ST, SF, NT, NF. He told me something that I’m going to come back to in a minute that will blow your mind. But first, here’s an observation I’ve made over the years. Most people that gravitate towards the technical arts are NTs. In fact, almost every person I’ve asked in the last 5 years has told me they are an NT, usually an INTx. 

The I makes perfect sense; we tend to be introverted, and thus we prefer the relative safety of a quiet tech booth with only a few people around us instead of a crazy children’s classroom with 30 people. Intuitive also makes sense. We tend to just know how stuff works. People that are good at mixing may not be able to explain why they set the EQ the way they did, they just know it was the right thing to do and it sounded better. People who rock at lighting just know the right time to bring them up and bring them down. We’re also thinkers, we live inside our own heads. We like long walks to our thoughts. The P/J continuum seems to be more of a wild car, and I’m not sure it has much bearing on what I want to talk about, so we’ll table that for now.

We Are Not Legion

So back to the thing my interpreter told me. He informed me that the worlds population was made up of roughly 4% NT people, roughly distributed at 1% each in the four NT types. Stop and let that sink in for a minute. The people that are more than likely to volunteer to do tech at your church make up 4% of the population at large. 

Let’s assume that your church congregation has a roughly typical distribution of personality types, and let’s do some math. If you’re a 500 person church, that means there are roughly .04x500 or 20 people that would have the personality type that gravitates toward tech. A 100 person church has about 4. A thousand church might have 40.

Now, those are the people that might be prospective candidates. That doesn’t take into account whether or not they have the desire, time or willingness to serve. But think about this: If you’re a TD at a mid-sized church of 1,000 (and technically, that’s a large church, but roll with me), your most likely potential pool of tech volunteers is 40 people. And if we apply the 80/20 principle to that, we’d find that about 8 of them would be willing to volunteer.

It’s Not Your Fault

One of my favorite scenes in Good Will Hunting is near the end when Dr. Maquire starts telling Will that it’s not his fault. He Will says he knows. Sean tells him again. And again and again and again until it finally beings to sink in. It’s a powerful moment. I like to tell TDs the same thing; it’s not your fault. I know many TDs who keep taking hits from leadership on their small tech team. The children’s department will put out a call for volunteers and get 60 people signed up. Tech will put out a call and we’ll get 2. And those two will only replace the two that left last month. It’s not your fault.

What we do is hard. It takes a lot of work, time and skill to master. Frankly, almost anyone could work in the children’s department. Almost anyone can be a greeter. About four percent of the world is likely to be in tech. And some of those people will be terrible at it.

There’s not a good answer to this, and I don’t have any secret tricks for making it better. If I can persuade him, I’m hoping to get this young TD to write some articles for us because he’s actually quite good at building teams. But the bottom line is that it’s hard. It’s hard for all of us, so don’t feel bad. Hopefully, this makes you feel a little better.

Test the Theory

In closing, if you know your Meyer’s-Briggs profile, leave it in the comments below. I’d like to see if this holds. Like I said, almost everyone I’ve asked in the last 5 years has been an NT, but I’m always up for a larger sample. Even if I have to re-think my theory.

Three Things to Stop Doing in 2017

Remember last year when I told you we had some new authors coming on deck here at CTA? Well, I'm excited to introduce you to another one. Matt Lewis is the Pastor of Worship and Arts at Beachpoint Church in Huntington Beach, CA. I've known Matt for a few years now and have always been impressed with his heart for the church, worship and tech guys. A former tech guy himself, he understands what we go through, and I think he's going to bring a great perspective to this site. Welcome Matt!

I hope this post finds you well and that your Christmas and New Year’s brought you memorable times with your teams and families. Now that 2016 is behind me and 2017 stretches out in front of me, I find myself reflecting on the past year and the ways in which this year will be different. Out of that time of reflection, I was struck with the thought of how much lies ahead in 2017. There will be plenty to do, so I thought it could be good to consider the things we should stop doing that will result in leading healthy ministries. These three things aren’t necessarily easy to implement, but I believe they are game changers for each of us and will help us to continue in ministry for a long time.
Saying Yes To Everything
When was the last time you nicely said, “No, I can't do that?” No tech artist wants to utter the words that something can't be done, but your sanity may be on the line if you don't say, “No.” For some reason, technical artists get asked to do a lot; sometimes the seemingly impossible on a shoestring budget. And, the seemingly impossible gets pulled off, over and over and over again. At what cost to the technical arts team? If the cycle of saying yes to every little thing that comes your way never stops, both you and your team will burn out. What’s the solution?

  • Be honest with yourself about your and your team’s capacity
  • Adopt “No” into your vocabulary and learn to use it regularly and politely
  • It’ll feel weird at first, but keep honoring the boundaries you’ve set in place

Doing It All Yourself
When was the last time you didn’t operate a piece of equipment on the weekend? If you find yourself in the production booth, mixing week after week—and you like it so much you won't let another person step in—then something is wrong. Attempting to be the guy shouldn’t be the goal of leading a tech arts ministry. Being the guy means everyone comes to you, for everything, all the time. The culture this creates in your organization is one of the false belief that you, as the tech person, are indispensable; without you, things just wouldn't happen. What happens when you leave? Where does this leave the organization?

  • Empower people to exceed your skill level
  • Build the culture around a vision not a personality
  • Lead from the sidelines, not the field
  • Giveaway responsibilities—consider what things on your plate you can entrust to others on your team

Operating Without Systems, Standards & Processes
Do you know the how, what and why of you technical arts ministry? If the answer to these questions aren't contained in writing and accessible to your entire team, then it will be nearly impossible to onboard and train new team members, keep consistency week to week and build a culture that is healthy and ordered. It will take the time to sit down and put onto paper what is contained in your mind, but the rewards will be great. What are some practical tips for next steps?

  • Utilize Google Docs as a file sharing platform for your entire team—it’s free and simply amazing!
  • Create a weekly checklist of things that have to get done each week
  • Draw up stage plots and spreadsheet input lists templates
  • Craft “How To” docs/videos for your team as points of training and reference for your entire team
  • Provide written clarity for each role by writing up ministry role descriptions for each role on your team (similar to a job description)—you have one of those, so should people on your team
  • Come up with a clear on-boarding process for your team, providing clear steps for how to get in the game