Recruiting Volunteers

Twice this week I have been asked by different churches how we go about recruiting volunteers. This a giant weight hanging over the heads of Tech Directors and Worship Leaders in all kinds of churches. I know because I have asked this same question many times in the past and still do. What I have found, is that there is no magical formula for this. Some things work well at one church and flop at another. I have tried many things as a TD, most have gained me zero volunteers, but my current model seems to be working.

For the last 2 years, there has been a “Join the Tech Team” slide in the pre/post announcement rotation. From that I think maybe I have had 2 people contact me, neither joined the team. We created a video story of one of our key volunteers (See it here) which went over really well, but did open the flood gates of volunteers. What I began to see was that to get people motivated to serve on tech, I needed more than a commercial – we needed a personal touch.

Much like inviting a friend to church, I began instilling in our current team that similar to a doctor’s office: referrals are our best recruitment tool. Someone is much more likely to come to church if they are asked, same with serving, a personal touch goes a long way in getting people in the door.

I encourage our team to bring people with them. I’ll put a headset on them, or even put them to work on an open position. People experiencing the behind the scenes for themselves and realizing it’s not as scary as it looks from the audience’s perspective. New people will believe the a current volunteer who says it’s easy than a paid tech guy. There is that assumed idea that of course I find it easy, that’s my job.

This is what I have found that works for us. I still leave the bulletin asks in every so often, I don’t want to give up the print real estate. The pre/post service slides are still running each week too. Every church is different so some ways may work better for you than at another church. You can’t go wrong with becoming more personal though. So get out there and start trying new things.

What are ways you recruit?

What hasn’t worked in the past?

Burnout

Burn out is all to common in today’s church. Maybe it has been rampant for years, but I am only familiar with it going back as far as 1995 or 96 when I started getting involved. Those in ministry know that Christmas and Easter are busy and there are no complaints from me there. The problem comes in when every week is like Christmas, and there is no rhythm to the work load. This leads to burn out. I have looked burnout in the eyes twice in my ministry time. I have been so close to burn out, I offered it a Tic-Tac.

I love to work hard, and it doesn’t help that in the church I am paid to do the thing I would work just as hard for if I was a volunteer. So, in a way I am predisposed to burning out if left to my own. Burnout leaves only two options in my mind – Option 1: Leave that Ministry or Option 2: Realize what it is, seek help from those you trust, and fix it. I have tried both options, Option 2 is by far the better. Option 1 leaves you bitter, angry, and hurts relationships. God has not called us into ministry so that we can be used up and tossed aside. He wants us to be healthy and productive, but how do we get there?

This past week I had hit a wall, our team was down a guy and before us was not just any mountain of work, this was back to back mountains. There wasn’t a nicely paved path either to ascend to the top. Due to situations out of our control our buffer window on these two projects had collapsed and both had to be done simultaneously. Now, a week of hard work isn’t bad, but this work was on-top of my already full plate. I had finally hit a wall and this left me zombie-esk wandering around the building in a sleep deprived state. With weeks of 10 hour days being a “DOer” I’d come home, open the laptop and put on my “Leader” hat for another 5 hours. I was seeing my family more via FaceTime than in real life.

When you hit a wall, it hurts…

My ministry was left bloody and hurting, wondering what was going on. Suddenly I was not doing my job for the glory of the Lord. Resentment had taken hold, anger was brewing and frankly I was about to Auto-Tune the sermon and walk away. I was no longer a team player, I was a team complainer. This is a very dangerous place to be in ministry. If left untreated it leads to wounds that are very hard to heal. Knowing this, I reached out to the leadership team above me. Surely, they do not want me to fail, surely they don’t want my job to cause a disruption in my marriage. But why were they allowing this to happen? Can’t they see what’s happening to me? It turns out that as tech people, we’re very good at making what we do seem simple. We blend into the background – we’re the closest thing you’ll see to an actual ninja. We make it look easy, and we push until the job is done. I have yet to meet a tech guy that keeps banker’s hours. Our schedule is based on projects not work hours.

I cried out…

God is very creative in His timing. This past weekend while I’m hitting the wall, my senior pastor preaches a sermon on “Play” a sermon about having margin in your life. (I highly encourage you to watch it here.) This sermon, empowered me to go to my leaders, and in tears tell them I need their help, or I was going to suffer from total and utter burnout. They heard me and without going into details of all the fixes, I am writing this post from time off that was granted me, and with much higher morale. I found out through just talking to those in leadership over me, how valued I was to the team, how much my sacrifice meant to them and that I was not just a mule hired to get the job done.

Preventing Burnout…

Preventing burn out is a team sport. I really takes you understanding yourself, and your leadership understanding your limits. I love what I do, so I tend to become a work-o-holic, pushing through to complete my tasks. I don’t always see what I do as work so those lines get blurred as well. Since as I like to say, I “*Make miracles happen,” (with complete humility, of course) my leadership has a lot of trust in me. That trust usually means more and more responsibility. Then with the added responsibility I don’t want to let them down even more and a vicious cycle  ensues.

  • Communicate your needs, no one knows you better than yourself, if you’re not telling those in authority over you that you’re in danger of overload there isn’t much they can do. They may just think everything is fine.
  • Surround yourself with people who know you. My wife is my biggest cheerleader, she’s also my biggest reality check. I also take part in a monthly Tech Director Lunch, if you don’t have one of these group in your area, start one. This is such a pick me up each month.
  • Establish boundaries and stick to them. I have wanted to full out smack people who tell me, I just need to learn to say “NO.” My response was always, No isn’t an option, I need this job, if I can’t do it, they’ll find someone who can. This is not a healthy attitude, if your church or business is asking you to sacrifice family on the altar of ministry or work, it’s time to leave. I have started forcing myself to turn off my work email on my iPhone when I come home. That way I can still play Angry Birds, but not be tempted to check it. Even if I get a personal email, my work email doesn’t show up in my inbox. I also have a contact policy for when I’m on vacation, Only call me if people’s salvation is at risk. Meaning, if it is going to keep someone from engaging with the Lord that weekend then call me, and I’ll help. If one of the Line-Array falls from the ceiling, you still have the other 2 arrays, people will hear the message. (Realistically, if the Line-Array fell, I would want to hear about that.)
  • Go home at the end of the day. If you’re at all like me, you have a To-Do list longer than Santa’s naughty and nice list. You’re not going to complete it all in an 8 hour day (sorry to be a downer.) Do what you need to do that day and get home. I try to tell myself to work smarter, and as a very ADD person, this can be a challenge. I love starting projects, I need to stay busy, but my family needs me more.

I know these may seem like you have heard them all before and that’s true, you have. I haven’t found the secret formula for weekday success. I am just trying to apply what other people much smarter than I am have implemented. I don’t have this all figured out, but am trying daily to keep a healthy work/life balance and not burn out in ministry. I’m no good to the Kingdom if I become bitter and burned out towards it.

 

What are some ideas you have or use to avoid burnout?

* Disclaimer: I am not calming to be able to pull off actual miracles

 

Let’s Get Together

Tech Guys in churches are islands. I am not sure who coined that phrase but it is so true. The team that is first to arrive and last to leave often goes unnoticed. They are also often times not understood, “What do you mean we need a video switcher? We just bought one 10 years ago.” So while staff meetings are good, and going to lunch with other departments is a great thing, (see my other post: Taco Tuesday) you need some solidarity with like minded people.

Here in the Indianapolis area we have a group of Tech Directors that meets every month for lunch. We gather on the 2nd Wednesday at a central church and meet in their common area. Sometimes we’ll have a leadership lesson, other times the conversation is just to good to interrupt. This time together re-energizes me, it allows me to talk through issues and get new perspectives. The great thing is that it is attended by churches of all sizes, and since we all agree that we’re on the same team we leave denominational issues at the door. We also leave church size out of the conversation, we can talk tech and how things are working, but we want the church of 300 to contribute just as much as the church of 6,000. Through this relationship, we have become somewhat of rental houses for each other. Swapping mics, stage design pieces, and lights with one another to help out.

These relationships are imperative to keeping a healthy ministry going, you cannot survive as an island, so build a bridge and get out there.

Getting what you want…

I grew up watching Merry Melodies in the morning while I would be getting ready for school. Almost every morning there was an episode where Willie Coyote relentlessly chased after that on thing he wanted… the Road Runner. He was ruthless in that en devour. There are two things that come to my mind when thinking about Mr. Coyote, am I chasing after those things I think are important with all my being and are those things I’m chasing after worth it? Willie put so much energy, money, and his life on the line for one dinner. Now I know the purists say that Willie did catch the Road Runner at one point. In the episode “Soup or Sonic” right after being shrunk to a fraction of his original size, clings to the leg of the regular size Road Runner,  he then turns to the “camera” and holds up a sign:

“Okay wise guys, you always wanted me to catch him. Now what do I do?”

While technically he did catch him, he wasn’t in any position to partake in the victory.

For me, I had a dream to be a sound engineer for a touring band. When I was 11 years old I was in the audience of a Newsboys’ concert in my home town and said, “I’m going to tour with them.” 12 years later after spending almost every weekend working for regional sound companies, and then onto small tours out of Nashville. I found myself sitting across the table at catering from Peter Furler and the rest of the Newsboys – dream accomplished. I came to realize though after years of touring, this dream wasn’t what I thought it was, I loved it but it wasn’t for me.

I believe we are called to pursue that passion God has put inside us with all our being. With as much tenacity as Willie Coyote trying to get that one Road Runner dinner. Just don’t forget to stop and take a gut check now and then. Make sure that thing you think you want is really worth it. I thought being a sound engineer is what God created me to be, to be on road. What I am finding is, He’s asking me to use those gifts to pursue the real thing He wants me doing. What I thought was a passion for audio and all things techie is really a heart for people and their relationship to Christ. Being an audio engineer is just the mode He has blessed me with to open the door. So, before you order that next item from the ACME company, sit down and pray, ask God what is your deep down passion. The thing that drives you and keeps you up at night, is it a selfish passion or a Holy one? Open yourself up to God’s ideas, you’ll be surprised at what you can do then.

Are you doing what you thought you would be as a kid? How is God shaping and changing what you’re passionate about? Leave me a comment, let’s talk about it.

Thoughts on the Global Leadership Summit

Preparing for this year’s Global Leadership Summit has me reflecting about previous years. I am often asked by people who have never been “what’s so important about it?” My answer is always: It changed my career. Before attending the Summit I was always focused on the Tech and not the People. I was a nerd who wanted to be a leader and didn’t know how. I can still hear Bill Hybels (Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church) saying in his opening talk in 2010, “Leaders move people from HERE to THERE.” That’s when it hit me, I am not moving anyone from anywhere doing things the way I’ve always done them. Now let me take a moment and explain, there is nothing wrong with the ultra techie. The guy that can spit out model numbers from memory and can tell you the ins and outs of all the latest gear. But I had to make s decision, I had to decide if I was going to be the ultra tech and if so, was I willing to put the effort into it. See, I have never been good at model numbers and such. I always feel embarrassed when asked what kind of mics I am using and end up getting the numbers all messed up. I was going to have to hunker down and study if I was going to be able to run with the big tech dogs.

This all started a stirring in me that I am still working on today. It’s a feeling that started in my heart and is making its way to my brain as I figure out how to implement it. I had to ask myself the tough question: “Can I be okay walking away from mixing sound and let someone else do it?” I found that answer at the Leadership Summit, “Yes, I can.” God put a new passion in my heart, centered around my old passion. I still love tech, and am still a nerd. But now I find joy in helping others find that passion. I find greater joy in building a team than pulling off a flawless performance. Hybels went on to say: “Figure out what it is that God wants you to do in this world, then move people from HERE to There.” I have figured out what God wants to do with me at this point in my life.  It’s not being the front of house guy, it’s not being the road manager for a band, it is leading and caring for a team of volunteers at a church for the glory of God.

 

 

What has God called you to do? Are you doing it, or still trying to fight down the path of your own wants and desires?

 

 

I urge you to check out the Global Leadership Summit and see what changes God wants to make in you.

 

 

(As an added note, I want to give Tim Schraeder a major thank you for his meticulous notes. I used his notes to augment my own and want to thank him for that. His notes can be found at: http://www.timschraeder.com)

 

Taco Tuesday

One of the guys on our Tech Staff started this thing called: Taco Tuesday. It’s a simple process where on Tuesdays we go to Taco Bell for lunch. (Can you see how clever we are?)It started out small, just he and I. Then another staff member joined, then 2 more. Suddenly we’re have to take multiple cars and get there early to save tables. It has become the phenomenon.

I can already hear you asking me to get to the point, and I will please bear with me. I was realizing the other day as I walked the main office corridor at Northview, people would yell from their office, “Almost time for Taco Tuesday?” I was blown away, something silly like tacos on Tuesday has become a staff wide event.

This unforced, non mandatory weekly meeting of friends has been a better bonding agent than any retreat, or staff meeting exercise ever. Sharing a meal together with no set agenda (we have had some crazy conversations) really has allowed people to get to know one another in a meaningful way.

Look around your workplace and invite someone for tacos, it will improve your work environment in no time.