Managing the audio and visual elements of a small church can be quite challenging. Most, if not all, of the team are usually volunteers, there isn’t a lot of feedback unless something is going wrong, and the team often experiences a lot of transition. Below, the Technology Director at Bethel Church shares how he creates and manages a thriving tech team and pulls from his experiences at smaller churches.
The tech team at Bethel operates mostly with the use of volunteers who have gone through or are going through training to become paid technicians. We have a huge heart for getting people connected through volunteering and they always work alongside our paid staff. This gives us an opportunity to pour into and train up the ever-changing group of ministry students that come through Bethel each year. One of the biggest challenges that comes with building a team of volunteers is commitment and we have found that it really comes down to keeping people engaged and connected.
Vision/Expectations: We start by meeting with new volunteers to communicate our vision, goals, commitment requirements and training process. It’s easy to want to throw someone on the team as soon as they show interest, but we’ve found that it’s very important to communicate upfront our expectations and commitments. If we come to a mutual agreement to move forward, we begin a month-long trial period for training. After this trial period, we meet to review progress and map out next steps of involvement.
Team Structure: We rely heavily on a structure that empowers team leaders to oversee each department of sound, lighting and presentation. These leaders are responsible for training personnel and reporting back to the Technical Director. The positions don’t need to demand a lot of time and can be led by volunteers.
Depending on the amount of equipment needed to run your church services and the size of your teams, it is extremely helpful to organize a rotating schedule for volunteers to balance their workload. It’s good for volunteers to have enough responsibility that motivates them to take ownership of their position, but not enough to burn them out. Even if you only need two people to operate equipment on any given weekend, you should train more people so that you can rotate personnel. A good balance is having volunteers serve twice per month.
Training: A sustainable team is built with people who want to stick around for a while, and a good training process will help highlight these key people. Our general plan is to pair new volunteers with their team lead for a four week process that starts with watching the task being performed then transitions into allowing the trainee to do the task under the overseer. We also encourage an initial mid-week meeting if possible to allow for more focused attention.
The final step in our program is to actually empower the trainee to teach someone else. We believe that you gain a greater level of understanding in your skill if you are able to teach it to someone else. This allows you to free up more of your time by delegating the task of training while at the same time keeping your team engaged by giving them a sense of ownership as they pour back into newer members.
Community: Community is vital! We have monthly community nights with all of our personnel (paid and volunteer) to ensure that we are building relationships with each other. Sometimes that looks like having a pool party with worship by a fire, and other times it looks like going out and playing paintball as a team. There is something about a sense of belonging to a team that unites people in your ministry.
People recognize and value being included, and they value a leader that they can approach, especially outside of the “ministry” setting. Building relationships with your team gives you leverage to not only pour into their lives professionally, but also personally and spiritually.
If a person leaves our team with only knowledge of their craft, we haven’t done our job.
We are entrusted with people for a reason greater than simply our need for their knowledge.
In the end, it’s imperative to remember the greater purpose that is propelling the tasks of the tech team and to consistently remind the team of this. Through clearly communicating vision, managing expectations, training effectively and cultivating healthy community, you can grow a sustainable audio/visual team.