How To Lead Volunteers When You Don’t Have Time

Alex Sawyer

FILO ConferenceIf each of us can become more effective as not only a technical artist, but also as a Christ follower, we can help our churches become more effective at accomplishing their mission. Bring your team to experience community with other technical artists from around the world to learn new skills and to be reminded that what you do matters. Being first in and last out isn’t for everyone, but for those of us who live and breathe it, we believe our the FILO Conference is the perfect place to feel connected to people who get you and want to see you succeed in this noble calling of FILO. Please join us if you are able at this special event.

Here at FILO, one of the most frequent challenges we hear about is how to lead volunteers. Church production is busy and it’s easy to feel stuck when we need to spend most of our time on production systems. How can we make more time to work on developing our volunteers?

I have some ideas for you, but first I need to share a hard truth. The pressing needs of the church–the next set design, the next ministry event, or the handheld mic that just died in the kid’s wing – will always demand your time. There’s no way around it, there’s no shortcut – you have to make time to invest in your volunteers. However, I want to share with you 2 ways you can keep leading volunteers at the forefront of your work.

Make volunteer growth part of your regular rhythms

It’s important to make volunteer growth part of your annual, weekly, and monthly rhythms. Just like you have systems for patching the stage, programming lighting cues, and building ProPoresenter playlists, you need a system for how you manage volunteers.

Start by identifying how you can do this regularly throughout the year. Take volunteer recruiting, for example. On the first day of every month, set a reminder to email all of the ministry leaders in your church and ask them if they know anyone who might want to serve on the production team. Once a quarter, ask your communications team if you can have a platform announcement or social media post to recruit people. Next time you go to send a PCO blockout request email, encourage your volunteers to ask if their friends might be interested in joining the team.

Right now you might only intentionally recruit 1-2 times per year, but if you use the examples above, you’ll now be recruiting 15-20 times per year! The same goes for training and growth. How often could you host a team night? How often can you take a volunteer out to coffee or ask them to come to a rehearsal to catch up? How can you make volunteer development a regular part of your work?

You’re a production leader – you’re a master of complicated systems. What you need is a system to manage the most important aspect of your ministry: your volunteers.

Here are some questions to consider as you create your own volunteer growth system:

  • What app or tool are you going to use to schedule these rhythms?
  • What are the best months of the year to focus on training and growth? (Hint: it’s after December and April)
  • What things are you already doing? How can you improve that? If you go to the FILO conference (which you should!), could you host a team dinner when you get back to share what you learned with the rest of your team?
  • What’s one creative way you could recruit people for your team? (A BTS video of a rehearsal? Recording and sharing your comm feed with multi-view?)

We often get stuck because we think engaging volunteers needs to be extravagant. If you can host a team night, great! But don’t reinvent the wheel here – look for the small steps you can take each week and month to keep volunteer leadership at the forefront of your work.

The best part of having a volunteer system is you don’t have to maintain the system alone, which brings me to my next point.

Empower your team by asking for help

A lot of production leaders believe the lie that it’s up to us to recruit, train, and grow our volunteers. But don’t forget – you already have a committed team who help make Sunday happen on a regular basis. These are the same people who will help you grow the team!

What would it look like for you to ask your volunteers to reach out to their friends? What would it look like to have your volunteers train other volunteers? Can you ask them to help you schedule and plan training events?

Say you’re getting ready for Christmas and you have to do an entire stage redesign for a new sermon series and then change all of it for Christmas Eve. Are you going to do this all by yourself? Of course not! You’re going to get your team and as many people as you possibly can together to make that happen in time. The same is true for leading volunteers. You don’t have to do this alone.

Over time your team will have a new sense of ownership and you’ll get to celebrate how much your team has grown together under your leadership. This is the kind of expertise you bring to your church and this is the kind of expertise you need to apply to your volunteer work. Lead your team to take charge of growing your volunteers!


Grow your team through FILO coaching

We all here at FILO know how hard it can be to balance regular production work and pouring into your team. We want to help – this is why we created FILO coaching! We want to connect you with other production leaders and empower you to be the healthiest version of yourself. We would love to set up a call with you and how to grow your volunteer team.

This article is reposted with permission from Filo.
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About Alex Sawyer

Production Pastor

Alex Sawyer is the Production Director at Third Church in Richmond, CA. On the side, he runs The Production Pastor, a site designed to help you and your team grow as technical artists and disciples of Jesus.

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