For most churches, volunteers are both a mainstay and necessity for weekly services. This is especially true in the media department. While many churches today recognize the need for some type of paid media professional, it is just not feasible for most churches to employ entire media teams. As a result, volunteers are vital to the weekly productions of our services.
As a vital part of the team, it is important we show volunteers how necessary they are to the team. One of the greatest ways to show this is to empower your volunteers.
Obviously there are degrees and limits to empowering volunteers, but oftentimes, we, as the 'professionals,' can create environments where our volunteers feel no power at all. Not only is this unhealthy, it is a quick way to run off all our volunteers!
So, how do we empower our volunteers?
1. Remove Your Hands
When on staff at a local church, I was surrounded by a great group of volunteers. We had set-up and tear-down for every one of our youth services, and this team always showed up, always pitched in and never complained. They were a great team.
Although they were a great team, I began to realize that they really didn't do anything of consequence. Due to my own controlling nature, I had developed a wonderful team of worker-ants, doing the King's bidding. When it came to plugging in instruments, I was sure to be the one to do it. When it came to addressing and hanging lights, I was on top of the ladder. I had an entire team of volunteers willing to do the work, but I insisted on doing it myself.
As I took notice of this, I also began to notice how tired I was. Service days wiped me out! I knew there had to be a better way to do this. So, after a few weeks of deliberating, and disciplining myself, I came into the venue, and sat on the front row. The team gathered around me, awaiting my orders...and only one came: "Start setting up."
As nervous as I was to take my hands off the situation, I watched as the team began to set everything up exactly as they had been taught. There were a few questions here and there, but the team had everything set up and torn down in no time. The team took that empowerment and ran with it. By taking my hands off the process, they were given the green light to work and I had freed up a great deal of time to work on other pressing needs.
2. Challenge them to Learn
Another way to empower our volunteer teams is to challenge them to learn their craft. I know we don't want to push our volunteers too hard, but I've noticed that by offering opportunities to learn; we allow the ones who really want to invest the time to become artisans at their craft. Oftentimes, if I run across a video or live event production I like, I will send a copy of it to my team. By providing comments to go along with the examples, I take note as to which volunteers actively watch the clip and try to learn from it. It won't be long until those volunteers will be your leaders and game-changers on your weekly productions.
3. Give them Decision Making Abilities
I guess this point should go without saying, but when you empower your volunteers, you need to give them the ability to make decisions. As the producer of the event, I can sometimes find myself running all over the venue, meeting with speakers, making last minute changes to the schedule. If I'm not even in the room; the last thing my director needs if for final approval on a certain shot. My director should feel empowered enough to make all the decisions relative to running the show if I'm not available. One of the greatest failures we, as leaders, can accomplish is to empower our volunteers but give them no ability to lead.
Sometimes, we can have a difficult task with relinquishing control of our media department. Sure, there is a real learning curve and growth strategy to effectively empowering our volunteers, but if we refuse to empower them at all, we will always find ourselves looking for more volunteers.