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It’s easy to think this (because we’re in charge of the tech and media side of things): our most important task is being good stewards of our technology and media equipment. I’m not advocating that we shouldn’t be good stewards of those resources, but as a media director myself, the equipment and technology pieces are not my most important resources. The most important resources in any church and media ministry are the people in it. In most cases volunteers.

Plain and simple, without volunteers we couldn’t function in our media department. On any given Sunday, there are about eighteen different positions that need to be filled in our media team. We have camera operators, lighting designers, playback technicians, audio engineers and video directors. Their biggest quality isn’t the technical credentials they posses, but their commitment to serve the Lord through technology.

Don’t take me wrong, doing everything with excellence is imperative, but we can’t overlook the human side of our operations. Technology is not your ministry, people are your ministry. Geek out all you want about the newest and coolest gadgets, but don’t forget about your volunteers.

So how do we do that?

Communicate expectations

Make sure that everyone knows what is expected of them. How long before service starts do they need to show up? Are there rehearsals? How many times a month are they expected to volunteer? How many hours each time? These might sound trivial, but volunteers have families and other activities that they also want to attend to. Don’t abuse their willingness to volunteer in your ministry. And please don’t guilt trip them.

Train them well

If you take the time to train volunteers it will pay off in a big way. Just imagine this crazy idea, you can trust your volunteers to do a great job. Make sure to give your new volunteers plenty of training and make is as accessible as humanly possible. Make sure you follow up once in a while with your seasoned volunteers. It’s good to refresh their knowledge. Thankfully, in many aspects I’m reaping the benefits of training. Most of our volunteers know what they’re supposed to be doing, and I trust them so much because of all the time we’ve spent together.

Don’t waste your volunteer’s time

Show up before everyone else, and have your A game when it’s service time. Avoid unpreparedness and awkward times. Overall, make sure you know what’s going on that Sunday. If you’re not using Planning Center Online, then you’re doing it wrong. In many ways this point relates to the prior point. You’ll do your volunteer a disservice if you ask them to help you without properly training them.

Give them time off

The majority of the people coming to you who want to get involved in media ministry will serve as much as you let them. Accept their willingness but don’t abuse it. Whether operating cameras, playback or mixing sound, volunteering in the media department usually means you’re on during the whole service. Media volunteers are usually there setting up before everyone gets there and tearing down and finishing after everyone is on their way to eat BBQ for lunch. I can’t stress this point enough, give them time to be able to worship with their family as much as possible.

Pastor them

Volunteers aren’t just a resource or assets, they’re people with souls that need to be taken care of. You will retain most of your media team not likely based on all the cool gadgets that you use for production, but because you care for the people that operate them. We all go through seasons in life where things are rough and need someone to pray for us. Depending on your church’s size, they may never come in close contact with your lead pastor, so step up and pastor your volunteers. Don’t take that responsibility lightly.

Feed them

Seriously, feed your media volunteers. You don’t have to go all out, donuts and coffee work just fine. When I a started out as a volunteer I was compensated in donuts a lot and didn’t complaint once. But bacon works just as well, and yes I have been compensated in bacon in the past.

Show lots of grace

Even sometimes after many hours of training and preparation mistakes will happen. We’re humans and we err, but at the end of the day what matters the most is your volunteers. One time during a big creative opener, one of our playback operators mistakenly restarted the video. This was one of our more seasoned guys, he had been with us for years. I knew I could count on him, but he had made a mistake. And most importantly, he knew he had made a mistake. At that point he had no idea what to do, and basically shut down from the overwhelming feeling of failure. I jumped in and somehow was able to get the video back to the spot where it should be. At all cost, I avoided making a big deal about it. He knew what had just happened and that was enough. And honestly, no one in the audience noticed our error, except for the people in team. When situations like that happen, I try to give grace and avoid showing negative emotions when there are missed cues and errors. Which leads me to the last point.

Correct with love

Do everything as you wish it were done to you. Don’t be a jerk when a volunteer makes a mistake. Go back to point number one and two. Let them know they made a mistake and that missed cues and errors are big deals and they need to be addressed, but try not to create too much drama around them. Correct lovingly.

Being the leader of our media ministry team is a great privilege. It’s a privilege not due to the fact that we have great tech and media equipment, but because of the amazing people that run it. Those people who have become like my second family.