So, You Have AV Volunteers. How Do You Keep Them?
Angela was so excited when Pastor Tony mentioned from the stage that they were in need of AV volunteers. “You don’t need to know anything about audio or video. We’ll show you which buttons to push and which knobs to turn,” stated Pastor Tony. “We just need some willing hearts ready to serve.” These words sparked a stirring in Angela’s heart. She loved to serve wherever she could. She had only been a part of her church for about 3 months and desired to become more integrated within her church community. “Perhaps,” she thought, “serving in AV would allow me to be of help to my church and develop some lasting friendships at the same time.” “So,” continued Pastor Tony, “if you would like to serve in AV, please give me a show of hands.” Knowing what she had to do, she joyfully raised her hand and thus began one of the most adventurous and difficult journeys of service in a church that she had ever embarked on. She reported to the sound booth early the next Sunday. Another volunteer quickly started showing her the ropes. “Push this button at this time. Push this fader up if you need more volume. Oh and don’t forget to record the pastor’s message by pushing this button here.” Angela frantically took notes as the volunteer continued showing her around. She was a capable woman with a great memory. She would do exactly what she had been instructed to do and fulfill her place of service. When the volunteer was done explaining things, he left. Angela found herself alone and becoming anxious as she stared down at the mixing console replete with a plethora of colorful buttons, knobs, dials and faders staring back at her as if to say, “Yea, ha ha, you just try me and see what happens.” Still, Angela was determined to be of service. So, as the pastor walked up on stage, she dutifully brought up the fader marked “pastors lav.” As she did this the sound system started wailing into multiple frequencies of feedback. She was startled and terrified. She wasn’t expecting this. So, she quickly turned the fader all the way down. The pastor made a quick joke about it from stage and continued with the Sunday morning greeting. She again started to bring up the fader, but this time very slowly and cautiously. The result was the same as the feedback monster started to rear its ugly head again. Angela was so discouraged. She wanted so badly to be of service but instead her act of service at the sound board turned into an utter distraction to the pastor and the entire congregation.
I imagine there are a number of you ministry leaders and volunteers painfully identifying with this story right now.
The fact of the matter is, of the 90% of churches worldwide with 200 people or less, almost all will utilize volunteers within their congregation to some capacity for their audio and visual needs. Serving as a volunteer can be one of the most fulfilling experiences. But, those who volunteer for AV oftentimes have no idea what they’re getting into. A lack of support and training will lead to frustration, discouragement and eventually burnout.
I grew up in church. I have been an AV volunteer. I have been a hired FOH and broadcast engineer. I have been an AV Director and am currently the AV Leader at my home church, Grace Fellowship in Costa Mesa, CA. In all my years of running church sound, I’ve learned that getting people to volunteer is only the beginning. The hard part is keeping your volunteers. In my experience keeping your AV volunteers boils down to 3 intentional practices: 1. leadership, 2. volunteer training and education, 3. cultivating relationships.