8 Reasons Volunteers Don’t Feel Valued

One day Jesus decided to sit and watch people put money in the offering basket. When an unremarkable, poor woman threw in a couple pennies, Jesus honored her above everyone else. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

I wonder how that woman felt about herself. I wonder if she believed her gift didn’t really matter. I wonder if the people in her life ever validated her or what she had to offer. Or did they all pass her by when they looked at what she gave and discount her because they compared her to everyone else, who seemed to give so much more.

That’s not what Jesus did. He valued both the woman and her gift, when nobody else did.

Let’s take a moment and stop thinking of her gift as financial. What if her gift was in service to the church instead? Would we treat her the same?

I can tell a lot of stories about people who never reached their potential in ministry because the people around them (and they themselves) didn’t value who they were or what they could contribute. I’m sure you can too.

The following represents some ideas on why volunteers sometimes feel devalued in our ministries.

Lack of Communication

When people don’t know what’s going on, they feel devalued. The unspoken message they are hearing is, “I wasn’t important enough to be in the loop on this.” Most of the time, it’s not true, but our inadequate means of communication will eventually alienate and drive some of our most committed people away.

Non-Personal Interaction

It doesn’t matter what size church you lead, people are still people and they are craving personal touch. In particular, they will feel valued and important when the people they respect in leadership take the time to connect with them. This can be a huge challenge for christian leaders. Even so, finding ways to give 1 on 1 attention to people through cards, email, social media, personal visits, etc. will help them know they are a valued part of your team.

Responsibility Without Authority

When people are asked to get involved, but aren’t empowered to do it themselves, they feel like wheels in a cog. Systems can add great value to local ministries, but they are meant to serve your volunteers, not the other way around. Whenever possible, programs should leave room for enough creative liberty to allow volunteers to make decisions on their own.

No Opportunity for Buy-In

Announcing change from the pulpit is dangerous. People need time to process what’s going on and how it will impact them personally. If you want to value your volunteers, communicate way in advance and give them a lot of lead time so they can process change before it happens. 

False or Wrong Expectations

One of the easiest ways to hurt feelings and sow discord is to keep expectations vague or confusing. If YOU expect more from your volunteers than they realize, you will be disappointed. If THEY expect more from you as a leader, they will be confused or disappointed. Either way, it’s a recipe that can lead to broken relationship.

Square Peg, Round Hole

I get real frustrated when leaders delegate tasks to people and then get mad at them because they don’t do a good job. If you ask me to serve as the maintenance man in your church, you’ll be disappointed. I’m not good at fixing things. Instead of pushing me harder to do better, realize I’m a square peg, not a round one, and find a better fit for me.

Assume The Worst

Is it possible there are men & women in your church who could relate to the woman Jesus noticed in the above story? Do they think their leaders assume they have little or nothing to offer because of their skill set, circumstances or personality? After all, how much do 2 pennies really matter, right?

Jesus was the Master at accomplishing great things with almost nothing. Think fish & bread.

Invite people to be part of something great, find a good fit for them, and let them serve with the skills, talent & commitment they have to give. Value who they are and what they give just as much as those who seem to give so much more than them.

photo credit: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery via photopin cc

Why Simple is Better

Recently, I was asked to speak at a church. I already knew what I wanted to talk about when I was asked. I looked forward to the opportunity . . . except for the part where I had to sit down to do the ‘work’. Since I wanted the message to be simple, I ended up redrafting that message three times. I whittled a 45 minute message down to 25. Chopping it up was painful, but in the end it was well worth it. The congregation stayed with me the whole time and I believe God used my words to bring transformation to their lives. Simple. Hard. Worth it.

Perhaps one of our biggest mistakes when attempting to make ministry, leadership, relationships, or whatever, simple, is that we assume the process should be simple too. Not true. Most of the time, making something simple is complicated, time consuming and a lot of work. Most of us give up at the worst possible time, when it’s the most complicated. There’s a miserable valley we must walk all the way through before we arrive at the other side and our goal. 

Despite the work, simple is better. A few more observations about simple.

People Remember Simple.

God gave us 5 fingers on each hand, not 8. I suspect He knew that most of us can only remember a few things at a time. If I ask you to remember 4 words, I suspect you can do it no problem; but 12? God gave us 10 commandments, but Jesus summed them up in 2 that any four year old could remember.

People Value Simple.

We live in the day of the ‘elevator speech’. If you can tell me what you want to say between the 1st and 12th floor, I’ll listen. If not, well, “Sorry. I need to get going.” We pay attention to simple and lose interest in complex. When you present me with simple, I’m impressed and know you cared enough to prepare. 

People Do Simple.

Less is more. Give me 23 tasks and I’ll easily get locked up. I won’t know which ones to do and might just go find something else to do (like check Facebook). Give me 4 tasks and I feel empowered to get things done. Simple helps me focus and motivates me to action.

Other Examples:

  • Your congregation and community don’t want 8 announcements that last fifteen minutes; they want 2 announcements delivered in 3 minutes.
  • They don’t really want 12 emails a week about upcoming events & activities; one will suffice.
  • They don’t want to spend 10 minutes on your website trying to find service times or directions.
  • Certainly, they would love to have notes from your message; but if they are going to have to fill in the blanks they secretly hope they won’t get writer’s cramp, that there’s enough light in the room and possibly that you will provide pencils for them. 
  • Your volunteers and leaders would really prefer to open the resource closet and find what they need in 8 seconds.
  • Your attendees aren’t looking for a booklet with 28 volunteer opportunities; they just want to know what the one or two things are they can do to help make a difference.
  • Volunteers would like to have a simple 1-page document that lets them know what you expect. They would appreciate getting a quick email reminding them that they are scheduled to serve each week. They want to know about the training event at least a month ahead of time. 

What do you need to simplify in your life or ministry this week?

3 Signs of a Miserable Volunteer

I once spoke to a “been there done that” volunteer from a local church. Put another way, he was no longer a volunteer; he’d “been there, done that” and it didn’t go very well. In fact, he ended up silently leaving the church and was leading worship and a small group at another church. I didn’t have to ask about his volunteer experience at his former church, he told me all about it. The backstory is, I knew this man and also knew he had been faithful and committed to that church for many years prior. He wasn’t a grumpy, church-hopping kind of guy. 

I was glad to see how engaged and excited he was to serve at the new church. I was saddened to realize that he was a miserable volunteer at his former church, which probably meant other volunteers were as well.

Patrick Lencioni wrote a book designed to help organizations identify the key factors that lead to miserable employees in the workplace. As you might expect, those same factors apply to the volunteers in our church and ministries as well.

The Three Signs of a Miserable Volunteer
Adapted from “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job” by Patrick Lencioni

1. People Feel Anonymous

“People cannot be fulfilled in their work if they are not known. All human beings need to be understood and appreciated for their unique qualities by someone in a position of authority…. People who see themselves as invisible, generic, or anonymous cannot love their jobs, no matter what they are doing.” page 221

Volunteers need to believe you know and care about them. This means you’re not just interested in what they can do to make your ministry a success. It means you’re interested in them as individuals. Great leaders will take the time to learn about their lives, their families and the things that are important to them right now. They will check in on them when they are experiencing life-challenges. 

You can make a lot of mistakes as a leader, but if your volunteers believe they are important to you, they are much more likely to be loyal to the ministry you lead, despite it’s weaknesses and faults.

Leadership Test: Do you know the names of each of the volunteers you lead? Do you know what personal challenges they are facing right now?

2. People Feel Irrelevant

“Everyone needs to know that their job matters, to someone. Anyone. Without seeing a connection between the work and the satisfaction of another person or group of people, an employee simply will not find lasting fulfillment. Even the most cynical employees need to know that their work matters to someone, even if it’s just the boss.” pages 221-222

Volunteers want to make a difference. It’s the reason they chose to give up some of their freedoms (to do other things) in order to serve in ministry with you. Irrelevance is a sickness that is so easy to cure, yet is often left untreated. Leaders must regularly keep the vision/purpose for ministry alive in volunteers. Explain why their role is so critical and how it connects to changed lives in the church. Tell them about people who have experienced God in a special way, and how they played a role in that transformation. And make a concerted effort to regularly express gratitude and appreciation for the investment they are making in people’s lives.

You will keep your volunteers motivated by reminding and showing them how they are making a difference.

Leadership Test: When was the last time you sent a special ‘thank you’ note to your volunteers? Do your volunteers know why their position in ministry is important to you and God?

3. People Feel Immeasurable

Employees need to be able to gauge their progress and level of contribution for themselves. They cannot be fulfilled in their work if their success depends on the opinions or whims of another person, no matter how benevolent that person may be. Without a tangible means for assessing success or failure, motivation eventually deteriorates as people see themselves as unable to control their own fate. page 222

Volunteers thrive on consistent, positive feedback from leaders. Often, volunteers are thrust into responsibilities with little experience or training. Consequently, they can feel insecure or inadequate for the job, eventually leading to them quitting. Unfortunately, the kind of feedback volunteers often receive is grossly inadequate and sometimes not even real. They don’t need to hear, “You’re doing just fine.” They want to know how they can do better, without feeling like a failure.

To truly “lead” others, we must be committed to modeling the kind of ministry we’re looking for, training people to be a success, and resourcing them with the tools they need to do it with excellence. 

Leadership Test: Do you know how well your volunteers fulfill their respective responsibilities? When was the last time you gave them constructive feedback or training so they might improve?
 


 
Are you struggling recruiting or keeping volunteers in the church?

If so, I recommend you contact me today to setup a free 30 minute conversation about how I might be able to provide the help you need. I look forward to hearing from you!

Three Enemies of Unity

A few years back I heard about a church that was having a serious fight. The elders and the pastor were at odds with each other and it wasn’t getting resolved. It turns out, one side wanted to get rid of the projector and go back to just putting everything in the bulletin. The church was just inches from experiencing an ugly split over the issue. Finally, the pastor agreed to the elders demands and things settled down, for a little while.

Paul opens up his first letter to the Corinthians with these words:

“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” 1 Cor. 1:10

This appeal to local churches is easier said than done. Our mutual enemy seeks to tear down the body of Christ by sowing discord wherever he can and as often as possible. It is so critical that our leadership teams are aware of these attacks and are ready to combat them. 

Following are 3 strategies the devil uses to sow discord. 

1. Pride

Last night I listened to my two teens fighting about something. The content of the fight was very trivial and there was really no point in them arguing about it at all. I asked one of them, “Why are you guys still fighting about this?” The answer? “Because I’m right.”

Sometimes we are just unwilling to let things go. We believe we know what’s supposed to happen and are unwilling to give in until others admit we are right. Most prideful people don’t see themselves as being prideful and, unfortunately, are often unwilling to admit defeat. 

The below questions might help bring awareness to the team, if pride is hiding away in someone’s heart.

  • Am I angry?
  • Am I willing to be wrong in this conversation?
  • Am I really listening and seeking to understand the other perspectives in the room?
  • Are my thoughts and words expressing love and gratitude to those around me right now?
     

2. Failure to Communicate

George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” We send that quick email or mentioned something in passing and think we’ve communicated. I know what this is like. Once I think I’ve communicated something to someone, I put it out of my mind for good. If I actually didn’t communicate, then there will be problems.

If there are unresolved disagreements among the team, it’s because of a failure to communicate. If team members feel hurt, angry or frustrated with others on the team, communication isn’t happening. If people are making assumptions that others ‘get it’ when they don’t or are getting things done when they aren’t, then someone needs to have more conversations.

3. Lack of Shared Purpose

It can be challenging to take my family to an amusement park. I have 4 children; two teens and two young gradeschoolers. Sometimes, what they want to do at the park goes in four different directions. If we spend all our time just catering to one child, then there’s a chance the other three will leave disappointed and frustrated. Each one has a different idea about why we are at the park.

The same can hold true in the local church. When the leadership team has differing ideas on what the church should be doing or how it should be behaving, there will be conflict. This is why I encourage churches to host monthly or quarterly strategic meetings designed to determine vision, purpose and strategy together as a team.

What other enemies of unity should I add to this list?

 

Making Vision Stick (Define the Problem)

It’s important that leaders choose to be students of communication. We should never assume we have ‘arrived’ or ‘know’ how to communicate effectively. Our culture is constantly morphing. History is made every day. Innovation and creativity demand that we stay sharp. To fail to do so means we will only reach a small segment of our community.

In today’s post I want to share a quick quote and recommend Andy Stanley’s small, yet well written book, ‘Making Vision Stick‘. I urge you to add it to your library. I reference it several times through my year and ask many of the leaders I work with to purchase and read it. What I really like about it is it’s simplicity. Andy lays out five key principles to ensure that vision stays front and center in the hearts of your church attendees.

The following quote is the first of three steps found under the second main principle in the book, “Cast the Vision Convincingly”.


Define the Problem

“To cast a convincing vision, you have to define the problem that your vision addresses…. Every vision is a solution to a problem. If your vision doesn’t get traction, something that needs to happen won’t happen. A problem will continue to go unaddressed. To make vision stick, your audience needs to understand what’s at stake. It’s the ‘what’s at stake’ issue that grabs people’s hearts. Only a clear explanation of the problem will cause people to sit up and say, “Something must be done!” If your target audience doesn’t know what’s at stake, the vision will never stick…. 

To cast your vision in a convincing manner, you need to be able to answer these two questions: What is the need or problem my vision addresses? and What will happen if those needs or problems continue to go unaddressed?”


EXAMPLE #1

This Sunday, pastors are casting a vision, right? Whether it’s giving an announcement about an upcoming church activity or preaching about forgiveness, people need to know why it’s important; what’s at stake.

EXAMPLE #2

Someone on your team is likely in need of more committed volunteers (probably in the children’s ministry!). It’s very important that you follow Andy’s advice when recruiting others to get involved. At the end of the day, it’s not about filling an empty spot, it’s about making a difference in the lives of those you serve. That’s the need your’re addressing (not the need of a warm body in a room to babysit.)

EXAMPLE #3

You may even need to cast the vision to yourself at times. Perhaps this week you have a funeral that you will need to administrate and speak at. Defining the vision, and consequently, the need, will help clarify what you will say and do to best care for the needs of those attending that event.


What vision are you casting this week? There’s no doubt in my mind you should be casting the vision about something, it’s just a matter of what. When you do, don’t forget to FIRST define the problem!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Five Steps of Leadership Development

If you haven’t had a chance to read Dave & Jon Ferguson’s book, Exponential: How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement, I recommend you do so this summer. 

In today’s post, I thought I’d share their very simple formula for leadership development. That is, how to train staff and volunteers (or anyone, for that matter) to do whatever it is they need to learn to do in both life and ministry. Don’t let the simplicity of these five steps deceive you. It’s a powerful and effective tool that you want to keep in your back pocket at all times. In fact, the authors of the book even wrote, “If there is one section of this book that I want you to photocopy and send to somebody else, it is this section.”

The Five Steps of Leadership Development

1. I do. You watch. We talk.

As an experienced leader leads a team, an apprentice takes the time to observe him or her. Within a few days the two should meet to discuss what the apprentice has observed. This debriefing time should include three simple questions: (1) “What worked?” (2) “What didn’t work?” and (3) “How can we improve?” This time of debriefing needs to continue throughout the process.

2. I do. You help. We talk.

In this phase of development, the leader gives the apprentice an opportunity to help lead in a particular area. For example, if someone is being developed to lead a student ministry small group, the leader might ask that person to lead the prayer time while the experienced leader leads the remainder of the time together. Again, this experience should be followed up with a one-on-one to talk.

3. You do. I help. We talk.

Now the apprentice transitions from supporting or helping the leader to taking on most of the leadership responsibilities of the team or group. If a person is being apprenticed to lead a team of sound technicians, he or she will operate the sound system and provide leadership for the other sound technicians. The more experienced leader now begins releasing responsibilities to the new, developing leader. As in the previous steps, the leader and apprentice leader should meet regularly to debrief the ministry experience.

4. You do. I watch. We talk.

The apprentice process is almost complete as the new leader grows increasingly more confident in his or her role. Consider how this step might look in a children’s ministry. A children’s group leader, at this point, would give his or her apprentice the opportunity to fulfill all the functions of leadership, with the more experienced leader now looking on and watching the new leader in action.

5. You do. Someone else watches.

This is where the process of reproducing comes full circle. The former apprentice is now leading and begins developing a new apprentice. Ideally, the leader who has developed and released several apprentices will continue to work with those leaders in a coaching capacity.

 
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Six Things That Make or Break a Leader

Leadership develops daily, not in a day.

It’s something we must consistently and intentionally focus on if we are to be effective. It is something that can be developed and strengthened. Contrary to some opinion’s in the world today, I don’t believe people are just born ‘natural leaders’. Yes, some are born to lead, but they won’t lead well unless they work at becoming a true leader. 

There are many qualifiers that effect a leader’s success. One of my favorite books on that topic is John Maxwell’s ‘The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership‘. That said, here are six that I believe will greatly determine what kind of leader you will be.

  • What You Read
    That’s assuming you do read. Reading has always been a little bit of a challenge for me, but I’ve figured it out. The key isn’t that you read – it’s that you find great books, articles and blogs to read as well. Lately, I’ve discovered that a revisit to some of the books I read ages ago (like the one mentioned above) has really helped me stay sharp as a leader.
    “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Harry Truman

  • Who You Are With
    I think you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their friends and mentors. Who we surround ourselves with will impact the kind of leader we will become. If our circles tend to be small-minded or pessimistic, it will be difficult for you to dream big and push through the dips in life. Of course, the opposite is just as true.
    “A leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him.” John Maxwell

  • How You Think
    This mostly has to do with your attitude. Do you tend to believe you can face the difficulties and challenges that come your way? Do you digress and complain about roadblocks or accept them and move on? How you think about your circumstances will greatly impact your success as a leader.
    “The last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl

  • What You Say
    The Bible has a lot to say about our words. In the leadership world, worlds can rise or fall on the words of one man. People can be inspired to greatness or brought down to despair with just a few comments. What you say to those around you, both verbally and non-verbally will determine if and how people follow your lead.
    “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” Philo of Alexandria

  • What You Do
    Indecision is a your greatest enemy. Leaders will make the tough decision and act on it, even when there is no clear indicator that they will succeed. They won’t be stupid. They’ll just be proactive and take initiative. Better to fail and learn from your mistakes than stay stuck in indecision, do nothing, and learn nothing.
    “Well done is better than well said.” Benjamin Franklin

  • What You Believe About People
    There is no doubt in my mind that I would not hold the influence and platform that I currently have if it weren’t for the leaders in my life who believe in me. Often, their faith in me is far above my own and my drive to succeed comes from what they believe about me more than what I do. Look at those around you and choose to believe the best in them and for them – and don’t forget to tell them regularly!
    “When you believe in people, they do the impossible.” Nancy Doran

How To Maintain Unity in the Local Church

A while back I was asked to create a devotional video for christian leaders focusing on the topic of character. I decided to discuss character as it relates to unity in the local church. The passage I shared from is found in 1 Peter 3:8:

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”

This may be a great video for your leadership team, eldership or board of directors to watch and discuss together, just to keep the conversation about unity in the church alive and in the open. Enjoy.

Questions:

At the end of this teaching, I ask a few group questions. Here they are for your reference as well.

  • What relationship are you dealing with right now that’s causing strife, division, or discord?
  • What part, if any, are you playing, to fan the flames of that discord?
  • Which of the following words do you feel need to be applied, based on the passage I just read?
  • What is the Holy Spirit speaking to you right now?

Why Churches Struggle Finding A New Pastor

My son loves to fish. A couple summers ago he caught a great fish (see picture) in a pretty small pond. He and his friends even landed a huge snapping turtle! The thing is, Ben has a somewhat unique fishing method. His primary fishing hole is at a pond near our home that has a bridge spanning the middle. He and his friends simply “pick their fish” while looking down over the bridge, and then focus on that catch. They’ve been pretty successful too!

I was talking with a leader the other day about succession planning for the local church. I told him there’s a big difference between Succession Planning and Replacement Planning. It’s a crude illustration, but I found myself sharing about my son’s fishing strategy.

I likened Succession Planning to what my son does at that bridge on the pond. Pick your fish, then focus on that fish until you’ve successfully hooked and brought it in.

Replacement Planning is going to be a lot more like the traditional fishing methods most of us use. Bait, cast, catch a bunch of green stuff. Try again, set the hook, pull in something small and ineffective, try again and again and again, until we catch something close to what we’re looking or hoping for. 

Every pastor wants to find the right person to replace him when it’s time to pass the baton. The problem is, most don’t think to look for that person until it’s too late. Sometimes I’ll receive a call from a pastor who is ready to resign or move on. They ask me, “Can you help me develop a succession plan?” After a few questions I have occasionally answered with, “No. But I’ll help you work on a replacement plan.” 

Succession is about finding one or more candidates for pastoral leadership and then mentoring them until one has shown him or herself ready for leadership. By then, it’s usually obvious to the senior leadership of the church, if not the congregation as well, that the new pastor is in the house. The transition usually goes a lot smoother for everyone.

Replacement is about finding one or more candidates who hopefully fit the bill, and putting them in the saddle, with a prayer that they were the right one. Too often, it turns out they aren’t. By the time you find that out, it’s too late and the church is often sidetracked for months or even years dealing with the repercussions.

Here are a few more differences between succession and replacement planning.

Succession

Replacement

  • Is a process.
  • Is an event.
  • Begins 2-3 years before the transition.
  • Begins 3-6 months before the transition.
  • Is proactive.
  • Is reactive.
  • Prepares the congregation for change.
  • Surprises the congregation with change.
  • Yields expected results.
  • Yields mixed results.
  • Values are embedded into the new leader before succession happens.
  • Values are discovered in the new leader after replacement happens.
  • The new leader holds a high degree of trust by the congregation.
  • The new leader holds a mixed degree of trust by the congregation.

You get the idea. It’s wise to begin developing a succession plan for your church sooner than later. You can begin this process at any time and build it into your overall leadership strategy. It doesn’t matter if the Lead Pastor is 35 years old or 65 years old, it’s worth starting now.

Which plan will your church implement when it’s time to find a new leader?

How To Deal With Volume Complaints

In the same Sunday morning service I’ve had two people approach me with differing complaints – one asked if the worship could be turned up while the other asked if the worship could be turned down. In most churches it seems like the sound is never quite right. The fact is, it’s one of those, “you can’t please everyone” areas. Many years ago I had to navigate a different problem though. The volume was driving people away.

It’s one of the reasons why I wrote the following two posts: Turn the Volume Down! & Turn the Volume Up! as well as why I asked my friend, Josh Cummings, to write this follow-up post: Unlocking the Secrets of Church Sound.

I’d like to offer some advice on dealing with volume complaints. These ideas will help leverage what you believe the volume levels should be each week with the myriad of volume adjusting requests you may have to entertain.

Acknowledge Mistakes.

If the shoe fits, wear it with grace. You should know if the sound was off on a particular Sunday. If it was, simply acknowledge to your listener that he or she is right and that you will be looking into what happened. If you are unsure about whether the sound was grossly off from the standard, still let them know you will be looking into it (and do).

Respect Others’ Opinions.

Intellectually, we know everyone is entitled to their opinions and ideas. Practically, it can be a lot more difficult to respect and honor them. Make sure any person who has a concern or frustration in this area gets your undivided attention. Listen closely to their perspective. Seek to understand it fully. Honor them by recognizing their thoughts are important and matter. Do not try to ‘defend’ or ‘answer back’; let them have their say. Once that is done, kindly seek to help them understand where things stand with the sound.

Know Your Target Audience.

It was a lot easier for me to respond to people’s complaints simply because I knew who our target audience was. Because Elim Gospel Church has a strong desire to reach the younger generations, they are willing to push the envelope a little on volume issues in order to reach them. That’s not to say I would blow people’s complaints off, but I would be armed with the “Why?” behind our reasoning – which often resulted in my listener respecting and sometimes embracing our decision when we were done talking. 

Understand The Challenges.

As I just suggested, volume challenges are often beyond our control because of a lack of training, poor equipment, or bad acoustics. Although none of those difficulties should be given as the ultimate excuse, they should also play a role in helping others understand that resolving volume problems aren’t as simple as they might think. It is extremely important, however, that you ALSO give your listener the confidence that your team is working on solutions to those challenges.

Create and Hold To Your Standards.

It’s a lot harder to argue with well defined, tried and tested, standards. This is why I recommend your church purchase a dB meter and spend some time determining the best sound levels for your room, and sticking with them. This removes some of the ‘personal opinion of the sound person’ challenge. If they are aware of the standard and held responsible to hold to it, then you are much less likely to get complaints, and when you do, you are more likely to be able to respond with confidence. Even better, if you have a digital sound board, learn how to program it for individual bands or band members so that your sound tech is less likely to make mistakes when mixing.

I also recommend reading Willowcreek Church’s Audio Volume Policies. Understand, they are a huge church, but the fact that they have taken the time and energy to figure these things out should be a testimony of the value they find in getting it right. 

Write A Position Paper.

If volume ends up being an ongoing issue for your congregation, consider writing a position paper underlining your values, standards, and limitations. Again, this simplifies communication. You can be sure people are hearing it said the way you want it said, and you can always follow up with people after they’ve read it over. The link mentioned above also points to Willowcreek Church’s Audio Volume Open Letter. It’s a great example of what your position paper might look/sound like.

Ask Your Sound Team To Subscribe To www.behindthemixer.com.

You can address concerns with your congregation a lot easier when you know your team is well trained and not just doing a ‘hack job’ of it. Ask each sound tech to subscribe to www.behindthemixer.com to keep them focused, sharp and on the cutting edge of all things church sound!

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