As a worship leader, I feel that it is very important to do all we can to honor those who fall under our leadership. Whether it’s paid staff, paid musicians/production personnel, or volunteers, we must do all we can to raise up the best, most God honoring teams we can. Here are five things I believe we as worship leaders can do to accomplish this.
1. Set your volunteers up for success
At Newhope, we love to use the phrase, ‘Set them up for success’. This can encompass many things, but at it’s core, we want our people to succeed. Specifically for worship leaders, we must be prudent in how we equip our teams for Sunday services. Setting your people up for includes:
- Schedule people in advance. I’d suggest at least a month in advance – further if you can. If you are consistently calling people to serve in production or play or sing the week of, you are not honoring that person’s time or talent. Give your volunteers a chance to familiarize themselves with the material, and respect their busy schedules by scheduling them as far in advance as you can.
- Give your people music and materials at least two weeks in advance. At our church we like to schedule songs at least two weeks ahead of time. We use Planning Center Online to schedule people and deliver music (both audio and sheet music). Give your volunteers the resources they need to prepare for rehearsals – this means give them access to mp3’s of the songs you are doing (in the arrangement and they key you’ll be doing them in), give them chord charts or sheet music, etc. Do everything in your power so that when they show up to rehearsal, they are prepared.
- Provide training resources. This could mean lessons for instrumentalists and vocalists. It could mean training on production and sound for your production volunteers. Don’t just hope they learn things on their own – empower them and enable them to.
2. Expect more from your volunteers. Challenge them and lead them.
This point may sound a bit counter intuitive. How is putting more expectations on volunteers going to help them? Honestly, I believe that true high capacity volunteers will rise when you challenge them. If you have a guitar player who shows talent and promise, but consistently shows up unprepared, have a conversation with them and challenge them to raise the bar. If you have a high-capacity production volunteer, give them more responsibility (which will in turn take responsibility off your plate). When you encourage a person to get deeper into the game, I have found they will embrace the challenge rather than be turned off by it. It will create more buy-in from your team members, and it will raise the level of worship in your church.
3. Pastor your volunteers.
In many cases (especially in larger churches), you as the worship pastor or worship leader are the main pastoral influence for your team members. Take time to get to know them personally. Pastor them. Walk through their struggles and their joys with them.
I do understand that in certain churches teams can become very large, but I would encourage you to find four or five people who you really pour into.
4. Give them a break.
It seems that every time I speak with a potential volunteer, I hear the same stories. Stories that go a bit like this, “I used to volunteer in my last church, but I was scheduled every weekend, and eventually it became a burden to me. I just got burned out.”
It is so important to give people a break – especially volunteers. Our band and production volunteers are expected to prepare for and attend a mid-week rehearsal, then a 7am call time on Sunday, and then three worship services. In all, most people put in about 15+ hours per week when they are scheduled. We would be crazy if we expected a volunteer to do this every week. We never scheduled people more than 2X per month, and our goal is once.
I understand that many churches don’t have this type of demand on volunteers for a Sunday service, but I still think it’s important that you give people time off. If that means you lead worship by yourself once a month, I think that’s ok. It’s also why building teams is probably the most important thing you will do as a worship leader.
5. Be an example to them.
If you ask your volunteers to have music memorized at rehearsal, then you have music memorized at rehearsal. If you ask volunteers to be present in the worship center rather than the green room, then you do that, too. If you ask your volunteers to smile and be engaged during times of worship on stage, then you’d better have a smile on your face as well :).
These are all the typical kinds of examples we might want to set for our volunteers, but I believe there is another example we should set that could be a bit more difficult for many worship leaders:
Respect those in pastoral leadership over you
In many churches there is a tension that exists between Worship Leader and Senior Pastor. Maybe the Senior Pastor doesn’t understand culture the way you do. Maybe he/she wants you to do songs you don’t like. Or styles you don’t like. Or you fill in the blank. Whatever you do, DO NOT show any level of disrespect for your senior leadership in front of your volunteers. In fact, I believe it is imperitive that we do not show anything but support for our senior leadership in front of volunteers.
Now, I’m not saying that you have to agree or align with everything your leadership wants or asks. I believe there is a time and a place to talk about issues or disagreements we have with other staff or leadership. That would be behind closed doors with all parties present. Not in front of volunteers and behind the backs of those you’re not aligning with.
You are asking your volunteers to respect your leadership. You should do the same.
So there you have it – 5 things we as worship leaders can do to honor our volunteers, and to raise the bar of worship in our churches. Do you agree/disagree? Have any more points you’d add to the mix? If so, let’s hear it in the comments and get a dialog going.