May 19, 2014


It’s a myth that leading requires being on stage all the time in the public eye. Some of the most important leadership goes on behind the scenes where almost nobody will ever notice it - unless, of course, it wasn’t there.

A church’s AVL volunteers are as much a part of leading the worship experience as any musician or preacher. But they're the only ones who get no credit if it goes well and a lot of blame if it goes badly. It's a thankless job, yet it's one of the most vital. They require some of the most training, yet I know so many pastors - even worship pastors - who never step back into the booth for a Sunday, thinking that it's more important that they be up front "leading."

Here's the thing. Most worship pastors could lead a set with no other volunteers. It might not be ideal, but they could do it. Likewise, most pastors think that they preach a sermon all by themselves. However, without a capable tech crew, the best band on earth would be incapable of leading, to say nothing of a pastor's sermon being heard clearly in a culture that relies so heavily on amplification. Without a capable office staff, no bulletins or graphics are made, the website stays out of date indefinitely, programmable doors don't open when they're supposed to, and your sermon doesn't get printed because there wasn't toner in the fancy printer.

Pastors, board members, lay leaders, here is some worthy advice: never value the (often anonymous) opinions of pew-sitting commentators over the relationship you have with your dedicated volunteers and staff, especially the ones who work quietly in the background. If someone complains about volume, you won't know how to reply unless you've walked in your audio volunteers' shoes (or perhaps, sat in their chairs). If someone complains about a spelling error, you can't reply with purpose if you've never set up a slide or written a bulletin, much less run a gathering. So go spend a week in the booth, or better yet, set aside one week of each month to take time back there (and if you think your church can't survive without you up front every week - even for one week - you might actually be part of perpetuating the problems you’ve been trying to solve but blaming on others).

So make the tech crew among your best friends. Spend time getting to know the office staff, learning how they do what they do, sitting with them and, instead of giving advice, learn why they do what they do (you might be surprised to realize they do what they do why they do it for a good reason). Watch a network administrator fix a server a few times. Aside from this being good practice as a leader, and aside from being just a good pastoral thing to do (they’re pretty awesome people back there if they’re willing to do this all every week without recognition), and aside from growing in appreciation of the many seemingly mundane tasks that it takes to make everything work ... 

... aside from all those things that it does for you, you will have recognized the hard work of people who make what you do work without you even knowing it. And that will pay your ministry back ten, fifty, a hundredfold because they will once again realize that they matter, that their hard work is valuable and irreplaceable, that they matter as people (not as resources), and that you, the one getting all the credit, know and appreciate them.

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