Each weekend all around the world, volunteers come together to help create different worship experiences

Many churches have few staff members and rely almost on volunteer-led production teams. But one thing I hear often is, “How do you recruit new volunteers to serve on your production team?” It is at times hard to recruit new volunteers interested to join our production teams, but I do believe there are quite a few things you can do to increase the interest in joining your team.

Below are a few things over the years I have found to have been successful in recruiting and maintaining production volunteers.

Commit to Excellence and Consistency

Excellence honors both God and inspires others.

Mediocrity rarely attracts others to get involved and share their free time.

One of the things you can do each week to help recruit new potential volunteers, is to work hard at creating an engaging worship experience each  weekend. Don’t settle for “good,” but instead review and critique your weekends and find a one percent increase in performance each weekend.

Your goal is not to be perfect, but instead to improve.

Recruit Young

One place to start putting your ear to the ground is within your High School and College/Young Adult crews. These students are usually quick learners, on top of it when it comes to technology, while also being creative, and have more time on their hands during the weekends. From my experience, though, they bring a whole new level of energy to the table in trying new ways of doing things.

And last but not least, they can become your great leaders if challenged to step up to the plate.

Offer a “Sneak Peak” Weekend

Choose a few weekends out of the year and put on your calendar a “Sneak Peak” or “Backstage Pass” weekend. If you can promote this from your stage that would be great, but that may not be possible (you know we all dislike that “announcement” segment). Although you can definitely promote it with your own volunteer team. On this particular weekend, invite anyone interested in volunteering to join you for a weekend service from the perspective of a production volunteer. Begin the day with your call time and have them sit in on production meetings, rehearsals and services.

Choose someone from you staff to be the “host” for the day and show them all the production elements that happen behind the scenes to make a Sunday morning worship experience happen. And just like above, put your best foot forward and do this with excellence.

One place to start putting your ear to the ground is within your High School and College/Young Adult crews. These students are usually quick learners, on top of it when it comes to technology, while also being creative, and have more time on their hands during the weekends.

Plan the day, create name badges, have snacks ready, and make the “Backstage Pass” an experience within itself.

This weekend helps you share the vision of what your team is all about alongside sharing with them the expectations of serving on your team.

Start with an Orientation

So once someone shows interest in your team and fills out that contact form, you want to inform them what your team is all about and its expectations.

So before you shoot them an email with a day to show up and have them start running a camera, invite them to a Production Team Orientation.

Spend some time with them – I’ve learned to do so for definitely no more than two hours- and share with the possible new recruits the vision of your team.

Why do you exist?

Why is sound, lights and video even needed in your church?

Why do you have a 7 a.m. call time?

What is a call time?

Those are just a few questions that I think you need to answer before placing anyone on your schedule. Take the time to show them around your spaces and explain what each role is. Then, as you wrap up the night, give each person a chance to choose a position to begin training for.

Train Them Well

So now this is where we take the turn on one of the greatest ways, in my opinion, of retaining volunteers.

Train, train, and train some more.

I am working on an article currently on our upcoming new training process, but until then I will say this: A volunteer will never ever be upset when they are set up to succeed on a Sunday. There is no worst feeling as a volunteer than being given a headset, put into a position on a Sunday, and not been trained.

Take time to create a training schedule for each position you have on your team. Each position will be different in length and content, but do not skip this process please.

Set your team up for success by taking the time to train them.

Spend Time Building Relationships

Last and definitely not least, invest in your team. Take the time to get to know them. Budget for gift cards. Take a few of them out for coffee or lunch. Create spaces on Sunday for them to rub shoulders with each other and create a comfortable environment for them to hang out between services.

Teams I have led are usually there all day on Sundays, so creating a living room-like area is key to helping create an atmosphere of family.

Don’t miss this part of volunteer recruitment.

Our job is to minister to others and not just work with technology.

Take care of your volunteer team so they can in turn minister to others, and invite them to join the team, giving it a great opportunity to grow.

Also published on Medium & Worship Tech Director


Before I get into the “why,” I’ll first lead off with my personal belief about how to balance lighting for video vs. lighting for the room.
If you are using IMAG, then that should take priority over lighting for the room.

OK, if you made it this far, then you are either a video director or possibly an angry lighting designer. Either way, you are still with me right?

So let’s continue.

This subject was rarely a tension for me over the years I believe, because for many years I served as the Video/Lighting Coordinator at Port City Community Church in Wilmington, N.C. This had me directly in charge and responsible for the look and feel of both video and lighting. While that might have put me in the position to argue with myself over the course of the week, it also might have gotten me admitted to the hospital had I done so. Instead, I chose to have both elements work together to create the best experience possible.

After just a few short weeks, I discovered that I could adjust my lighting to look great on camera primarily and still look great for the house. I did, however, have trouble lighting the house primarily and have that translate to the screens/broadcast.

There are a lot of technical decisions that go into making lighting look good for both video and the room, but I won’t get into those here. There are quite a lot of factors that go into dialing it in such as: color temperature, camera sensor sizes, iris levels, skin tones, lighting fixtures and so on. What I hope to provide here is to begin with a few tips and tricks to see from both sides of the decision making process.

Work Together

Your weekend service or event doesn’t happen without all areas of production coming together to create one entire experience. Whether you work together to create this experience is up to you and your team, but the people experiencing the service/event assume that each and every one of you worked together.

Watch the Recording: Spend some time each week watching back the service as a team and work toward being able to critique not only each other, but your own work and how it helps or hurts the other elements.

Watch the Work of Others: Attend other shows with high end productions, and watch how they light for the room. Share with each other what you loved about the feel of the room and not how it would translate to video just yet. Begin to learn what you both love about the lighting specifically. Next up, then watch a few of your favorite concert films or church services online. Here you share what you love regarding the look of the video. Spend some time discussing how the lighting helped accomplish the looks you see. You can now dip back to the first live show you watched and talk about what elements and ways you can help create the “feel” you experienced in the room and have it translate to video.

Watch During Run Through: I wrote all about the run through process here, but take some time each week to walk through each lighting cue/step and how it relates to video together. This is not the time for video to review and ask or demand changes. Instead, this is a time to join together to find what works best for the experience you are creating for everyone in the room and those watching a screen, TV or computer screen.

Program with Cameras On

Something I began to do during my last year or so as an lighting designer at Port City Community Church was to turn on our studio cameras and occasionally a mobile camera to use as a reference while programming. Then I would use a program monitor or multi-viewer to monitor the scenes as I would create them. For the majority of time, I did not need to reference this during my programming, because I had set levels for all key lighting on band members. But during special intros or instrumental breaks, I would rely on these cameras to find the look that was best seen in the room and on video. And I could accomplish this by using the following tip:

Use a Mannequin

We picked up a mannequin after years of kicking around the idea and it helped me out personally while programming. Simply place it in key positions and use it as a stand in to see how your scenes might play out on the screens. Using a mannequin will not solve all issues due to different skin tones, but it will get you very close. I usually did not need to adjust key light levels when using the stand-in mannequin.

Set Your Key Light

This one I highly recommend personally, if you are not able to have a true shader position in the control room on all your cameras. Go ahead and pick up a simple light meter to begin with. Then find the lighting level you and your team find as the sweet spot for both the room and on video. This can take a while, and a few weeks of adjustments to find the right look and technical specs. But here you are determining the level of key light on each subject, alongside your camera settings. Those camera settings will consist of many options such as iris level, shutter speed, focal depth, gain level, etc. Once you land that look, save each position’s levels on your lighting console and use those as your program.

And as a picky personal opinion, I run my key lights at the decided levels or they are completely out, with the exception of the occasional backlight only or uplight. Running your worship leader’s or band members’ light lower to create a dynamic look in the room usually creates terrible lighting for video on those large side screens in your room. But, this is only if you have no way of properly shading during your experience. With a proper shader, you can break many of the tips I have suggested in this section by adjusting your iris levels on the fly.

These are just some of the simple ways to begin helping create a healthy marriage between lighting for both the room and for video.

I will leave you with this before you go. You can figure the technical side of things out. I hope to write an article that really dives into the technical side of making this happen, but the first step is coming together as a team around the common goal: to create an overall great experience for everyone participating. Whether one comes together in the room, down the hall in overflow or hundreds of miles away in their hotel room – the key should be to work together to create the best experience possible.

One major thing I have learned over the past 13 years in live production is the more time I spend preparing for an event/service, the greater chance I have to respond well to issues that arise during the event/service. That may sound a little odd, but let me explain.

There have been four different elements over the years that I have been apart of when it comes to event preparation. Those four elements are: 1) Planning Meeting, 2) Pre-Production Meeting, 3) Rehearsal, & 4) Run Through (dry run). In our time here I will be focusing on the last element, but I do want to briefly describe the first three. Planning Meeting is the dreaming and brainstorm meeting. During this time plan what will actually go down during your event. The Pre-Production Meeting is where the tech team and music team gather to find out the best way to deliver on the decided event elements.

Up next is the Rehearsal. For my general experience this element consist of mainly the band and audio engineers. We could go on for pages on the best and different ways to conduct a good Rehearsal, but for now we will focus on one key item. That item is a recording of the set list in the exact order with the exact arrangements that will be played for the upcoming event. This can adjusted at any point if needed, but the general rule is practice what you 99% sure you will be doing. That recording is to include intros, transitions, and any speaking parts by the worship leaders. The recording is then uploaded to Planning Center Online to be distributed to the entire production team.

Ok, now that those three have been established it’s time to move to the Run Through element. The run through for me has happened the same day of the event and usually a few hours before the event begins. The following order of events are “simple”, but if done well can make for a great day.

1. Systems On

Length: 15–45 mins (depends on your system)

As a staff member or lead volunteer be sure you are the first one in the venue to turn everything on and make sure that everything is ready to go for run through. This includes all gear in place and on, setlist printed out, production areas cleaned up, stage cleared, etc. There is nothing that will slow down the start of a run through and begin to frustrat others than when someone is still looking for a camera, importing videos or moving a lift off stage. This is a huge step in setting the team up for success from when they first walk through the doors.

2. IEM Check

Length: 10–20 mins

If your band has already rehearsed earlier in the week this is the time to run through a few verses to just verify no bugs have shown up since that rehearsal. Spend some time here with your band to get that last 10% of their in ear mix just right for them. Also this is the time do double check on fresh batteries for all wireless mics and IEM packs.

3. Pre Production Meeting

Length: 15–20 mins

Use this time to gather all your volunteers, and band if possible depending on IEM check. This is a short meeting to place a set list in each team members hand and review each and every step on the sheet. This doesn’t take too long, but don’t skip over it. Be very detailed with your set list by documenting different video routing, stage movements, mic changes, stage clocks, etc. The goal here is to all be on the same page and answer as many questions you can before everyone gets into position. I also encourage you to use this time to pray for the day and each other.

4. Run Through

Length: 40–60 mins (depends on your service length)

So if everything up to this point has been done with attention to detail this should go well. Maybe not smoothly, but well. This is where everyone and everything come together for the very first time. The goal here is to replicate as close to the actually service as possible. So start with your pre-service audio/video and move through every single element of your service.

This is in no particular order, but here are a few different elements:

Welcome – Be sure to have your welcome host there for run through and deliver his portion as if the room were full. This is hard to do at times and may seem pointless, but if done right it helps with timing as well as GFX cues.

Songs – From top to bottom along with transitions. Don’t start and stop between each song here, but instead use this time to nail those transitions one last time. Also just like the welcome segment, any speaking done by the worship leaders over intros or instrumental breaks should be done here.

Videos – Roll all videos and watch them in their entirety. Do not fast forward to the end because this is your chance to verify one last time that audio/video is in sync and correct. This is an easy portion to skip ahead on. Fight the tension here.

Message – This will be the element that will not run in full length. I have never expected a communicator to deliver their entire talk during a run through. So what I have done in the past is to practice the transition into the message element. Checked their mic placement and level. Then had them go through each talking point/slide with us on screen to verify they are all correct. Make any changes necessary and this portion is done.

Openers/Specials – This usually comes up front or at the end of a service. This is to be treated just like a song, but plan to possibly run it one or two more times after you complete the full run through. Over the years openers/specials have come with extra production elements or media elements. Since these are outside of the normal we tend to spend a little extra time on them during run through. The first time through is usually a chance to get the entire team familiar with the element. The second or third time is to knock it out of the park.

5. Evaluate

Length: 5–10 mins

Meet with your production staff and any team leads (Producer, Director, Audio, Stage Manager, Lighting) briefly after run through to evaluate how run through went. Use this time to discuss any small changes you believe you should make before the first service begins. And do your best to make changes that you know your team can correct and do not need to rehearse.

6. Team Meeting & Prayer

Length: 15–20 mins (depends on your schedule)

This is usually the last thing I do before we take our positions for the first service. Gather your team in the green room, hallway or outside. Greenroom’s are nice if your fortunate to have one because it gives the place for the volunteers and band to gather during a long day of services. But anyplace will do as long as your together and it’s quiet. Take the time here to review any changes that have been decided after run through and then spend some time encouraging the team. This is a time to help give vision to the day and to get focused. A few things we have done over the years is take prayer request and pray for people specifically. We have had volunteers and staff share their story of coming to know Jesus.

So lot’s of information here to take in, but I believe information that is simple to implement. The key to everything above is to get with your team and all get on the same page. Do not try to implement anything above with the rest of your team understand the vision behind it and why it can help to create an amazing experience. You should feel free to change what has been said here and make it your own. But over the years I have found this foundation and order has been very beneficial for the teams I have been blessed to lead.