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December 11, 2004



AND, using volunteers in the technology areas provides an interesting dynamic when excellence is such an important part of the presentation of the gospel. In the leadership structure, you can't exactly hold a volunteer accountable for messing up. They're giving their time and their service to the church because they want to be a part of the body in an area they're talented in.

This is the toughest part of my job... balancing my desire for people to become a part of the body in a service capactiy that can make them feel alive and part of the work that God is doing through His church... but realizing that the tech side of things makes that difficult sometimes.

I feel like i'm underserving/appreciating/using/involving talented, passionate people because, in all honesty, we don't have a place that they can fit into easily. Especially since we're in the same boat with the need-to-release in a few hours operations mentality.

Peter Davidson

Brian, you ask the question from the wrong perspective. You are asking what can volunteers do for us(the church) and not the question of what can we(the IT of the church) do for the volunteers. The model I used in working with visual artists in the church was to:

1) Build a compelling Acts 2 community that is so alive and vibrant with the love of Christ for one another that people even introverts are compelled to be a part of it.

2) Envision the "big dog" volunteers to see their role as developers of the "puppy" volunteers in both things technical and spiritual.

3) Build serving opportunities of all kinds into community life as a "cost of entry" to be a part of the community. aka "this group is so great that I don't mind getting up early to be here at 6 am"

4) Through small projects build trust and ownership in the ministry for larger projects. All the while casting the vision for security, ownership, consistency, documentation, accountability, etc.

5) Achieve, celebrate, challenge, encourage, rinse and repeat.

It's not "what your IT skills can do for your church, but what your church can do with and for who God made you to be."

Ya, but..... You don't have time to build and lead a community of propeller heads and get all your work done. A common sentiment from those leading volunteers. Two strategies there.

1) Find a high capacity "big dog" volunteer and challenge them to simply take over significant portions of your job description so that you have time and capacity to a) support and minister to them b) build and lead a community of tech volunteers. Sometimes the big dogs don't play in the ministry because there's no real challenge for them or signifigance.

2) Find a gifted tech volunteer who is a leader. Challenge them to build a leadership team to build a community. While tech nerds may not always have gifts in the hospitality area they have spouses who may have such gifts.

Hope this is something to think about.

Jon Edmiston

Brian, I can relate to your comments. We have the same challenges with volunteers at our church. We do have a very successful IT Desktop Team who comes in once a month to do routine maintenance on all our desktops (defrag, spyware checks, etc). They save us a great deal of time and are a true joy to work with. We also have a great volunteer who does all of the images for our Fusion e-zine each week. Again this individual is very helpful to us (saves us ~10 hours of staff time a week).

Outside of these two areas we have had a challenge with getting people plugged in for the reasons you discuss but many others (need for coding standards, remote access, etc.)

We've also had several disappointments in the past where we thought we had a leader (Peter's "Dig Dog"), invested time and effort into them, and then were disappointed by never hearing from them again.

We, like you, are not giving up though. I recently read Bill Hybels "The Volunteer Revolution" and got a few good points from it. I think Peter's "Big Dog" concept is good, but more challenging than it sounds. We're still searching for ours.

We're also starting a new "IT Advisory Council". We've identified several individuals who are experts in their field (ranging from IT wiring/fiber to wireless networking to PBX systems to programming architectures). We hope to use this team as a sounding board for new ideas and guidance for upcoming projects. Our first trial meeting went very well. The lessons learned from the meeting were VERY valuable to us and saved us from possibly making some mistakes.

Anyways, I just wanted to say "I feel your pain". Hopefully as we find new ideas we can share them in these blogs.


tough question.. I'd venture to say that there are other motivations that people can have beyond cause, challenge, or community; for me, being a tech person, I'm probably more motivated by contribution and relationship, that there is something I have that I can offer (in terms of a tech service or research) and that I'm valued through relationship to give it & share it. So an individual personalized customized approach with a gracious invitation can possibly get you a committed quality volunteer, someone like me :).

Erik Lane

Yep, finding a unique way to serve for someone like me is hard to do so we've stepped out of our comfort zone a few times and are better for it. Although finding a way to serve, in my comfort zone, would be very nice. :-)

Paul Podraza

hey, i know this is an old post, but I'll comment anyway. C3 2005 has changed me in one significant way. Rob Bell quoted a line from the end of Billy Graham's biography. Billy said "I wish I would have worked less." Being a td at a church that has excellence as its standard, I spend a lot of my time doing work, and very little time training volunteers. I usually work around 50 hours a week, but most of the time spread it out over all 7 days, leaving little continuous time with my family.

then the revelation hit. since i like working so much on saturdays and sundays, and have a young son who is not in school, why don't i make my off days thrusday and friday, and work all day saturday and sunday, which are the days most volunteers have available?

so in about two weeks, I'll try it for awhile, and let you know how it goes. I look forward to being able to pour into and train my volunteers to do jobs that anyone can do, change lamps in the catwalk, do the gruntwork of setting lights up for a video shoot, then include them on the stuff that takes years to learn, how to shoot, how to edit, etc.

the cream will rise to the top, and i can then enable that big dog to bring others along. :)

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