After nearly 25 years of ministry, I’ve come to the conclusion that ministry is a team sport. Those who try to do it all alone don’t typically last that long, and their departure is seldom pretty. And while it is important to take a team approach to tech ministry, I would argue that there are two levels of “team.” One team member is the volunteer who shows up when they’re scheduled, does a good job, and goes home. The other type is the very dedicated, high capacity type who is there all the time. Those are the ones who will become associate TD’s even if they never collect a check. Developing the latter volunteer is the focus of this article.
It’s Jesus’ Model
I’ve spent a lot of time studying the life of Jesus. Take a read through the Gospels and pay close attention to how Jesus lived, and more specifically how he treated those around him. Even more specifically, note how He deals with his disciples. We know He called out twelve who followed Him wherever He went. But from those twelve, He chose three to really develop. Those were the ones with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration. Those three wrote books of the Bible. Those three were instrumental in the formation of the early Church.
It’s not that Jesus spent all His time with the three and ignored the nine; it’s just that He spent extra time with the three. When He had something very important to teach, He pulled those guys aside first and spent more time with them. I think we can do the same in our technical arts ministry.
If you take a minute to think about the team that serves with you right now, you can probably quickly identify 1-3 people who really stand out. They tend to give more time, serve more readily, and enjoy talking more about what we do. Those are the ones you want to really pour into.
What It Looks Like
Now, you may be intimidated at the thought of really developing a small group (or one) into true sidekicks. But relax. It’s not that hard. In every ministry where I’ve served, I always identified one, two, or three people who would become my “three.” I didn’t do anything crazy or super programmed; I just included them in a lot more planning, setup, and serving opportunities. We went to lunch more often, hung out, and spent many hours setting up, tearing down, training, and serving together.
Really, it’s just doing life and ministry together. One great example is the guy who became my LD at my last church. When I got there, Thomas was 15 and had a deep desire to learn the craft of lighting. As our staff changed and I was in need of someone to take care of lighting, I started calling on him. We began to spend a lot of time together talking about the system, the process, and what could be improved.
Through big events like Christmas and Easter, we spent a lot of time together and became great friends. Along the way, I was able to help shape how he thinks about lighting (at least in that church’s context) and gave him a ton of opportunities to step up and shine.
After a few years, he was completely managing lighting, training new volunteers, maintaining the console and the fixtures, and working up new lighting designs. We spent some time doing a book study, but mostly it was just spending time together.
It’s Worth the Effort
You might initially think you don’t have the time to do this. There are so many meetings, functions, and services to deal with that you don’t have time to carve out of your week pour into someone else. Here are two truths you need to know: First, you don’t have time not to do this. Second, it doesn’t take any extra time—just bring someone along with you while you’re doing all this work.
When I had to do a high school graduation one Thursday night in spring, guess who I called to do lights? Thomas. When we had to host a ballet school for two weeks of rehearsals and performances, who did I call to do lights? When I was working on the design for the Christmas production set, who did I call in to help with the design? These were all things I had to do anyway, and I just brought him along. And while we were doing this, we ate more than one Chicken Tender basket with a Blizzard for dessert.
Eventually, he got to the point where I didn’t even need to be involved with certain things anymore. Training volunteers? Set it up with Thomas. New lighting design for Christmas? Thomas. Need to install an update to the Hog? Thomas. His willingness to serve (and his love for doing it) freed me up to do other stuff. That actually increased my team’s capacity, which meant I didn’t have to work as hard or as long. And that freed me up to pour into someone else.
Technical ministry is really all about people, not gear. You really should be working to find ways to bring people along with you on the journey. What you’ll find is that it’s more enjoyable doing it together. I had some of the best times of my life in the tech booth with guys like Thomas, Jon, and Jonathan. Don’t miss that because you think you don’t have time.