How AV Vendors Can Empower Church Volunteer Teams

When selling to churches long enough, a pattern becomes patently obvious: Some church volunteer teams are better than others, regardless of size or budget. Why is it that some church volunteer teams ‘just get it’ and/or are more effective than others? If you’ve sold to, trained or been involved with church AV volunteerism, chances are you’ve observed or even been a part of these super teams from time to time. But what makes them super? What separates them from other teams?

For this audience to consider: Why should you as a vendor care? Because those volunteers represent your brand when they use your products.

Identifying super talented and humble volunteers is an important role of AV vendors installing gear into a church venue.

If you’re like me, you may have ascribed the disparity between teams to a strong leader or something that was dependent upon having an all-star member of the team to help the others rise to the occasion. I’ve had enough experience over 30 years of AV tech in the house of worship market to identify strong, capable leaders pretty quickly. In some ways, they’ll stand out to me in a crowd and I’ll try to get these all-stars to head up a dynamic team. But what happens when you’re in a room full of volunteers and you don’t see enough of these all-stars? What if the go-to people are seemingly absent (or vocal/animated enough)?

In re-reading Jim Collins’ opus Great by Choice, the chapter on four keys of managers spotlighted the truth I was missing. When you’re looking for a “10,” you’re passing right over the nines, eights, sevens and so on. As a vendor selling gear and services to help ensure events and services operate seamlessly, you have a vested interest in seeing these key volunteers (including those sevens, eights and nines) leverage your tools well.

Focus on Talent

Marcus Buckingham, former global practice leader with Gallup, defines talent as “a recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied.” If you’re looking, you’ll see talent in a lot of ordinary people every day. The guy at the grocery store who always seems to have his checkout line move faster than others, while somehow managing to still have more smiling customers, the teacher your kids love AND respect who pulls more out of them than their other teachers, the new staff member who builds relationships across departments effortlessly and brings convergent ideas together. These people are working in their sweet spot with their talent functioning fully and naturally.

And yet, talent alone is not enough. I recently talked about a very talented musician who had a conversation with a campus pastor friend of mine where the talented musician needed a dose of humility before his talent could be utilized in a healthy way. The talented musician bragged about his experience and asked the pastor how long it took for volunteer musicians to make it to the stage during weekend services. My wise pastor friend told him “about a year or so.” The musician, smugly said, “Yeah, but how long for someone like me?” The pastor responded, “Oh, I’d think that it would be even longer.”

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The most talented individuals can still have team failure if they’re not all given the same direction with clearly understood guidelines and expectations. Talented teams will take the initiative while clearly understanding the parameters and finding ways to achieve the right outcomes.

Set Outcomes

The best volunteer teams excel when the expectations are set by defining the right outcomes, not the right steps.

It’s also very helpful to know each volunteer′s top strengths. I am a fan of Strengths Finder 2.0 for helping people discover these strengths. Volunteer teams should be about combining the right mix of talents and strengths, not about filling roles with warm bodies.

If your technology is simple or complex, local churches need the same level of professionalism when it comes to both the operation of AV tech and the approach of defining preferred outcomes. Set realistic expectations with timelines, competency checks, on-site weekend mentoring.

Identify Volunteer Strengths

Motivating teams is much easier when you motivate them in their strengths, not their weaknesses.

Realizing you can’t make a someone a 10 in an area where they’re a four doesn’t mean you pass over that person; you simply find where they are a 10, set them up for success and watch them shine! Too often we have under-performers or downright unhappy volunteers because they’re not serving in their strengths.

When you’re selling training services (you are doing this, right?), have your talented technicians look for the super talented volunteers and point them out to the church staff. A paid mentorship is not only a valuable service for the church, but a nice additional revenue stream for your business.

The house of worship market will always use volunteers in some capacity for AV technology implementation and execution. As a vendor, the opportunity will arise time and again due to the inherent nature of volunteer turnover to sell again and again the training, mentorship and product upgrades that will inevitably be run by volunteers. A key for vendors is to help church leaders identify the most humble and talented of these lay people to maximize their AV technology investment.