People Before Programming

Possibly the most important part of my job is leading volunteers. As the video engineer for a large church there is a lot of task work to be done. Gear constantly needs to be maintained and programmed, not to mention there is a constant effort to make things more efficient or add helpful components to the system. There is a lot of detail that has to be right for things to sync up and work properly during a service. ProPresenter has to send all the right things at the right times to our switcher. Motion Graphics and Live Lyric Videos have to align with both lighting and music. Timers for our stage talent have to be accurate. Our online profiles and web streams have to be updated and managed every week. Cameras and projectors need to be color balanced, cables need to be fixed, rooms need to be cleaned and organized, projects come up on a weekly basis, and there are 40 to 50 video team volunteers who’s schedules need to be coordinated. The list can go on and on. Add to all of this that, with my personality, I have a tendency to nit-pick every task until it is perfect before moving on to the next one. Needless to say, there is plenty of work to be done. It is very easy to allow my days, weeks, and months to be consumed by my to-do list. While all of these things are important and cannot be neglected, I have learned that none of them are as important as the people who are involved.

I discussed in my previous post that we use art and technology as a tool to invest in people. Unfortunately, investing in people is the easiest thing to neglect when there is so much to do and the next “show” is right around the corner. I love the work. I love the feeling of accomplishment when everything comes together under stress. If I’m not careful, I can even find my sense of value in that. But it is not the most important thing. The most important thing is investing in the people. I’ve heard our pastor, Mike Ashcraft, say many times, “The people in the seats are more important than the issues on the table.” In the past few years, we have tried to focus more of our attention on the people around us, especially our volunteers. We are a long way from doing that as well as we would like, but I think we are moving in a good direction. Here are some things we try to pay attention to even when there is a never-ending list of tasks begging to be completed


We usually fluctuate between about 60 and 70 volunteers on our Sunday Production Team. Everything we do volunteer driven. In fact, I can narrow down my entire job description as simply to set volunteers up for success. Port City Community Church is a large place! That comes with both blessings and challenges. One of the biggest challenges is that it’s very easy for people to walk in the doors, sit through a service, and then leave without ever becoming a part of the family. Volunteering provides a place for people to become connected to their church and also provides a place to serve others. We make it a value to be inclusive to anyone possible.


Because we are volunteer driven and because we have an open door policy, most of our team is made up of people who have never done this kind of thing before. It is our job to equip them and then give the job away to them. Each of our volunteers goes through a training process before we throw them into running a position on Sunday. This process looks a little different for every position but we try to follow the same structure all around. 

Step 1) I do, you watch. 
Step 2) I do, you help.
Step 3) You do, I help.
Step 4) You do.

Those steps may sometimes take a while. But the end goal is the same — I want to set you up to succeed in owning this position. In the interest of giving volunteers ownership, we very often have seasoned volunteers train new volunteers (Step 5 - You train someone else).  We also try to provide opportunities for continued skill development. Each of our volunteers have access to an archive of all of our past services and we try to critique ourselves and provide opportunities to give helpful advice to each other as well. 


As simple and silly as it may sound, communication is key to creating a culture of continual improvement. Casting vision constantly is a must to keep the entire team on the same page and moving in the same direction. We’ve had times in the past where communication was not what is should be and we found that everyone began just doing their own thing and team work started to go out the window. It is crucial to communicate vision and strategy continually and consistently. Honestly, we are still trying to improve on this, but “team work” has become a part of our common language. I am starting to meet regularly with my Video Director’s to discuss our vision and direction. We meet with our video team after each rehearsal and some services to talk about what’s going well and what we want to work on. We also make sure that every volunteer who is scheduled for a service knows very well what that service will look like and what their part in that is.


Excellence is a high value for us. We define excellence by “doing the best you can with what you have.” In order for this to be a healthy thing for our team, we have to be very intentional about what kind of culture we create. We want every volunteer to know that we want something FOR them more than we want something FROM them! One of our mantra’s is “Strive for the Ideal, give grace to the real.” We will strive to do our best. We have goals and strategies, but in the midst of trying to accomplish those things, we give a lot of grace to the fact that everything is not going to go perfectly. There are a lot of moving parts and each person on our team has a different level of understanding. We do our best, we laugh at our mistakes, and we try again. We try to create a culture where everyone wants to continue learning. While we do want our volunteers to be competent, we also try to balance that with a healthy does of humility. As a staff we try to always ask, “what can I do to make it better?”, and we ask our volunteers to have the same posture. We are here to serve our church and to serve each other. We do not tolerate condescending attitudes and we expect everyone to treat each other with respect. 


Community is also a high value for us and it directly affects Culture. We want volunteering to be a way for people to becoming a part of our family. It should be an opportunity to be known and to belong. It can be difficult on a Sunday when there are so many things that need to be done, but we try to leave space for community when we our team is together and we encourage our volunteers to get to know each other. We encourage our most seasoned volunteers to intentionally make the first move in starting conversations with others and getting to know someone. We pray together as a team and start our times together talking about what’s going on in each other’s lives. 


This is the one we are most recently trying to figure out how to implement better. We desire for the production team to be a place where people are pushed to grow in their walk with God and in their leadership skills. While we do provide opportunities for leadership (Producing, Directing, Training) we are currently trying to come up with some tangible ways to filter that down through the rest of the team. We have provided team small groups for bible study, we have read and discussed books together, watched or listened to leadership talks, and we’ve provided opportunities for key volunteers to attend conferences. Most recently, I have developed a leadership team made up of some key volunteers (I call them my coaches). The purpose of that team is to give those people a place to have a voice in clarifying our goals, values, strategies and decisions, and to help communicate and implement those things into the culture of our team. We spend time learning together, praying together, and they are the first people I approach to train new volunteers. They are given the most opportunities to influence others. We have also started an intern program and this fall, we are combining the interns and coaches, and inviting the rest of the team to join us in going through Bob Goff’s book “Everybody Always”.

We have a lot to improve on when it comes to investing in people, but I am grateful to work for an organization that values people and works intentionally to develop a culture that values the same. It is my prayer that everyone who reads this is encouraged to care a little more about the people you have influence on and to be more intentional in finding ways to show that.

Video Director & Engineer, Wilmington Campus