3 Ways to Elevate Your Worship Service Using Volunteers

One of the things we talk about in The Sunday Morning System is how to elevate your worship service without the luxury of paid staff and contract talent.

In my first church job, one of the things I was involved in was student ministry. Our budget was $20 a week. The volunteers that were in there were so incredible, and this was some of the most excellent, fulfilling times of ministry in my life. All for $20 a week.

During this time, I would go to conferences and hear people say, “You’ll meet with your creative team and your video guy,” and I didn’t even know anyone with a video camera. But I would not allow that to be an excuse for not trying to do things with excellence.

Let’s remove that as an excuse.

Sometimes, some of the most creative people in life are the people who don’t have money because they have to figure it out. They have to be resourceful. I want you to know that you can create incredible experiences when it comes to your worship service without having a huge budget and a lot of paid staff.

Think about the Parable of the Talents. The master is going away, so he leaves these bags of gold with a couple of servants. One has one bag of gold, one gets two, and one gets five. The guy with one bag buries it and ends up with one. The guy with two invested them and ended up with four. The guy with five invested them and ended up with ten.

When the master returns, he has some very direct things to say to the one who had one bag of gold. Sometimes, I put myself in his position and think, “Well, if I had more, then I would invest it. This is one, so I don’t want to mess it up. What if my investment fails? If you had given me five bags, then maybe I could invest some and hold on to some.”

Then the master (Jesus is telling the story) looks at the other two and says, “‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things'” (Matthew 25:22-23). He says to the guy who invested two and the guy who invested five: “Come and share your master’s happiness.”

I think sometimes we feel like, “Man, we’ve just been given a few things. We don’t have what that church has. We don’t have the budget that they have, or their resources. Our pastor isn’t that young and that cool,” or whatever. We think of ourselves in the same terms as the guy who had one bag of gold.

I think God is asking us to be faithful even if we just have a few things. I think He’s asking us to invest and to do as good a job as we can with what we have. I want that to be your mindset. Whether you have a big church, a small church, regardless of your denomination or congregation. I want us all to decide that we’re going to be faithful with what we have. I want us to create excellence with what we’ve been given to manage.

I’m going to talk about three big words for you when it comes to energizing your volunteers and moving them towards excellence.

Before we get there, I want to read this quote.

“I marvel that God meets me in profound ways through un-extraordinary people who do more than just show up for Sunday worship.”

That’s what your volunteers do. They may be un-extraordinary people, but they do more than just show up on Sunday. They serve. The quote continues, “And it fills me with great joy to think that through my participation, someone else might go home saying, ‘God really met with us today.'”

Through ordinary people, God can do extraordinary things. God can move the resistible to irresistible, and God can meet with people. God can do that through an excellent system for your volunteers—people who don’t get paid.


#1. CLARIFY. What’s The Win?

The first thing you want to do when it comes to recruiting, when it comes to training volunteers, when it comes to the culture that you’re creating, is clarifying what the win is. What’s the win for our church? For this ministry area? For each volunteer role?

If someone is going to run lyrics for the worship band, you don’t start training them with, “Hey, here’s what you do. You put them in ProPresenter, you click here, and click here.”

You start by casting vision – explaining why you do what you do.

Maybe you say something like, “We want to remove any barriers or any distractions that anyone would have. The best thing that you could do when you run lyrics is for no one to notice that you’re there, because then they can just focus on the words. They can connect to God through the emotion of music and maybe take one step closer to their heavenly Father.”

You start with visionwhy you do what you do. Then you move to the mission—what you do. For example, what do you do as a host team? “We make people feel welcome and we make people feel clear on where they’re supposed to go. What we do is we say hello to everybody and we ask them if there’s any way we can help.”

Then, define the victory. How will people know when they’re doing their jobs well? One great thing you could do is to think back to some of your key, core volunteers. The volunteers that you just brag on. Write down what made them so awesome, and look for common threads amongst all of them. What are some of those things? You need to communicate that to volunteers.

Take the host team for example. When a host team member goes beyond just smiling, and they walk people to the information table instead of just pointing there. Tell them, “That’s when you know you’re doing things well. When you go the extra mile.” You want to look for common denominators that represent the victory for what happens in your department, and you want to point those out.

Finally, communicate the expectation: let people know what their role is and what you expect them to do as part of that role.

I think this is really when you begin to raise the bar of excellence when it comes to your volunteers. Instead of just haphazardly communicating expectations, you just say, “Hey, no. The reason why we want excellence in every aspect of our worship service is because we are representing the body of Christ to a group of people who have gotten beaten up all week. We want them to show up to some place that gives life. It gives life and it’s just a well-oiled machine.

Therefore, I expect you to show up on time. I expect you to communicate if you’re not going to be here. I expect you to apprentice under someone to grow in your role. I expect you to carry yourself in a way that says you represent the leadership of this church—that you’re not just a helper, but you’re a partner.”

You communicate the expectation to them because people want to know what the expectation is.

We need to tell volunteers our win, why we’re doing this, and what you would love for them to specifically do. The Sunday Morning System will provide training for you as a guide as you create and craft these answers in your own environment.


#2. AMPLIFY. Strengthen The System

When college football programs are failing, they’ll bring in a new coach and say, “Man, he just really turned the program around.” Now, what did he do? He strengthened the system. Not just on game day, but he strengthened the recruiting system, the facilities, practices, and schedules. He strengthened all of it.

Very simply, there may be some people who are not doing things with excellence in your environment because they just don’t know how. They haven’t been trained by someone who can train them how.

Maybe you have somebody on your soundboard who’s not doing a great job and you need to find somebody from another church who’s great on a soundboard to come over and train them. Maybe you don’t have anybody in your church who is great at it, but you want to give them the opportunity to learn to do their role excellently. Train them – teach them how.

Then you want to gamble. You want to take a chance with them. There may be a time when the guy who’s running your soundboard begins to apprentice someone. One day he will get to a point where he says, “You know what? This Wednesday night, I’m going to step aside and give the new guy the reins.” And it’s a little bit nerve-wracking, but you have to give people a shot. Even if you think they’re just barely qualified. Because this is really where they begin to stretch and to grow.

Then you want to support them. You want to treat them well.

These are human beings who are volunteering their time. When volunteers make a technical mistake, we have to practice patience and kindness. We have learned how to do some of the things that we do well by making mistakes. Your volunteers are going to do the same.

Now, there may be times where you have to reprimand someone. You may even have to let somebody go. But you still want to treat people well, with love, and patience, and kindness, and respect. You want to let them know that you’re still behind them. You’re not their boss. You are a ministry area department head and they’re volunteering to help you. We have to remember that.

Then, finally, evaluate them. Tell them what’s working. Again, you want to focus primarily on encouragement, on what they’re doing well. “I caught you doing this right. I love it when you do this.” Then, you can also challenge them a little bit and say, “Here’s one thing I think you can do better. As you run lyrics, I think you should just get to the next slide a little bit faster so people are ready.” They want to know how they’re doing and how they can get better.


#3. TESTIFY. Share The Success 

This is not just about people improving in their technical skill or a specific ability. This is about you connecting it to something bigger. Something bigger in your church, something bigger that God is doing in the lives of people.

You want to celebrate. You want to proclaim stories of life change that connect to what people are doing.

If Beth hands out bulletins every week, she may not necessarily equate her role with life change. But if you can tell her a story about how her warm smile and presence played a part in creating an atmosphere where a new couple felt at ease in your environment, Beth feels important.

Then, you highlight – you publicly acknowledge individuals and teams. Compliment people in front of other people. “Hey, I just want to recognize Tyler really quickly. He’s been here on time every week. He’s learning so much about backstage management. He’s doing an incredible job. You all just tell him, ‘Thank you.'”

The more you can publicly acknowledge people, the more encouragement these people get. Remember, they are getting beat down all week. Some of them have jobs where all they’re told is what they’re doing wrong. You have an opportunity to give them what they so desperately want, which is some encouragement. You want to take advantage of that opportunity.

Then, you want to appreciate. You want to profusely thank your leaders consistently.

You should continually tell your volunteers how grateful you are, whether they’re an all-star or they’re somebody who’s just showing up and getting it done.

Finally, you celebrate. Prioritize fun. When you go to concerts and there are musicians who have great technical skill, you’re like, “Oh, that was cool.” But when they have great technical skill, they’re having fun on stage, and people are having fun in the crowd, you’re like, “Wow, that was totally different.” You want to be somebody who prioritizes fun for people who volunteer with you.

One of the things The Sunday Morning System provides for you is a volunteer meeting calendar that will help you prioritize fun in your ministry schedule.

We have to get rid of the lie that says, “The only way I can do this is if I have a bigger staff, a bigger budget, and more resources.” That is not true. What you have right now is the opportunity for ordinary people to create extraordinary things.

I want you to take the talents God has given you, I want you to invest them, and I want you to share in your Master’s happiness.