I have enjoyed being part of worship and music ministry in the local church since the days I used to develop Kodak Kodolith slides projected over a cyclorama curtain. The changing colors and the sharp, crisp slides were all in analog, including the spelling errors! The Saturday night ritual of developing in my darkroom-closet was quickly terminated upon the purchase of our church’s first digital projector. Then, the horrors of PowerPoint as applied to congregational singing commenced.
I don’t mean to bore you with too many historical anecdotes, but I think we need to step back and see how far we have come in the local church as far as media and its use in preaching and congregation worship and liturgy. Once only found in larger church settings or events, the use of multi-screens and motion backgrounds are now ubiquitous in most houses of worship. What is also a common occurrence is the frustration with staff and volunteers in using the software and hardware to produce visual communication. You either have to choose simple and super-limited, or use a tool that does way too much for a typical volunteer.
As a leader over the Tech and Worship departments at larger churches, the truth is that you are still a volunteer-driven ministry. Yes, it is nice to have paid staff to run your presentation and video switching gear if you have a TV-broadcast system and expectation. However, what about the volunteer? To crowdsource volunteers is to tap into your largest asset as a church. No matter how big you are, you cannot pay people to operate all you do for a weekend service. In fact, this would be silly and a waste in my opinion. The projection ministry position’s effectiveness may be the best indicator of the volunteer health of your entire church tech ministry. If you have a bottleneck, you will see it here. If you have ample staffing and growth, this position will likely be a team instead of one or two faithful people.
The obstacle for most projection ministry tools in the past was to simply suffer with PowerPoint or buggy software to serve your needs. Each team member in this type of system may format slides differently, leading to confusion and difficulty with uniformity. Today’s dilemma is the tension to purchase too much power in a professional program that may be way above the skill or learning curve of your church’s volunteers. I’m glad to see new tools that volunteers can learn and use as a team. Both of these issues no longer need to be barriers to building a functioning team.
Here is one example. The presentation software Proclaim represents the best trend in church software—collaboration via the cloud! Imagine that several people—your pastor, worship leader, tech leader and operators—all working to prepare the Sunday presentation together? That meeting never happens in real life or real time. But what if it could happen? Proclaim offers a solution with cross-platform ease. And, if you already use other church cloud-based tools like Planning Center and CCLI’s Song Select, your work is yet even more efficient. Proclaim pulls song lyric data from the list of your set in Planning Center or from the CCLI’s Song Select service. Entering lyrics is forever outsourced to existing databases! Add to this how Proclaim has ready-made, cleanly designed templates that formats songs and you have a winner.
But, is it just about the tools? The typical model of a single person who can prepare and run your slides position in the church should quickly fade with the new tools. However, what seems to block many from implementing any worthy church cloud-based tool is not the functionality or even the cost. Having control means I can see the predictable. What is difficult for that staff or volunteer is the knowledge that they are the sole individual delivering the goods—be it projection or other positions in your tech booth. A one-person system stunts growth and is bound to crash. One single point of failure is never a safe and reliable system, right? To successfully embrace crowdsourcing, cloud-based tools, a new way of thinking may need to be acquired.
Here are a few ways use of the cloud empowers volunteers, regardless of presentation, audio, or creative contributors in your church. Workflow tools such as Basecamp, scheduling tools such as Planning Center and even Google Docs all fit into this category of the cloud.
- Time and space barriers no longer bind us. A volunteer can work on the lyric portion during the evening after feeding his kids dinner into the wee hours of the morning if need be. A worship leader can schedule musicians while in line at the DMV. Another can do the work or add sermon content in a coffee shop on her lunch break. Imagine having access to information, communication and tools to accomplish your work all on your own laptop?
- No job is too small. What if you could have a person simply edit the text of the liturgy while another coordinates backgrounds. The more “definable” a job is the easier it is to fill. If your job is to sit in the booth every week, your only option is to comply or leave! If your roles have ambiguous boundaries, people will be shy to sign up. How do you eat an elephant?
- Leadership is about casting not ruling. Finding the best place for people to fit is a lot more energizing for a church than having to be “in charge” of how things are done. A good team will be skilled at creating the right content or product if the members are in their sweet spots. You are likely to find people better than you at all aspects of the tech work if they are cast properly. Why? Even those who are inexperienced are likely to grow if their aptitude matches the role.
- Control is overrated. Yes, I am going to be sure to say this. In one previous ministry, I was told by the volunteers that the lead pastor needed to pick the fonts for all the slides. They couldn’t do it but when that person was available which was minutes before the service. This stress depleted our ranks. Letting the team make decisions such as fonts—with guidelines and standards—meant ownership and a growth in numbers!
- Teams work. Individuals burn out. Yes, it is convenient to not have to figure out again and again how to explain expectations and to learn the particular skills needed. However, as stated, a single point of failure means you will crash—big time! Is it not more biblical to empower more people to do things rather than just a few? Efficiency for the moment is not worth the power of many oars paddling together!