I have too much to do and too little time to do it.
I can?t ever seem to find enough volunteers to get it all done.
I?m tired of always being tired.
I am burning out; I don?t think I even want to be in a church anymore.
Do any of these statements resonate with you? If you?ve thought them even once, you?re in pretty good company. As I meet with churches all across the US, these are common themes I hear from tech directors especially, but really anyone in a creative arts role in the church. And while I?ve been teaching more or less the same ?How to Build Great Technical Teams? since 2008, it?s always one of my best attended classes. There is a fairly true clich? phrase out there that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. So how do we overcome that? What is it going to take to get more accomplished, get more margin, and set up your team for long term success? Let me give you three reasons why you should be tapping into your church?s young people more.
1. They learn technology fast.
Let?s face it: Teenagers and younger 20-somethings tend to pick up technological advancements faster than those in their 40?s and 50?s. As our audio, video, and lighting systems continue to get more complex and network oriented, we?re crazy not to include the people who tend to learn and adapt the fastest.[quote]As our systems continue to get more complex, we?re crazy not to include the people who tend to learn and adapt the fastest.[/quote]
2. They are available.
The older I get, the less time I have to invest as a volunteer. With a wife, two kids (ages 9 and 7), and a pretty demanding job and travel schedule, I have become a terrible volunteer. I have a hard time making rehearsals, being on a regular rotation for weekend services, or being available for special events. And in 10 years as a tech director, I found this to be true for most adults?in particular those with kids. You know who has none of those things and will generally spend all of their time where they are appreciated? Teenagers and early 20-somethings. My most regularly available volunteers have always been teenagers.
3. They are our future.
The older I get, the more I focus my time on what really matters to me and the less time I devote to the fringe requests I get for my time. I got hooked on audio and lighting as a teenager myself, and guess what I still fight to make time for? You got it. Get teenagers in early and teach them to serve well and be successful technicians, and they may very well be great technicians for decades to come. And who knows, when it comes time for you to move on, they may be the one to step in and take over what you started?which is an amazing legacy to leave.
Filling your team with young people has a ton of upside, but of course there are some challenges that come along with that. As a bonus, I?d like to give you five tips for integrating teenagers successfully into your team.
1. Always provide them a mentor.
One of the biggest arguments I hear against having teenagers on a team is that they?re not responsible or mature enough yet. I don?t know about you, but I didn?t learn those things until I was in a position that forced me to learn them. And I needed coaching along the way. If you?re going to grab a teen out of the crowd, train them for a few hours, and then expect them to handle high pressure situations or tough interpersonal conflict well on their own, you probably should rethink your position as a leader. Whether it?s you or someone else on your team, assign someone to mentor your young people and partner them up as a team as often as possible. Your young person may end up operating the gear or doing most of the work, but having that support and coach nearby helps them grow and become responsible as a technician and as a human being.
2. Communicate with their parents.
Another common argument I hear against having teenagers on your team is about reliability. Will they show up when I schedule them? There?s a fairly simple way to help teenagers serve well and hold them accountable to what they?ve signed up for, and that?s to include their parents on communication. Are you scheduling a teen in Planning Center to run lighting this weekend? Schedule their mom or dad too so they know what the call times are and what their kid has committed to. Most teens are still learning how to be responsible and follow through with their commitments. Invite their parents to help coach them in this.[quote]Are you scheduling a teen in Planning Center to run lighting this weekend? Schedule their mom or dad too.[/quote]
3. Give them purpose.
Most teens (and some of us adults) are trying to figure out what they want to do when they grow up?what they were made to do on this planet. One of the best ways you can get buy-in from teens is to give them a clear purpose and the opportunity to participate in it. Help them see the difference they are making and watch their commitment grow. And this one goes for everyone on your team. Adults too.
4. Feed them (literally).
The way to most techs? hearts are through their stomachs, but this is especially true for teens. Do not underestimate what solid catering will do to increase morale and commitment. A well-fed teen is more teachable, more committed to you as a leader, and more committed to the cause. I cannot overstate how much impact sharing food with a young man or woman on a regular basis can have on their lives.[quote]Do not underestimate what solid catering will do to increase morale and commitment.[/quote]
5. Have realistic expectations.
If you?re going to work with teens, make sure you have reasonable expectations of them. Don?t expect them to know what to do in a panic situation; they haven?t probably experienced many of those yet. Don?t expect them to understand the depths of budgets or interpersonal challenges. The odds are their experience there is limited. Treat them as young people who have much to learn, who will likely make mistakes, but have great potential, and watch them grow.
So while there can be challenges with filling your team with teens, it?s a win-win-win. You win because you get the help you need and more people who can step in and serve as your ministry grows. They win when they get to get involved in a great mission, finding purpose and an opportunity to grow in responsibility and maturity. The church wins?and not just your church, but the big C Church wins?because you?re helping the next generation of artists and leaders learn for all of the good and hard lessons you?ve already learned. You?re helping them be better and more successful than our generation will ever be.