Being a ‘professional techie’ in a church (e.g. a full time Audio Engineer serving on the sound roster) is a hard burden to bear. High expectations abound, but without the understanding or budget to back it up. In such conditions, it can also be hard to not be on the roster for duties every week. As a result, it is not surprising that many of us professional techies suffer from burnout and bitterness in our church ministry, and sometimes make big efforts to steer clear of any ‘work related’ ministry.
Even in the best of situations, as someone who does technical work day in and day out, it can be hard to slot into technical ministry in a church. Being on the team like everyone else is a great way to serve, but is that the best use of our God given skills? Is it the best way to steward our gifts?
I want to propose three ways professionals can serve above and beyond just serving on a roster, depending on the strengths of the individual. These ways of serving could complement or replace the need to serve on the roster. I believe being involved in one or all of the following ways can be a great way of combating burnout or bitterness, and it may well also give rise to many new and helpful ways of stewarding the skills we have as professionals.
I have found it increasingly important to have a team leader for each technical roster; someone who is designated as the go to person for both technical and pastoral support. The support a team leader can provide is invaluable, particularly when issues occur. Having someone on call with the technical skills to fix last-minute problems or fill in for absent volunteers can be a lifesaver.
A team leader can also be the bridge between the team and the ministry staff, or other touch points in the volunteer roster (like the music team). They can bring forward issues presenting in the tech team, speak on their behalf and implement solutions as required.
Structured training, either formal or informal, is often overlooked in technical teams. Basic training (where things are and what buttons not to touch) is often the extent of the training when someone signs up to a team. This can sometimes create a culture of laziness and acceptance of low standards within the teams.
However, with a professional conducting structured training and development, the team will have a means to grow and develop their skills, while creating a space for the team to learn new things, ask questions and feel safe to make mistakes. This could take the form of occasional supervision and on-the-job training, or more formal workshop or seminar style.
Additionally, as professionals we have a wonderful opportunity to raise up new leaders, trainers and skilled individuals to fill our boots. Fitting a succession plan into your vision for the future means you and your church can have confidence all the hard work being put into the team will continue if one day you leave or step down.
3: Vision and expectation setting
Professionals have the expertise and experience to advise on, develop and implement a vision for the future of the technical ministry of the church. This will most likely occur in discussions with ministry staff about current pain points and future growth plans. Developing plans for growing and upskilling the team, purchasing new equipment and setting up new processes is both incredibly valuable and within the skillset of us professional techies.
This type of advisory role would also have the ability to set realistic expectations for what is and is not possible, particularly with respect to budgets. Doing technical things well often costs money, so knowing what is achievable with a given budget is valuable information for church leadership. Being able to put each purchase into a big picture across all technical areas will grow and develop the confidence and vision of the ministry team.
As a professional techie in my church who has been involved in all of the three roles outlined above, I have found that I have been given the space to grow in my skills and service without the pressures and tedium of the day-to-day roster. I have been able to teach and develop a team of volunteers that grow in skill and character every week. I have been fortunate to have flexibility in where my skills can be applied while also ensuring that the needs of the church are met. And thankfully, I have not developed burn out or bitterness in my service. I am hugely blessed by the opportunity to carve out a role for myself with supporting church staff and many wonderful volunteers. I would encourage all professional techies to do the same.