The rewards of a team that feels like family is both extraordinary and immeasurable. In many ways, that feeling of family is why people go to church.
I stumbled upon the benefits on a family-like worship team accidentally.
Once upon a time, my church met in the gym of an elementary school. The congregation was around two hundred. Our campus pastor could run down a list of the members and tell you who was at worship that weekend and who wasn’t.
When you volunteered to play in the worship team, you were also volunteering for an hour of set up and an hour of tear down. Speakers, stage, backdrops, TV screens, everything had to be set up every Sunday before we could even start rehearsal.
An interesting thing happens when you have that time together. You start to feel close to be the people you are working with.
You get to know them by starting conversations during set up and tear down, but you also work alongside them. It starts to build a camaraderie. The team starts to feel like a family.
Fast-forward to the present. We’re now in our own building. No more set up and tear down every week. The church has grown. It’s impossible for any one person to know who attended worship on a given weekend. The amount of volunteers for the worship team have grown. It’s possible for people to be on the worship team for five months and still not meet everyone new on the team.
So how do you maintain a sense of family and belonging during growth?
Your situation might be different, but what you want probably isn’t. You want your worship team to feel like a family. You want them to feel like your team is worshiping as a unit, not as a cobbled together group of musicians. When your volunteers show up to lead worship, you want them to feel like they belong.
How can we accomplish this? There are some things I’m doing well and others I’m not. Here’s what I do. Some of these will seem self evident, but it’s amazing how many times we look over what’s right in front of our face.Some of these you can use, others won’t apply to you, but it might give you some ideas you wouldn’t have otherwise had. If you have ideas, I would love to hear them, too. Here we go.
Greet Them And Say Their Name As Soon As You See Them
When you see your volunteers enter the room, greet them well. The greeting goes a long way to help us feel like we belong.
In my experience, there are some necessary ingredients to make the greeting meaningful. First, eye contact. It lets them know that you know that they know they have arrived. The next is the smile. It’s not enough to acknowledge their presence. The smile communicates that you value their presence. So far all of this will make you an exceptional Walmart greeter, but we’re going for more so we need to add another ingredient.
Say their name. Maybe the greeting is a quick “Hi, Rupert,” from across the auditorium. Maybe it’s an exchange of four sentences. Whatever it is, make sure to say their name. This is more than being happy they are there. It’s recognizing they have an identity and their identity is worth knowing. I think I’m paraphrasing Dale Carnegie with this saying, “the most beautiful sound to a person is their name.” If you’re a worship leader, your volunteers are going to hear you sing some bad notes. Make sure to greet them with their name to make up for it.
Having something to do together, like playing music, leading worship, setting up a sound system, etc. is great. In my experience, this seems to really help men feel like they belong. Personally I always feel like I can open up to someone after I do something with them. It’s one of the reasons I like to go disc golfing with people. Doing something together makes me feel like I can open up with someone.
I find that some weekends there are so many things to do that I can forget to just be with my volunteers. As we say around my church, we’re human beings not human doings (I’m not sure where that saying got started). Doing things together is great, but sometimes we need to just be together.
Out of sheer luck and necessity, my worship team has a scheduled hang out time between the Sunday morning sound check and the actual service. For most of the volunteers, it’s the time they really get to know the people they are serving with.
If you have the same volunteers serving every weekend, you might not need a weekly hangout time. But maybe a once a quarter or once a month hangout on a week night would help bring a sense of family to your ministry.
A good goodbye after a service can communicate you value your volunteers for more than just what they can do for you. Try to catch them after the service and let them know you appreciate them and everything they do for their church. Try to talk about something they especially did well during the service. Maybe your guitar player nailed a riff he was struggling with during the week. Maybe a drummer had the perfect fill. Whatever it was, tell them something specific from the service that they did well.
This might seem weird, but I try to have some kind of appropriate (emphasis on appropriate) physical contact with every one of my volunteers. Some volunteers go in for a big hug. Others, it’s just a high-five or a fist bump. Most of the time it’s a hand shake. Saying goodbye/thank you that way feels more personal, so I try to do that.
Then I thank them for serving.
THANK YOU NOTES
In a land of emails and text messages, hand-written thank you notes speak volume. I’m not perfect at this, but for special occasions like Easter and Christmas services, I like to send thank you notes to the volunteers who served. Snail mail is meaningful. Sometimes typing isn’t a good way to show how much you appreciate someone’s service.
That being said, I’m not perfect at this and I’m not done writing notes to everyone who helped out during Holy Week. I’m going to get on that.
What have you done to help bring your volunteers together? Let me know in the comments, or on Twitter and Facebook.
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