how to lead volunteers when you don’t have time

Here at FILO, one of the most frequent challenges we hear about is how to lead volunteers. Church production is busy and it’s easy to feel stuck when we need to spend most of our time on production systems. How can we make more time to work on developing our volunteers?

I have some ideas for you, but first I need to share a hard truth. The pressing needs of the church–the next set design, the next ministry event, or the handheld mic that just died in the kid’s wing – will always demand your time. There’s no way around it, there’s no shortcut – you have to make time to invest in your volunteers. However, I want to share with you 2 ways you can keep leading volunteers at the forefront of your work.

Make volunteer growth part of your regular rhythms

It’s important to make volunteer growth part of your annual, weekly, and monthly rhythms. Just like you have systems for patching the stage, programming lighting cues, and building ProPresenter playlists, you need a system for how you manage volunteers.

Start by identifying how you can do this regularly throughout the year. Take volunteer recruiting, for example. On the first day of every month, set a reminder to email all of the ministry leaders in your church and ask them if they know anyone who might want to serve on the production team. Once a quarter, ask your communications team if you can have a platform announcement or social media post to recruit people. Next time you go to send a PCO blockout request email, encourage your volunteers to ask if their friends might be interested in joining the team.

Right now you might only intentionally recruit 1-2 times per year, but if you use the examples above, you’ll now be recruiting 15-20 times per year! The same goes for training and growth. How often could you host a team night? How often can you take a volunteer out to coffee or ask them to come to a rehearsal to catch up? How can you make volunteer development a regular part of your work?

You’re a production leader – you’re a master of complicated systems. What you need is a system to manage the most important aspect of your ministry: your volunteers.

Here are some questions to consider as you create your own volunteer growth system:

  • What app or tool are you going to use to schedule these rhythms?
  • What are the best months of the year to focus on training and growth? (Hint: it’s after December and April)
  • What things are you already doing? How can you improve that? If you go to the FILO conference (which you should!), could you host a team dinner when you get back to share what you learned with the rest of your team?
  • What’s one creative way you could recruit people for your team? (A BTS video of a rehearsal? Recording and sharing your comm feed with multi-view?)

We often get stuck because we think engaging volunteers needs to be extravagant. If you can host a team night, great! But don’t reinvent the wheel here – look for the small steps you can take each week and month to keep volunteer leadership at the forefront of your work.

The best part of having a volunteer system is you don’t have to maintain the system alone, which brings me to my next point.

Empower your team by asking for help

A lot of production leaders believe the lie that it’s up to us to recruit, train, and grow our volunteers. But don’t forget – you already have a committed team who helps make Sunday happen on a regular basis. These are the same people who will help you grow the team!

What would it look like for you to ask your volunteers to reach out to their friends? What would it look like to have your volunteers train other volunteers? Can you ask them to help you schedule and plan training events?

Say you’re getting ready for Christmas and you have to do an entire stage redesign for a new sermon series and then change all of it for Christmas Eve. Are you going to do this all by yourself? Of course not! You’re going to get your team and as many people as you possibly can together to make that happen in time. The same is true for leading volunteers. You don’t have to do this alone.

Over time your team will have a new sense of ownership and you’ll get to celebrate how much your team has grown together under your leadership. This is the kind of expertise you bring to your church and this is the kind of expertise you need to apply to your volunteer work. Lead your team to take charge of growing your volunteers!

Grow your team through FILO Coaching

Here at FILO we know how hard it can be to balance regular production work and pouring into your team. We want to help – this is why we created FILO Coaching! We want to connect you with other production leaders and empower you to be the healthiest version of yourself. If you are interested in learning more, check out our Coaching page

Picture of Alex Sawyer

Alex Sawyer

After growing up and working in full time Church Production, Alex launched his own business as an independent producer and production coach. He partners regularly with churches, artists, and organizations to clarify their vision and streamline processes to bring their creative ideas to life. He is passionate about serving and supporting production artists in the local church and loves when the FILO Community comes together to share stories and grow together as disciples of Jesus. Alex and his wife Hannah live in Richmond, VA with their 2 kids, 2 dogs, and 2 cats!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join the Community

Subscribe and never miss a thing

MAY 6-7, 2025