I tweeted this yesterday & wanted to clarify that it was not directed at anyone currently; it was something I had remembered from around ten years ago:
If there's one thing I've learned in ministry over the last 30-40 years it's this:
Don't yell at your volunteers. Why?
They're unpaid people who could be doing other things w/ their time & talents or serving elsewhere.
I think it was 2007 or 2008 & I was playing guitar on our worship team. We had a full team back then, about 9-10 people on the platform each Sunday & 2-3 in the sound booth; it was, in some ways, the golden era of our fellowship w/ a pretty good percentage of people serving & serving joyfully.
We were having some sound issues at the time as we had a brick sanctuary & sound was bouncing off of the walls, even w/ several tectum panels plastered everywhere & w/ a full worship team on every Sunday you had vocal frequencies clashing w/ instrument frequencies & it was a sonic nightmare. The worship leader, of course, had to be heard & had to be able to hear both herself, her instrument & the other vocalists; that's just the way it was… everyone else was secondary & that was understood. We had ditched monitor wedges for in-ear monitors to eliminate platform noise, which in some ways, helped the overall mix. However, there were countless times when many of the musicians simply weren't turned up, both in the mains & in their personal monitor mix. This happened week after week.
Many people commented to me & to the other musicians, “well, we saw you playing but didn't hear you playing, all we heard was the worship leader”. After a while the mix got a little better but it was a rather frustrating time as the musicians just couldn't hear themselves & the sound guys appeared to not be doing anything about it, whether they were under orders or just incompetent is still a mystery to this day.
Well, after about 8-9 months of this nonsense I was ready to explode. One Sunday morning, during worship, I was called to play a couple of guitar solos & when the time came for them I couldn't hear a thing; the in-ear mix was terrible so I jerked the earbuds out of my ears & tried to play w/ the house mix, which was just as terrible. I couldn't find my place in the song(s) & on one song, I was playing in the wrong key. That song set was a disaster & I was more than embarrassed after the worship service ended. I wasn't just personally embarrassed, I was embarrassed for the team, for the fellowship & how everything lacked any resemblance to excellence; we had collectively fallen far short of that.
I stormed past the worship team & went to the sound guy in the booth & gave him what for. I was so mad, so frustrated & when I got done w/ him I went to the men's bathroom & washed my face w/ cold water for about ten minutes, trying to calm down as I was physically shaking. In the meantime, the man overseeing the Sound Ministry popped into the sound booth to check on things & the sound man relayed what had happened. Naturally, the overseer wasn't happy & hunted me down, we met in the foyer & yelled at each other, almost coming to blows, the tension was really thick. So here was the pastor preaching his sermon in the sanctuary, blissfully unaware of the royal rumble that was brewing in the foyer.
The overseer was seething, “Don't you ever talk to one of my guys like that again, ever!” That was the last straw for me, I should have just went to my car & drove home but I stood my ground. I said, “You wouldn't drive a car if you can't see, how am I supposed to play if I can't hear? This is nonsense, nine months of this & nothing has changed, it's gotten worse! What's the point of anyone but the worship leader being up there? We're not heard & we can't hear! It's all noise!”
We were both red w/ rage & he said, “Don't yell at my volunteers! If you have an issue, you come to me, not them! If you can do better, you run sound!”
“I can't play & run sound at the same time! Are they the only volunteers in this building? Do I get paid? No! I'm also a volunteer & I get yelled at plenty! Don't ever let this happen again, you've had months to fix this thing, fix it! I will hear or I won't play!” & we backed away from each other & I walked around the parking lot for a few minutes then left. I later e-mailed leadership & resigned from the worship team, packed up my gear later in the week & attended the following services for the next few months.
In hindsight, I didn't handle that well; in fact I handled that completely wrong. Shortly after that, a couple of the sound guys left the fellowship & eventually, after much prayer & some other circumstances/reasons, I did also.
I've changed a lot since then...
I share this story because this week, in prayer for the music & sound ministry, the Lord brought this event back to my memory. I had yelled at some volunteers & it had affected the fellowship. There was a better way, a more mature way, a more graceful way, of addressing the issue(s).
Fast-forward to the present, where the Lord has brought me back to this very fellowship which has new leadership & a much smaller music ministry team. In an ironic twist, I've recently been asked to serve temporarily in the sound ministry! So in the past couple of weeks I've been in the sound booth, serving, volunteering & I've gained a new perspective on this, on ministry as a whole.
I heard someone say, “Well, Jesus yelled at His disciples” but Jesus didn't yell at them for serving. The majority of people are volunteers, they're volunteering their time & their talents to serve I appreciate that fact more & more. From the coffee ministry to the welcome center to the greeters to the ushers to the children's ministry to the music ministry to the sound ministry to the men's ministry to women's ministry to the visitation ministry to the social media ministry to whatever ministry, they're all volunteers & I never want to take anyone for granted or yell at anyone again.
Yes, there's excellence.
Yes, there's ongoing training.
Yes, there's a learning curve.
Yes, we're all human & mistakes will be made.
I'm honored to serve & grateful for a lesson learned, even one from ten years ago...