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Maintaining a Crew

by Vince Lepore • in
  • June 2018
  • Sound Sanctuary
• Created: June 6, 2018

If you’ve worked at a church for any period of time, you know that the most challenging aspect is the people, not the gear. Maintaining a great crew of staff and volunteers is tough. People come and go from churches, it’s just the natural order of how things work. Having been at my current church for well over a decade, I have witnessed the ebb and flow of people coming and leaving, but I also have people that have been around me since day one, the true diehards, the “lifers,” if you will. Boy, I really appreciate those few people that I have worked very closely with and have come to rely on so much over the years. Those relationships, those bonds, those are the people who help carry you through the difficult times when other volunteers leave. Those are the people you want to keep around you, and I have been fortunate to have many of them.

‡‡         Crew Safety

Your team’s safety should always be the number one priority. That should go without saying. However, actually expressing this to your team on a regular basis not only reinforces its importance, but it also shows your staff and volunteers that you care about their well-being. I have no doubt done some unsafe things in my life, and I’ve learned from those mistakes. When someone on our team does something unsafe, especially with regard to rigging or power, I will give them a stern warning about what they did wrong, but always in the context of ensuring everyone’s safety. People almost always respond well to that type of criticism, no matter how hard I might be on them.

‡‡         Scheduling

If you are a volunteer or staff member, there’s nothing worse than a confusing schedule. I work really hard to make my scheduling clear and to always work around people’s conflicts and vacations. I also try to keep people in their preferred service time and type so they feel comfortable. We have volunteers who are eager and willing to work at any time and at any service, and we also have volunteers who only want 9:30 a.m. Traditional Worship on the second Sunday of the month. I do my best to honor their requests, because it keeps people coming back and feeling at home. We schedule in six-week increments, so volunteers know when they are working well in advance and can plan accordingly. Every six weeks, I send an e-mail requesting blockout dates (we use Planning Center software for scheduling, and I’m sure you do, too). Once people have had a few days to enter in their blockouts, I’ll work up a schedule for the next six weeks and send it out.

‡‡         Pay

I take back what I said in the last paragraph. There is something worse than a confusing schedule, it’s not getting paid. We’ve all been there. You do a gig, and the paycheck just doesn’t arrive. You wait patiently, and then you start following up. You’ve sent an invoice, resent an invoice, and still nothing. I never want to be responsible for someone not being paid. I try to be meticulous about tracking who needs to be paid and when. When I book someone for an event, I document it in a spreadsheet immediately, including the rate that they’ll be paid, their call time, the event start time and the event end time. Once they have completed the gig, I submit a check request to our finance director. I only submit them digitally via e-mail so that there’s a record of when I submitted it. I also log the check request as a link in my spreadsheet. It’s a time consuming process, but I always know who is getting paid and when. Techs will always want to work at a place that pays well and pays in a timely manner.

‡‡         Protecting Your Team

I go to bat for my staff and volunteers. I fight for more money for them, more hours, and I make sure that they aren’t taken advantage of. People appreciate when you stick up for them, and they are more likely to respond positively to criticism if they know that, at the end of the day, you have their back. We’ve had some challenges recently where someone schedules an event, requests one of our techs, and then cancels the event at the last minute, leaving my staff out of work and out of a paycheck. I still insist that they get paid. I will not stand for it. People seem to think that techs are at their disposal, like they sit around all day waiting to help with something. In fact, these people make a living doing this stuff. They put food on the table, pay their rent, pay for college, and we can’t just book them and then cancel at any time like it’s no big deal. (Can you tell this is a pet peeve of mine? Well it is.)

Finally, never ask your crew to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. Don’t be that boss that asks unsafe or unreasonable things of their staff. I treat my crew with respect, even if I’m hard on them when they don’t meet expectations. Be critical when a team member doesn’t do a good job, but praise them when they do. Everyone wants to feel appreciated, especially if they are volunteering their time. Don’t take them for granted and you’ll find yourself surrounded by those diehard, long-term people I referred to earlier. Those are the people you want to keep around.

Vince Lepore is the technical director at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando and teaches live production at Full Sail University.

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