For Churches Who Are Lacking Tech Volunteers … A Solution

Ah, Mondays.

A time to reflect on yesterday’s worship service(s) and review how things went.

As I sit this morning on my mini-vacation in Maine, it occurred to me that we did something yesterday at my church that we haven't done in quite a while, due to COVID.

We trained somebody on a tech position.

Long story short, I need more FOH sound techs (don’t we all?). So, I did the only logical thing I could do and asked one of our techs from another position (which isn’t currently needed due to our present setup) to shadow on the sound desk.

We are currently meeting in our normal space, but with a different setup to accommodate more chairs and still have 6 ft. of space between them. So, I don’t have lighting, cameras, or much production at all besides a pared-down sound system with an acoustic setup, and lyrics done by ProPresenter.

It’s a great time to train a FOH sound tech on how the board works.

It’s also a great time to explain our system for how we train somebody on a new position at my church.

4 Steps to a Successful Volunteer Apprenticeship Model

Step 1: “I Do, You Watch”

This phase is simply about a transfer of information. An already-proficient volunteer at that position does their job, and the new trainee watches them.

All of these steps will be in that order: Trainer does something, Trainee does something.

Give the trainee all the info they will need to accomplish the task, and then, if applicable, give them additional training to do on their own (i.e. YouTube videos, or other training).

Step 2: “I Do, You Help”

This step is very similar to step 1, except you have the trainee do a few things. You always supervise, and let them know that you’re there. This is just them dipping their toe in the water, and getting some hands-on experience. The trainer is still doing the majority of the work. This step can go on for several weeks (if the training is just happening once a week).

Step 3: “You Do, I Help”

Here’s where things begin to really move. Now, the trainee is doing the majority of the work, and the trainer is helping. This is a logical next step because the trainee just saw the trainer do this exact step, and their roles almost seem to switch.

Again, the trainee should not be left alone, and they should still feel fully supported by the trainer. However, the trainer should be very hands-off, with only the occasional involvement in the process.

Bonus tip: this is a great opportunity for your trainee to know what it feels like to be showing someone else how to work this station. Make this clear to them. They should be operating like they are the trainer now, and the trainer is their trainee. You’ll see how this plays out later.

This step can go on as long as the trainer deems it necessary. I’ve found that this is where people tend to get stuck, so be patient, but also push them to learn and get better.

We always say at my church that mistakes are okay, but the same mistake over and over is not.

Step 4: “You Do, I Watch”

This is the final step in the apprenticeship model training. Now the trainee is doing all the work, and the trainer is giving what is almost a silent test. They are determining whether or not the trainee is ready to do this alone.

Again, don’t leave the trainee alone for long, and be sure they know that they still have backup if absolutely necessary.

Also, have the trainee act like they are training the trainer. Get them in the habit of turning around and showing someone how to do what they are doing.

My first career was in teaching high school students, and I found that once a student had to show how to do something to another person, they really locked in that ability more that if they just learned it for themselves.

Use that to your advantage here as well.

Bonus Step 5: “You Do, Someone Else Watches”


This is the logical next step in the process, if you’ve done it right.

In steps 3 and 4, I explained the importance of having the trainee feel like they are now the trainer to their trainer.

This is where you make that a reality for a new trainee. Your apprentice is now a full member of the team, and they should now be fully equipped to train someone else.

Think about it, they just went through the training process themselves, so they should be the best person to train a new person.

This also removes you from the equation, and you have also developed a leader (whether or not they know it).

We have used this apprenticeship model with great success in our tech ministry as well as others in our church. It works with teenagers and adults, and it helps you have very confident volunteers who know how to make more volunteers for you.

If you have any questions, please reach out to me in the comments below.

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