Is a 5AM start time too early? No!

A Part of Multisite Monday

I know what you’re thinking. 5:00AM is too early for anything! In most circumstances, I would wholeheartedly agree. However, in a non-permanent multisite model, there is rarely a “too early” for set up. Things never go as planned. A section of pipe and drape has disappeared (or maybe the whole cart), the computer dongle that connects the laptop to the projector has walked off again, the baby gate hardware is bent, the four volunteers scheduled to set up your preschool room called in sick fifteen minutes ago, and why are there oil-like stains on all the rugs? Like I said…things never go as planned. At an Elevation non-permanent location we often asked our volunteers to arrive as early as 5:00AM to begin load-in.

Yes, these people were aliens from another planet that just happened to fall in love with our church. Just kidding. These were wonderful people who believed in the vision of our ministry and had a clear understanding of the role they were asked to play.

Often times in ministry we have to make the BIG ASK of team members, something that is crucial to the ongoing success of our ministry, but feels ridiculously taxing, something like a 5:00AM start time.

Through the years I’ve learned that although these BIG ASKS usually do require some sacrifice on the part of the team member, they are often as rewarding as they are burdensome. On many occasions, I’ve heard my husband coach ministry leaders through these tough conversations. He’ll often explain, “Don’t say no for them. You’re robbing them of a blessing.” Think about how you came to be in ministry? It’s probably because someone at some point asked you to do something that stretched you. You rose to the challenge, were given even more responsibility, and the rest is history.

Have I convinced you yet? If so, it’s time to start preparing. If you’re going to ask volunteers to step up, you must create a serving experience that is both efficient and rewarding. If you’re going to ask someone to arrive at 5:00AM, there better be music and coffee. Check out the start time and morning schedule for volunteers at a non-permanent Elevation Church location.

Sunday Morning

4:30AM: Box trucks carrying set-up equipment and supplies are picked up by a designated individual from a storage facility.

5:00AM: Box trucks arrive at the school or non-permanent location. Initial load-in process begins.

  • Music is playing.
  • Coffee is delivered.
  • The members of this team are in competition to beat their previous load-in time.
  • Breakfast is served to this team immediately following the completion of the initial load in.

6:00AM: Volunteers from all teams arrive to begin setup of various areas.

  • Music is playing in the hallways.
  • Coffee is available for all volunteers.
  • Supplies requested the previous week are delivered to perspective areas.

7:30AM: Breakfast is served in eHQ (Empowerment Headquarters) for all set-up volunteers.

  • Hot, homemade food is offered along with gourmet coffee and a variety of teas.
  • Volunteers are encouraged to sit as teams and catch up with one another.
  • Tables are decorated and scattered with tiny notes of encouragement.

8:00AM: An all-volunteer rally begins in eHQ (lead by campus staff).

  • Specific volunteers are recognized and honored for their sacrifice and contribution.
  • A story of life change, specific to the campus, is shared to remind volunteers of the impact they are having.
  • A short five minute devotional thought is shared.
  • All volunteers pray together.

8:30AM: Volunteers are dismissed to their perspective areas to meet as a team and discuss any special considerations for the day.

  • Volunteers are encouraged to connect, share and pray together.

9:10AM: Volunteers are in place to welcome and serve those attending.

At Elevation we ask all volunteers to serve during one experience and attend during another. During the first six weeks of launch all volunteers are asked to be present and accounted for at all times (an all-in mindset). At week seven, we assign half of our area volunteers to set-up and half to tear-down. Those that serve during the 9:30AM worship experience also serve on the set-up team. They serve, then head into the main auditorium to attend the 11:30AM worship experience. Those that attend during the 9:30AM worship experience will serve at 11:30AM and assist in tear-down. All volunteers are asked to be on campus by 8:00AM for breakfast and the all-volunteer rally.

There is no perfect schedule. Arrival times are always being tweaked and updated. Your goal should not be to ask less of your teams. The goal is to make the most of their serve time and create community among your volunteer base. When considering start times, set-up, tear-down and volunteer systems, it’s important to remember the benefits should outweigh the sacrifices. Focus on making your volunteer experience as rewarding as possible. Happy teams last. Fulfilled volunteers produce excellence.

Don’t be afraid to make the BIG ASK of your volunteers. 5:00AM isn’t too early if you’re prepared to make the experience an enjoyable one. Volunteers will enthusiastically accept a challenge when they feel called to something significant. Keep the vision clear, honor the sacrifice and make the experience fun!

For additional Multisite Monday articles, click here.

Jess Bealer

Jessica Bealer has been leading children’s ministry for 17 years. The last five years have been spent overseeing standards, systems, staffing and atmosphere for the children’s ministry of Elevation Church. She has overseen the launch of nearly twenty locations, and is considered a specialist in kidmin multisite. Jessica is a mother of four and published author. She is married to Frank, the CEO of Phase Family Centers and Executive Director of Leadership Development at Orange. Together they are the founders of FamilyMinistry.Church.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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