Empower Your Volunteers and Avoid Burnout

We have all witnessed it time and time again: some of your best volunteers take a sabbatical. Whether it’s because they’ve been setting up and tearing down your entire sound setup for two hours straight every Sunday for six months, or they’re fatigued from the chaos of your children’s check-in system, there are several reasons a volunteer might need to take a break.

And if you’ve ever lost several volunteers at once, you understand the stress of scrambling to have the worship service start on time, to have enough teachers to effectively and safely oversee a classroom of thirty kids, and to have enough friendly faces to welcome and direct newcomers. Not to mention, how are those volunteers actually feeling about stepping down from something they once loved to do?

That’s why we strongly encourage every portable church to create a volunteer strategy that will invest time, structure, resources and appreciation into the people who serve and lead in any capacity. Take a look at this great infographic that shows what can exhaust and what can empower your volunteers!

Dream Big in a Portable Space

At its core, to become a Level 5 Multiplying Church, you must plant churches—and many of them. While permanent facilities continue to be the dream of most church planters, the high cost, long lead times, and inflexibility of permanent facilities make them an impractical and unwise launch strategy. Thus, churches that want to multiply are launching in rented spaces like schools, movie theaters, and community centers that will give them the freedom to expand. How can this be done cost-effectively and well without losing your mind? What are the challenges of launching a church in a rented venue? How have other churches and networks overcome these challenges and thrived?

I Need More Volunteers

Churches often share that their biggest fear with portability is finding enough volunteers and keeping them engaged. Launching strong in a portable site – defined as one that must be set up and torn down each week – requires more volunteers than permanent facilities. However, as is the case with most challenges, this can be an incredible opportunity for engagement and discipleship that doesn’t exist in a permanent campus.

Volunteers Want to Be Known

Intentional discipleship of volunteers is critical for their growth and their continued service at church. When it comes to setup and teardown teams, this is no different. Churches that begin with a strategy of discipleship in the selection and care of their setup team leaders are more successful. This requires team leaders who will see the setup/teardown experience not just as tasks that must be completed each week, but as opportunities to pour into people as they convert the venue into a sacred space.

I5 Church portable volunteers

Volunteers Want to Be Needed

There are many people that come to your church, often men, who are intimidated by serving in Children’s Ministry, prayer ministries, and as greeters. However, they will come early to drive trucks, move cases, and set up the audio equipment. Setup and teardown teams give those men an opportunity to be needed. It provides a new onramp to begin to engage with others in your church. As they engage more, they will attend more and grow more—if you care for them in the process.

Volunteers Want to Be Cared For

Over my 30+ adult years in church, I have served as a volunteer in many capacities. I have received the annual thank you gifts of flowers, Starbucks gift cards, and In N Out burgers (my favorite). But, the way I felt most cared for all those years of service was when the church invested in leadership development and the systems to maximize my impact as the volunteer. When I arrived at church knowing exactly what my role was, I was equipped to do that role, and when my leader encouraged me, I felt cared for. As a setup/teardown volunteer of many years, I felt cared for when my church invested in a system that allowed regular volunteers without much experience to easily participate, effectively set up, create a welcoming environment, and then tear down quickly.

Faithbridge Church portable church volunteers

Volunteer-Centric Portability Engineers Are Required Upfront

I recently crossed the Mackinac bridge that connects Michigan’s lower peninsula to its upper peninsula. The bridge, built in 1957, is the world’s longest suspension bridge between anchorages. Construction took three and a half years (four summers, no winter construction) and, tragically, the lives of five workers. As I was in the middle, 200 feet above the icy connection of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, I was grateful for the expertise and skill of the engineers that designed it. I got straight A’s in math and science in high school and college, but that doesn’t mean I can design a bridge. It turns out that designing outstanding volunteer-centric portable systems that deliver an excellent worship, children’s, and visitor experience is an engineering specialty.

I learned this the hard way when I was Executive Pastor of Pacific Crossroads Church in Los Angeles when we didn’t have a volunteer-centric solution. Our staff designed our own portable systems for our two rented venues by utilizing a premier audio/video company in LA that specialized in permanent church solutions. In short order, we wore out the volunteers and had to move to paid setup and teardown teams each week.

In contrast, now as CEO of Portable Church Industries, I have witnessed literally hundreds of churches utilize our portability engineers and launch both small and very large churches with complex state-of-the-art audio, video, lighting experiences using volunteers who can completely convert the school/theater/community center into a house of worship in an hour. The volunteers don’t even break a sweat and are available to serve in other areas on Sundays. It can be done!


A core component to Dreaming Big in a Portable Space that is often overlooked is your setup/teardown volunteers. Looking at them through a lens of discipleship, knowing them, and investing in systems that enable them to be effective volunteers is the best way to develop a thriving community and effective ministry that can launch even more churches.

How to Accommodate – and Engage – Kids in a Multisite or Portable Church Venue

Portable Church children's ministry

Creating an irresistible, welcoming environment for young families and their children is important for any church. However, when you are a church that meets in a rented facility, what additional things should be considered? What are the best practices? Here are a few insights from our CEO Scott Cougill.

Great First Experience

When I was an Executive Pastor of a multisite portable church, we had a saying that went something like this: “The gospel is offensive enough (Gal 5:1, Rom 9:33), we don’t want to add to the offense by our poor planning, systems, or visitor’s negative first experience with our church.”

The children’s environment sends a message. Think about the message I received from another church I visited with my children when I arrived ten minutes before service time and found many adults milling around and inside the classrooms, people were still organizing the room, and a back door to the classroom was open. I got the message that this church was disorganized and maybe didn’t think any visitors would show up today.

Contrast this with Action Church’s new campus launch in Oviedo, Florida. They engaged Portable Church Industries to design their children’s area at the high school they rent so that new families had a curbside personal welcome, easy check-in experience, a volunteer escort to the classroom (past a security guard) which was separate from the main worship area, and special treatments in the classrooms that were bright, colorful, and engaging for the kids. Visiting Action Church, you get the message that Action Church expected visitors and prepared for them. Visitors will likely conclude that Action Church is this organized and intentional with all aspects of their church.

Launching a new church or campus in a rented facility offers many benefits that permanent locations don’t: lower cost, speed, flexibility, community partnership, and volunteer engagement. That said, creating an excellent and inviting children’s ministry in a rented venue requires different planning and preparation than a permanent campus. From our 20+ years assisting churches launch in rented spaces, here are some best practices of churches that launch children’s ministry well:

Overall Best Practices

Finding enough volunteers for children’s ministry is challenging in all churches. When you add the extra volunteers needed for setup and teardown, it is critical to take the extra time and expense to design setup/teardown solutions that are volunteer centric – designed to maximize BOTH the volunteer and participant experience. Churches that plan ahead and engage portability experts when designing their portable children’s ministry have better success and don’t wear out the volunteers as quickly as churches that do it on their own.

As a church who will interface with the landlord and community, you will want to be treated professionally and have a professional relationship. But, if Sunday setup requires extreme early arrivals because you have hundreds of totes and equipment not designed for quick setup, in heavy cases built in the back garage that scratches floors, the church appears anything but professional to the school. I have witnessed over and over that when the church invests in a professional portability solution, the school/theater/community center treats them better, more professionally, and with more grace.

Theater Best Practices

Portable Church children's ministry movie theater church

Portable Church children's ministry movie theater churchCan you do children’s ministry well in a movie theater venue? Yes. It can be done well and is being done well by hundreds (maybe a thousand) of churches across the country weekly. Valley Christian Church in
Poughkeepsie, New York is one of those churches that does children’s ministry well. They partnered with Regal Entertainment Group and Portable Church to design an excellent and inviting church environment for young families. You can learn more about their story here.

School Best Practices

Portable Church children's ministry school

Two (of many) best practices for schools are utilizing treatments and partnering directly with the staff of the local school. Many school rentals are organized by the district office. But, it is the local teachers and custodians who are most impacted. Churches that serve the local school without strings attached create the most favor and best partnership experiences. A number of churches get teacher classroom supplies wish lists and make sure they are filled. Others flood the school with willing volunteers to read and serve. An interesting story about one church (Faithbridge Church) that launched strong in an elementary school is here.

Portable Church children's ministry school

Portable & Permanent: Grace Community Church’s Vision

“We fundamentally believe the church is called to be a blessing.” These are the words of Derek Adye, Executive Pastor of Grace Community Church in Falls Church, VA. Last week, we shared how PCI built a combination permanent/portable solution for Grace when they moved into George Mason High School. Their purpose for outfitting the school with new, permanent equipment was to achieve their church vision to bless the community they become a part of.

Pastor contracts Portable Church Industries for portable and permanent installation for mobile church in school

Volunteer Coordinator Erin Chang & Executive Pastor Derek Adye

At PCI, we have worked with a number of churches that rent from schools. While schools time and time again prove to be one of the best portable venues because of the vast number of resources the facility offers, at the same time, schools are protective of their resources. Teachers, administrators and custodians often have had bad experiences with churches and other organizations that have rented from them in the past. This leads to mistrust.

Grace learned early on that they would bump into some less-than-thrilled school staff, who would be wary of how the facility and its supplies and equipment would be treated over time. One day, PCI consultant Tim Boyer along with Derek, pastor John Slye, Jr. and others, stopped by the school for a tour with a city official. The auditorium wasn’t empty – students and a key staff member of the school were working inside. Introductions were made. When the staff member found out who they were and that they’d be using the auditorium on Sundays, he gruffly relayed that they were unlikely to be able to meet regularly due to things happening with the school on many weekends.

Tim calmly responded that he understood the hesitations and wondered if the man had any questions. After replying that he was frustrated and felt he had no support, Tim said, “This church is here to be a blessing and, sincerely, we want to know how we can be a blessing to you. What are your needs here?”

The response was remarkable. He loosened up and said, “This is amazing!” Over the next few minutes, he relayed what he believed the school needed.

Derek watched this shift in disposition take place. “He was blown away. I’ve been meeting in school environments for 15 years. This is our third. I’ve never had such a quick turnaround in my life, from distrust and frustration to someone being excited about us being there.”

This was a defining point in the relationship between Grace Community Church and George Mason H.S. The staff member was thrilled to see the installation of a new screen, lights, speakers and other equipment that greatly improved the quality of school productions and other functions – all things he’d explained were the essential needs.

Portable Church Industries Grace Community Church

Part of Grace’s unique vision is to have major impact in the Washington, D.C. area. Their motto is “a church for people who don’t go to church,” and they believe they are a conduit for people to have a new perspective on church and meeting God. The new campus at George Mason H.S. assists the local school, provides the best worship experience for Grace and is designed with Grace’s volunteers in mind.

Nowadays, Grace is also helping families facing eviction, providing summer school scholarships to students and assisting with coat and shoe drives. In other words, blessings to the school and community.

Derek believes being portable helps them achieve their vision. “The church is supposed to be a movement, so being portable by definition is moving… What we love about being portable is that it almost forces you into a relationship. When you’re in a school, or a movie theater, it’s the best. You get the social work right there; you find out what the needs are.”

Portable Church Industries church in a school Grace Community Church

Sometimes, Portable Means Both Permanent and Portable

Grace Community Church in Falls Church, VA approached us with a challenge that is becoming more common: “We want to launch a new portable campus in a school, but we want to permanently install some equipment. Portable Church, do you do that?” Yes, we do.

We have worked with over 2,500 churches to custom-design their portable solutions. No two church launch solutions are alike. There are unique requirements because of facility constraints, local ordinances, size of volunteer teams and how to maximize their energy and time, complexity of the system, and church vision. Often, installing permanent equipment in a rented venue is the best solution for the church launch.

Portable Church Grace Community Church permanent portable install scaffoldIn this case, upgrading George Mason High School’s audio, video and lighting in their auditorium, was both something that would bless the school and community and improve the worship experience as long as Grace rents the space. Grace contracted Portable Church to conduct an on-site consultation. It was an exciting opportunity to help the church achieve their vision while utilizing our technical team’s permanent design/build and portable expertise.

One of the primary concerns that brought Grace to us was that the school auditorium had both aesthetic and acoustic challenges too complex for them to handle on their own. After assessing the needs, our consultants, including Tim Boyer, determined that Portable Church would be able to revamp the room in just five days – information that delighted the church team.

What differentiates Portable Church from firms that primarily only do permanent install is that we have 20+ years of experience addressing the complex portable component of the solution. Most of Portable Church’s design team consultants also have experience in permanent AVL design/build.

With Grace, PCI incorporated both PCI expertise and local AVL experts to implement the total solution. PCI took a design/build approach – putting the project on paper, orchestrating the timeline, procuring the labor to hang the project, and finally commissioning it for their soft launch weekend.

Tim Boyer had a blast working with Grace, which had previously contracted PCI to design a Kids and Community portability project. “Grace trusted us to be the voice of experience. That combined with a consulting team that was able to bring non-typical work experience to the table for this project made for a huge success all the way around.”

Portable Church is ready to assist other churches with their custom new campus or church plant initiatives, whether that means totally portable, blended permanent/portable or adding new equipment to a permanent site so that older equipment can be reused in a portable venue.

Are you ready to speak to us about your portable (or portable/permanent) needs? Fill out the information below.

Free Resources for Portable Churches

In the past several years, we’ve talked with hundreds of portable church leaders, from technical directors to pastors to volunteer captains and more. We’re constantly amazed by the new challenges and ideas that come with unique projects. In 20+ years, we’ve not only watched the portable church arena grow, we have grown with it.

That’s why we’re passionate to share the wealth of knowledge we’ve been blessed with. Want to know what kind of venues churches can meet in? We have that list. Is there a proven excellent way to set up a volunteer team (and how to get more men involved)? We have suggestions on that matter. How does a church hire a Campus Pastor? We have that as well! And we continue to think of other solutions and best practices that may be useful to share.

To develop some of our eBooks, we have reached out to people in ministry to share their stories and expertise. It’s with humility that we have published many eBooks, infographics and other materials, including The Portable Multisite Church Podcast Series and our Venue List. We hope that any of these materials may be used as a guide for new and multiplying portable churches.

Check out all the resources today. Every item is FREE and easy to download from your browser.

You can also subscribe to our blog.

Creating the Team & Establishing the Process

Your volunteer vision, strategy, attitude and approach to launching portable churches and campuses will greatly impact the success, discipleship, spiritual formation, community impact and long-term growth of your church.

You’re going to begin life in a rented, secular space like a school, theater or community center. So, is your glass half full or half empty?

Your attitude and approach do matter!


Some church leaders view launching portability as a problem. Others treat it as an opportunity. The difference between a problem and an opportunity is what we do with it, not what it is to begin with.

Let me paint two different approaches from my five years of leadership working inside and with portable churches.

Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, AL, has 12+ church plants / sites, with many more in the pipeline. As their senior pastor, Chris Hodges, shared in the November / December 2015 issue of Church Executive, even though the church has funding to purchase buildings for each launch, they purposefully launch in portable venues to minimize overhead and maximize care for its volunteers and the community. Potential volunteers see that portability is Plan A and can be excited to join into the work that comes with it.

A different (unnamed) church plant meets in a school and regularly apologizes to the setup volunteers and thanks them for their hard work and sacrifice. “Someday we will have our own building; we just have to survive until then.” Pleas from stage for volunteers are frequent. New attenders feel guilty if they don’t take their turn at setup. Images of being a martyr and, “It’s thankless work, but we’ll receive our reward in heaven” reflect the attitude at this church. (I wish I were exaggerating…)

Churches that treat portability as an opportunity can be in position to have ministry impact that most permanent churches can’t. One huge, unique ministry opportunity is capitalizing on engaging a large number of men on your volunteer teams and creating a community for men to serve, and get to know and minister to one another.

When established well, this makes it easier to connect new men attenders to other men in the congregation and establish a community where men get plugged in, contribute and grow. There are too many benefits to list in this brief article.


It turns out that the same principles that apply to recruiting and equipping volunteers in the other parts of church apply to the portable church setup and tear-down teams. One unique difference, however, is that – at first – often the Core Launch Team also serves as the Core Setup and Tear-Down Team. It’s a bit like playing both offense and defense in football.

Therefore, with portable churches, you need to develop an extra layer of structure, leadership, processes and care specific to setup and tear-down to maximize efficiency and minimize burnout.

Just like you wouldn’t try to lead your staff or a company without a defined organizational structure, you shouldn’t expect setup and tear-down to go well without a clear, well-thought-out volunteer team structure. The best practice in this area is to have a volunteer foreperson who oversees the whole process and ensures your church’s quality and excellence standards are met each week. Likely, this foreperson would oversee other volunteer leaders like a volunteer setup / tear-down Worship Leader, Guest Services Leader, and Children’s / Youth Leader.

How many volunteers do you need to effectively staff this area? It depends – on the complexity of your worship setup, the quantity of aesthetic treatments needed, the number of children’s rooms, and whether you have invested in a specialized, efficient portable church system to organize everything. As a rule of thumb, if you have a clear structure and you use specialized equipment and systems designed for portable church environments, a setup team of 15 to 20 individuals for a church running 250 to 500 adults is common.

Most churches develop a rotating serving schedule so volunteers won’t burn out. One approach I’m seeing more often now with multisite campuses and church plant launches with smaller core teams is that volunteers will serve each week, but there’s a modified service just for the volunteers before the main service.

For example, if the main service is at 10:30 a.m., but someday you’d like to also have a 9 a.m. service, the volunteers begin early so they finish by 9 a.m. Then, there’s a modified 9 a.m. service with extra prayer and a shortened sermon just for the volunteers. This way, volunteers don’t miss church, the team is strengthened, and the transition of adding a second service is easier.

| Scott Cougill, CEO of Portable Church Industries |

Want to gain more insights? Download our free ebook “Set-Up Process & Team Structures” that goes into many, many more specifics about volunteer structure, training, setup strategies and staffing.

Launch Strong: 5 Key Strategies

A record number of new churches are launching across North America. Most will initially choose to meet in a rented facility — often a school, movie theater or community center.

While church is never only about the building, renting a space that works with your vision for the new church or campus is very important. Having helped thousands of churches launch strong and thrive in rented spaces over the past 20 years, our company has determined five “must-haves” when it comes to selecting your portable site.

#1: A welcoming atmosphere

The connections new visitors make with existing members is ultimately what will help them grow into fruitful members of your church community. Surveys show that most visitors make up their mind to return within their first seven minutes on your campus. As such, the tone of your environment and volunteers is critical.

Many venues (a school with cinderblock walls, for example) might not provide a welcoming atmosphere on their own. Fortunately, it’s easy to turn this type of venue into the welcoming environment you want using extra treatments and equipment.

Even so, money can’t buy hospitality — that requires warm, welcoming people out front where visitors arrive. Additionally, setting up a café in the venue’s lobby or courtyard offers them something special.

And, while it’s critical to use signage to ensure all areas are easy to find, it’s equally important to strategically position people to answers visitors’ questions.

church welcome center, portable church, church volunteer

#2: A great A/V experience

Thinking about all the technology needed to run a church service on Sunday morning can be daunting — especially in a rented venue. You will need a custom combination of:

  • Speakers with the right coverage patterns and dispersion
  • Projectors sized right, based on screen size and lighting control
  • Correct-size screens viewable from anywhere in the room
  • Wireless microphones that won’t encounter drop-outs due to competing frequencies in your region
  • Wires to connect everything.

You must also be able to easily transport and set up all this technology each week.

#3: A safe, fun children’s area

Church leaders know better than anyone the importance of a safe, secure (and fun!) children’s area. Parents want to know their little ones are in good hands. In a portable church environment, achieving this type of space requires a little extra effort.

If your church meets in a movie theater, the kids’ space could be in the lobby, the hallway or even a party room. If your church meets in a school, the gymnasium can be divided up for different age groups. (Just make sure it’s air-conditioned!)

Dingy walls or inappropriate posters can be covered up using “scuba walls” or something similar. Simple tools can completely transform a space into a clean, bright, fun environment.

children's ministry, kids ministry, portable church

#4: Parking and easy access

On average, you’ll want to allow for 1.7 adults per car. What is your visitor estimate? Will you have enough onsite parking?

If not, consider renting parking spaces. Ask a nearby building or business if your church can use its parking accommodations on Sunday mornings. If your church is meeting in the city, consider renting out space in a parking garage, or at least negotiating for a discounted rate for your visitors.

#5: Clear signage

Direct, informative signs should not only get people where they need to be, but also create a great first impression. In rented facilities, this can be a challenge; often, you’re competing with permanent signage. So, your church signs need to stand out.

To this end, a basic rule of thumb is to always have a sign in view. When a visitor is standing at one of your signs, there should be at least one other sign in view. It will be a more enjoyable experience if the visitor is quickly and easily able to find exactly where he or she needs to go.

Finding a site where you can launch your portable church is challenging — and involved. Keeping these five tenets in mind will aid your selection process and go a long way toward launching strong.

Finding a Venue for Your Portable Church Launch

portable church, church venue, mobile church

Launching a new church or church campus this year? We know that finding the right facility is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face. Choosing to have church in a rented space, rather than build a permanent building, allows churches to engage with the community in a recognizable building and begin church in a space that can be leveraged differently as growth occurs.

But, what makes a good rental location for a church? Will it be welcoming for visitors? Can we have a thriving children’s ministry? What is included and what do I need to purchase? Will my volunteers be able to set up in that location well?

These questions and many more are covered in our FREE eBook, “Choosing the Right Facility for Your Portable Church.” Download it today by filling out the form below! 

access to the full evaluation kit & our tips/tools pack!