We surveyed the churches that use our What’s in the Bible? curriculum this summer, and one of the questions we asked was “what is your number one challenge as a children’s ministry leader?”. 68% of them said that the number one issue they face is finding and keeping volunteers! So we turned to a few friends in the children’s ministry world, and asked them how they find, keep and encourage their volunteers. Read their answers below, and leave us comments letting us know your strategies!
The best way to find volunteers is to get out of Children’s Ministry. Make sure you’re attending adult Sunday school, Bible Study, or visiting other ministries on a regular basis. Once you’ve begun to form genuine friendships, it will be easy to recruit volunteers to your vision and ministry. When people join the team, make sure to check in regularly via phone call or email to see if you can help in any way. Even if they decline your help, it will be meaningful to them that you reached out and that you care about how things are going. Provide training in an on-the-go format (CD’s, books, articles in their email) and be sure to show appreciation in both a public and private manner.
Lindsey Whitney is a mom of two, home day care provider, Children’s Ministry director and blogger over at Growing Kids Ministry. Growing Kids Ministry is a blog designed to help parents, teachers, and Children’s Ministry workers who want to help the kids they love grow in their faith. You can connect with her via twitter or on facebook.
At Cross Point, we’ve discovered that we are at our best when we can create a compelling environment where volunteer recruiting and engagement intersect and volunteers feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves.
One way we accomplish this is through monthly volunteer orientation lunches. The lunches create regular training opportunities for new leaders, relational on-ramps for prospective volunteers, and also keeps our team sharp with our vision and mission.
Secondarily, we have developed a Support Staff team, which is a team of volunteers who lead our respective service teams. As our Kids team has grown, the challenge of personally leading them all has created the opportunity to tap into and empower other leaders to exercise their gifts while giving all our volunteers a more personal go-to leader. This has gone a long way to helping our team grow deep and wide at the same time.
Lastly, we are continually striving to foster community among our volunteers. We recently had a Kids team fun night at a local entertainment complex with bowling, bumper cars, laser tag, roller-skating, and more. Next month, we’ll host our volunteer Christmas party. These events are opportunities to not only have fun with our leaders, but help them connect with one another outside of a Sunday morning ministry environment.
Challenges create opportunities if you respond to them properly. Compelling vision welcomes excitement and recruiting, while intentional engagement produces retention. While I don’t think we do it perfectly, I do think we are learning to do lead through this area increasingly well.
Grant Jenkins is the Kids Ministry Volunteer Coordinator at the broadcast campus of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN. He oversees the recruiting, scheduling and engagement for over 160 Kids ministry volunteers on a weekly basis. You can find him on Twitter at @AnIdolHeart.
As a former full-time staff member and current long-term volunteer, my biggest encouragement for keeping and empowering volunteers is to constantly ask, “What can I do to help?”
How can you make your volunteer’s job easier? How can you empower them? How can you help them enjoy what they are doing? Is your worship leader stressed out because you gave him the songs two days before service? Is your storyteller discouraged because you asked him to memorize a story word for word? Set up systems, volunteer team leaders or simple ways of communication to encourage, empower and excite your volunteers to love working with you!
Amanda White is a stay-at-home mom of two who blogs at ohAmanda.com and is the author of Truth in the Tinsel: An Advent Experience for Little Hands. In her former life, Amanda was a Children’s Pastor — overseeing, organizing and developing ministry for kids in nursery through middle school, but now that she is a mom, her “skills” are used up on her kids!
Pray over the church directory and make a list of candidates two to three times the number of spots you need to fill. (Ignore that voice in your head telling you they will say no.) Put the best candidates at the top of your list. Ask people face-to-face when possible. (It’s difficult to say no in person.) Keep asking until your spots are filled. Most of the time we just don’t ask enough people. Remember, relationships are the currency of church ministry. It’s difficult to say no to someone you like! So get outside your ministry area and build relationships.
Lance Wamble is a graduate of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is the Minister to Youth & Children at Haywood Hills Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee where he lives with his wife and daughter. He blogs each week at Word on Wednesdays.
The best way to retain volunteers is through relationships. Take every moment you can to build relationships and team unity within your volunteer ministry team. Try scheduling a fun activity once every two months, where they will have fun and can receive any needed training for their ministry roles. Hold meetings before and after ministry events in order to build your team unity as well. The best way to encourage your volunteers is to thank them regularly. Write notes of encouragement that explain your thankfulness for their ministry to the children in your church. Take a moment to pull them aside and thank them for one specific thing they do well. By doing a few simple things, you can easily retain your volunteers and encourage them!
Steven Knight has served in children’s ministry for over 10 years and is currently a children’s ministry leader in Chicago, Illinois. He teaches and writes about children’s ministry on his site KidminTools.com. Connect on Twitter at @StevenKnight09.
A few months ago, I had a great conversation with a children’s ministry leader regarding giving volunteers more responsibility and new tasks. We were discussing her lack of volunteers in a specific classroom, and were brainstorming ways to recruit new folks into the class. Somewhere in the middle of our conversation, she told me about one volunteer – a superstar of sorts, a true rock star who led well, was always prepared and arrived on time, and took her volunteer role to teach children seriously. My friend said I wish I could multiply this volunteer by a million.
In that moment, a new recruiting strategy occurred to me. Instead of my friend spending her time recruiting brand new, need to be trained volunteers to fill the need, why not promote, develop, and empower this key volunteer to lead at a new level? The rock star volunteer’s energy and leadership would no doubt attract new folks, and give much needed attention to the troubled classroom. In this instance, changing the focus from recruiting to empowering volunteers would have a greater long-term impact.
Bill Hybels often talks about high capacity volunteers, or people who have greater capacity for more responsibility, and how as leaders, we must recognize these folks are and give them additional responsibility and ministry promotions.
In children’s ministry, I think, for fear of burning out our volunteers, we far too often lean the opposite direction. We shy away from asking superstar volunteers to do more, letting them sit in their roles doing the same thing-Sunday-in-and-out, fearing if we disrupt the boat, they’ll abandon us all together. But here’s the thing, oftentimes when we don’t give rock stars more to do they get bored, feel un-needed and look for other places where they can use their full gifts.
Once upon a time I volunteered at a church in the two-year-old room. Providing childcare for two-year-olds was not my favorite thing, but along the way, the children’s director noticed I had more to offer and asked me to help choose new curriculum for that classroom. Without that additional responsibility, I would have quit in less than a year. Month. The next day.
This week, make a list of your rock stars: the volunteers who excel in their roles, always exceed your expectations, and seem happy while serving. Invite them out for coffee. Ask questions about their gifting, and their current level of enjoyment, and if there are other things they dream about doing in the ministry. Then, listen to their answers carefully.
If they say yes, listen and empower them to start working immediately. If they are unaware of additional things they could do, suggest a few ideas involving leadership and managing teams and curriculum organization. If you see a new smile on their face, call them a rock star and tell them their volunteer life is about to become a bit more rocking-er!
Amy Dolan is Leader, Founder of Lemon Lime Kids, a children’s ministry consulting company. She also leads curriculum development for What’s in the Bible, and serves as Children’s Director at “nofollow”>Willow Chicago. Follow her on Twitter at “nofollow”>@adolan.
Do you have any thoughts on how to find, keep and encourage church volunteers? Let your voice be heard in the comments section below!