Big, small, rich, poor, progressive, conservative, thriving, struggling, traditional, unique, and the list of adjectives could go on and on in an attempt to include the vast array of church characteristics we may be faced with as leaders of children’s ministry. Each church is so different, with its own strengths and weaknesses, and yet, one challenge we all seem to share is the never ending endeavor to find, and more importantly to sustain, passionate, skilled, dependable church volunteers to support children’s ministry.
For many churches, ministry would be impossible without the work of volunteers and I would argue that even the largest of churches boasting numerous paid staff members and the most generous of budgets still join the hunt for the hidden treasure: children’s ministry volunteers! If we want to implant faith beyond our church doors into the homes and hearts of our families, we must involve our entire community in the carrying and sharing of the Good News to our little ones. As hard as we may try, not one of us has the ability to single handedly accomplish this task of monumental importance.
You probably already know the value of volunteers and yearn to have a team full of them to call your own. So HOW can you find and keep children’s ministry volunteers? Consider giving something from my personal list of tips and tricks a try.
1. Offer Finite Commitments
Many people fear that once they become a volunteer they will be roped in for life and there will be no escaping the commitment. I have found that by repeatedly stating that I only expect Sunday School teachers to help for six weeks has substantially increased my volunteer pool. The real bonus is that after becoming attached to their students and seeing for themselves that their volunteer position is a blessing and not a burden, almost every single one of my teachers requests to continue for longer than the agreed upon six Sundays!
2. Pairs and Mentors:
Some adults are leaders and some are helpers; honor this! Place your volunteers in a roll where they will thrive and can really use their unique gifts. Pair a less confident volunteer with a seasoned veteran and encourage your strong leaders to mentor others.
3. Personal Invitations:
I rarely gain a new volunteer by making a generic request in front of a large group of people or by putting an article in the newsletter. Get to know people and when you find potential volunteers, personally talk with them about their gifts and how you believe they could make a difference in your ministry.
4. Provide Endless Support:
Always offer to assist your volunteers in any way you can. Let them know that you are happy to gather supplies, brainstorm ideas, or help with a difficult child. When you create a positive experience for your volunteers, they will return and maybe even bring others on board with them.
5. Set Them Free:
Sometimes the best way to be supportive is to get out of the way! No one wants to be micromanaged. When you know your volunteer possesses both the skills and passion to plan and lead on their own, let them go! Encourage creativity. It doesn’t always matter HOW children come to know Jesus loves them…just that they do.
6. Have a Substitute:
We all have moments when we are short-handed, even when we’ve done everything we can to have all the necessary volunteers in place. Find one or two capable volunteers who are willing to be your substitutes. I have a husband and wife team who joyfully jump in at the last minute to serve as substitutes, but don’t feel obligated to help all the time, knowing I save them for when they are really needed! This also supports your other volunteers by making it easy for them to take the day off when necessary.
7. Take Turns:
Is there an opportunity to have your volunteers serve on a rotating basis? I work with many busy mothers who can’t make a weekly commitment, yet are happy to help one Sunday every other month. I take the lead planning and teaching role with our multi-age group and have one of seven different volunteers rotate in as my assistant.
8. Search Far and Wide:
Reach beyond parents and professional teachers to fill your volunteer spots. Ask elderly members, junior high youth, and everyone in between to get involved.
9. Think Twice:
If there is a program or event that you continually battle to find volunteers to support, reconsider the value of that particular ministry. Could you do something different that would accomplish the same goal, yet attract more or different volunteers? Ask yourself if the particular ministry is really effective and necessary. If not, let it go!
10. Show Appreciation:
There’s no such thing as saying thank you too often. Do it as much as possible! Send volunteers encouraging notes and emails and take the time to show your appreciation to volunteers in person. A surprise treat or token of thanks is always appropriate.
Share Your Best Ideas
What works for you? If you have an additional idea about how to recruit or sustain members of your children’s ministry team, please share it with us in the comments below.
Need more help? Then check out our series of articles titled “Overcoming Challenges in Your Children’s Ministry.”