It’s the cry of those of us who’ve been stuck in the volunteer wilderness, “Help!” Anyone who’s been there can tell you, it’s a lonely time for a Christian leader. There’s nothing like pouring your heart into the lap of a potential volunteer and having them dust your plea right off with a casual, “No thanks.” As a matter of fact, this situation has led many of us to be bitter, angry and resentful toward our fellow church members. Who hasn’t said, “So where’s the volunteers?”
I’d be lying if I told you I had never felt those things. Trust me when I say, I do fully commiserate. I’ve been a Christian for many years and have been involved in active service for over a decade. My call has led me to small and large ministries. At times my ministry has lacked money and resources. Sadly, the most constant need we’ve had is volunteers. But I’ve learned a few things along the way that have helped me understand a little more as to why there’s such a volunteer deficit. There’s no blanket answer to the dilemma but there are real reasons why help isn’t on its way. Sometimes understanding why can help you cope with the lack of response.
Church Generation Gap
Unchurched Christians are filling our churches. This is a good thing! Of course, we all love these new ‘unprofessional’ Christians because they encourage us, inspire us and prove to us that God still saves. But the unchurched don’t know much about service. Many of them struggle with feels of inadequacies and are afraid to try anything new. In this case, you’ll need to be patient and wait for spiritual growth.
The term ‘burn out’ is a nice way of describing discouraged Christian who are taking an undetermined break. They’ve been in the fields, working diligently, giving of themselves selflessly. Then the worst happens, a cruel word, an angry parent or an unappreciative church member speaks negatively and poisons their walk. They end up in the ranks of the ‘burned out’. They look at you with sympathy but because of their own spiritual wounds, aren’t willing to get back into the game. Open the door for the burned out, but don’t expect a lot from them. They are on the mend, the walking wounded. They need your prayers.
Ask any Christian where they rank God on their list of priorities and they’ll say at the top, of course. The problem is Christians don’t equate Christian service with giving God priority. Serving church and serving God don’t seem to mean the same thing to these Christians. The need hasn’t resonated with them. In their minds they assign church tasks, including serving children, to the paid staff. The best thing you can do for this group is to pray that God will remove the scales from their eyes. Ask God to show them how important they really are to His kingdom.
Ambition and success have invaded the church. Along with the need to be on top has come the fear of failure. People, good people, are afraid to try ministry because they don’t want to fail. They do not want to let the pastor down, the parents down, you down. They’ve seen you work and are intimidated by how easy you make it look. The best approach with this group is to encourage, lift up in prayer and educate them. It won’t be done in a day, but it can be done.
Unaware of Gifts
Untapped potential lies in the hearts of believers. Many potential children’s ministry volunteers are unwilling to try because they are not aware of those gifts. New believers and the immature tend to think of gifts as singing, preaching and altar work only. They don’t realize that their patient spirit, their willing need to serve are also gifts. You’ll need to educate them. Add them to your ministry newsletter or monthly email blast. Ask in advance of course then keep them encouraged and open their eyes to where they fit into the picture with regular contact. Don’t ask them every week to help. Make an investment in their lives and sow some seeds that will bring you a volunteer harvest.
Mimi Bullock is a freelance writer and children’s pastor. She also coaches an all girls praise dance team. Her book, 50 Ideas for Kids Church is loaded with promotional ideas for your ministry. Read more at her website www.lulu.com/monicabullock .
Need more help? Then check out our series of articles titled “Overcoming Challenges in Your Children’s Ministry.”