One of the most time consuming and energy sapping tasks that you face as a Children’s Ministry Leader is enlisting and retaining volunteers. You lead an army of volunteers in Children’s Ministry. While it will often be an overwhelming task, there are several steps that you can take to lay the foundation for a well-staffed volunteer program. Here are a few tips to remember:
Surely you knew I was going to say that. It’s true though, I pray a lot. I also remind myself, this is God’s church and He fits the body together perfectly (Romans 12:3-8). No need for worry. It’s an ongoing process and takes time. As soon as all the positions are filled, someone will need to quit or we will grow and need another class. Growth is a good thing in case you forgot!
Find a Balance Between the Emergency, the Urgent, and the Ideal
Emergency is Saturday night and no teacher for tomorrow morning. Who is on the bench that I can call to sub? I put together a list of people who are willing to serve on the bench by going to all the adult classes and asking them to serve in that specific role. My starters are in the game but I need people on the bench to join the game in progress sometimes. Don’t call the bench people every week. Spread the love. Some prefer babies, others prefer elementary. Then there are adults who are parents or grandparents and they aren’t scared of anyone and can work anywhere. Create an extra stash of curriculum or email them lesson packets so they have some ideas to use in the classroom. No one likes childcare and we don’t want to waste valuable teaching opportunities with kids. Don’t send volunteers in the game empty-handed. Giving them a game plan will help them have a more successful experience in the classroom.
The Urgent are those open positions that are a constant part of growth or change. The need exists on an ongoing basis and you are actively seeking to enlist a volunteer for the classroom.
The Ideal is the plan that we are striving for, when each volunteer is in the perfect position to use their God given talents and every open spot is filled. While we should always be working toward the Ideal, we also must realize that God is often teaching and stretching us during the Emergency and the Urgent.
Enlistment Is a Slow Cooker, Not a Drive-Thru Window
It would be great if we could just order a teacher and drive away with an expert but it often requires asking, praying, asking again. A good course to follow is asking the potential volunteer to “Come and Watch”, then enlisting the volunteer in a helper role, and later maybe as regular volunteer that you can begin training and encouraging. I can almost hear you saying, “How am I supposed to be that patient when Sunday keeps coming around each week?” Let me remind you again, God is working everywhere. He may bring you a teacher that someone else trained and developed and now you get the harvest. He may be working with someone to take steps of faith in this role and they are trying to trust God.
While you are asking others, waiting on the Lord, and watching the calendar move forward; build in a detour. I have driven past our city’s construction on I-40 for four years. When they said it would take four years, I thought that was forever. “Don’t they know we need that road now?” Four years later and it finally opened. The new road is great! The detours and traffic jams were awful but now worth it. The same principle applies to volunteer enlistment. Here’s what I practice and suggest to you. Find a volunteer that can work a month. That’s all. After the month, thank them and let them go. Keep your promises and don’t beg. I have begged and that is never flattering. You can set up a couple of months ahead and give yourself a little breathing room. This is not ideal for the children but it is the reality for now.
Take “No” for an answer
The Bible says in James 5:12, “Let your yes be ‘yes’ and your no, ‘no’.” I might not want to hear people tell me “no.” However, I would rather they be honest with me than quit a few weeks later or just not show up some Sunday, both of which have really happened to me. Be gracious and accepting when told “no” just like you are when you hear “YES” and the angels sing in Heaven.
Maybe some of my practices will help you think through a strategy and move you out of the wilderness of frustration. Start in the prayer closet then begin drawing up plans for a detour path that moves you a little farther forward and gives you some breathing room so you can think more clearly. Building this road takes time but the new highway will be such a reward.
Take a few moments to jot down your current needs. While your ultimate goal is always the ideal volunteer, which needs could be filled with a “detour” volunteer?
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by Mark Jones