Your love for kids is probably the reason you became a children's pastor–and that’s a good thing! Children have limitless potential for the kingdom of God, which is why many children’s pastors/directors see children as their primary focus. But have you considered that you’ll actually get a lot more “bang for your buck” by investing in your volunteers? Think about it this way: How many children can you personally impact? 50? 100? 200? What if you recruited, trained, and equipped 2 other adults to be just like you? How many could they impact? What about 10 more adults? As you invest in your leaders, you exponentially invest in your kids. As God sends volunteers, it is your job to value, train, equip, celebrate, and encourage.
(Try this free 42-page guidebook which clearly outlines ministry roles and expectations, how to keep kids safe, and even how to lead kids into God's kingdom.)
Set Them Up for Success
Imagine your volunteers walking into their room where everything is already prepared for them. The temperature is great; the lights are on; the tables and chairs are all set up neatly. Even the trashcan is empty with a fresh liner. The Bible lesson is on the table next to a children’s Bible. All the supplies and props are there too. There’s even a piece of chocolate for them to enjoy! No one is running to the copier or the resource room. No one wonders “what lesson we’re on.” It’s all right there.
When you take the time to set up your leaders for success, you’re showing them that you care, that you value them, and that you expect the same from them. You’re setting a tone, raising the bar, and establishing a climate.
Give Them Tools
Even in the best of circumstances, volunteers can struggle–we all can.
One of our leaders was having a really hard time with her small group. Kids were interrupting, saying things off topic, getting out of their seats, speaking unkind words, etc. In addition to all that, the leader was not on task. She jumped from one thing to another with zero transition. It was like she had never read the lesson.
So I invited her to coffee and asked her how she was preparing each week. And that’s when I realized the problem. She needed some tools. Yes, she had been through our overall training, but she needed someone to walk her through one step at a time. Sure, I could have taken over and led her group, but it is far wiser to help her to be a stellar leader! Here are some things I told her:
• Start with the Bible. Seriously. Read whatever it is you’re teaching from the Bible. Invite God to speak to you through His word; listen.
• Read the lesson all the way through. Then read it one section at a time.
• Think through how you’re going to ask the questions, play the games, or do the activities. Which order? Are you separating boys and girls? Sitting on chairs or the floor? All these decisions require thought ahead of time.
• What about your coleader–how can he be more attuned? Can you connect during the week? Can you divide roles within the small group?
• Pray. Remember the Lord is for you; He is with you always.
After going through these tools one at a time, this volunteer was in much better shape for the following week. When I peeked in on her small group, the difference was astounding. The leaders were unified, they were on task, and most importantly, the kids were learning!
Volunteers need tools. They need tips on how to make things work better. Take time to observe first, and then give feedback that will actually help them be better.
You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know you have one. Sure, you know challenges exist, but how can you really know what to address?
In their book, In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman encourage leaders to stop and talk with people face to face in order to get a sense of how things are going and to listen to whatever may be on their minds. It’s a great style of leadership, and it’s completely in line with how Jesus did life with His disciples. Being with your people will not only keep your pulse on ministry, it will also make volunteers much more likely to share ideas, stories, and suggestions with you–not to mention how validated volunteers feel when you encourage them, answer a question, or lend a helping hand.
While walking around can keep you in the loop, there are just some things that you still may miss or problems that people may not say to your face. That’s where surveys come in. Survey Monkey or Google Forms are a great way to send a survey to volunteers and parents, which will provide some honest and helpful feedback.
The day after we launched a new program at church, I sent a survey to our volunteers and asked them for every suggestion of improvement they could think of. Though I felt overwhelmed by the 98 (!!!!) responses that came in, I spent the next week diligently addressing each one. The following week went off without a hitch, and everyone felt listened to and valued.
Even the most critical volunteer has a good idea, so just listen. Listen with ears of change. True, you can’t make everyone happy all the time, but there are probably lots of ways that you can address concerns and take care of trouble spots (we all have them).
Spread the Love
As people feel valued, your ministry will grow, and your capacity to walk around and see everyone each week may diminish. If you can’t personally connect with every single volunteer in your ministry, it’s time to duplicate yourself. Just as your small groups probably have a 1:8-12 ratio, so should your leadership team with volunteers. This means that if you have 25 volunteers, there should be two people shepherding and leading them. While some people may have a large capacity, most of us can intentionally engage with about a dozen people at a time. So spread the love, and recruit and train more leaders to help shepherd volunteers.
This may sound like a lot of work, but actually, it’s not only easier, but it’s better, and it’s biblical.
“What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” – 2 Timothy 2:2
While many people followed Jesus, He only selected 12 to be His disciples. He ministered to the multitudes, but He did life and discipleship with 12. Likewise, be careful in who is on your team–who is at your table.
When choosing people to help you lead, AVOID people who are:
• Rude (interrupt; talk over people)
• Full of self
• Emotionally unhealthy
• Always have to be right
Instead, CHOOSE people who are:
• Willing to learn
• Working as a team
• Hearing from God
• Already bearing fruit
Remember that Jesus sent out His disciples two by two. Ecclesiastes 4:9 reminds us that two are better than one. Why? They have better return on their work. By investing in adult volunteers, you’re not doubling your work; you’re doubling your kingdom impact. Truly this system is a win-win-win. I am not pulling my hair out trying to do more than I can, many more adults are discipled and being used by God, and exponentially more kids are impacted!
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Use this resource to help train your team! We've taken lessons we've learned from our children's ministry here at KidzLife and packaged together a guide you can use to help train volunteers:
This free 42-page PDF shows volunteers how to prepare for small groups, present lessons in engaging ways, lead children through prayer with the Holy Spirit, and just about every logistical issue under the sun!