A few years ago, I would have said that recruiting volunteers was one of the most challenging, if not dreaded, parts of my job. I almost envied people who worked at regular jobs, with people paid to work under them. Those people had leverage; they have paychecks to offer. I thought I had to somehow convince people who ALREADY have real jobs to do something for NO PAY, sometimes doing a job that they didn't really enjoy and wasn't always easy and fun, on top of their already busy and full lives. I felt like I was guilting people into doing something they didn't want to do....
Then, God changed my heart and showed me that investing in children's ministry is a valuable investment for people, a way to build others up, increase their leadership and allow them a chance to make a difference, to use their gifts to serve, grow in their faith, and join a team where they could be connected with others.
God showed me all of those things, and I started seeing volunteers as something more than just a warm body doing a job; but as leaders and servants of the Lord, using their spiritual gifts and doing something important as part of a team! Instead of dreading recruiting, now I look forward to the opportunity to help people grow as leaders, develop their skills and gifts, and serve in one of the most valuable areas of ministry. I love sharing the vision of children's ministry and seeing people get excited about it!
The people who serve in children's ministry are not MY volunteers, working for me- they are part of a team, who works together for the Lord. They are part of a culture that VALUES children's ministry. They are serving in areas that they are passionate about. They are taking ownership of their ministry. And they are always on the lookout for passionate, gifted people, to join them in this incredible ministry! Now THAT is recruiting at its best! That is what it should be!
We welcome new volunteers to our kidmin team regularly, because we are always on the lookout for people whose gifts and passions fit certain roles in the children's ministry. Passionate, excited volunteers are the best recruiters (more about volunteer retention in another post).
The important part comes AFTER the initial ask or interest. What you DO with those people who initially say YES to serving, matters more than getting the "yes," because it determines how long they stay and how happy they will be! Here are our 5 steps for assimilating new volunteers.
Since we have an awesome leadership team in the children's ministry, the cool thing is, I'm not the only one doing the recruiting, training and assimilating! We have ministry leaders over various areas of ministry, and they are empowered and equipped to do all of these steps on their own teams.
1. Fill out a volunteer application
This is the first thing we ask people to do if they are interested in serving. Fill out the application (attached below, if you want to see it) and turn it in. We do a background check on all our volunteers, so this is when we get their permission, and run the national and state criminal background check. **We also make sure, via the application, that they are abiding by our other volunteer safety policies, like a 6 month church attendance for supervisory roles (3 month for non-supervisory roles).
2. Meeting with the children's pastor or ministry leader
I get together with all of our new volunteers for a brief meeting -- sometimes lunch or coffee; not always. Sometimes the meeting is just a conversation before or after church. If they are serving in an area where they report directly to a different leader, then that leader will have this meeting. The goal is to give an overview of the children's ministry and just to get to know the person, answer any questions they have. We also talk about spiritual gifts and try to determine the person's gifts. If someone doesn't know his/her spiritual gifts, we have an assessment we can give them. Once they know their spiritual gifts and strengths, then we look for a spot for them to serve where they can best use their gifts.
We do a mandatory training series for all of our children's ministry volunteers and leaders annually. It consists of 2 meetings on Wednesday nights in August, before we kick off our Fall semester (we have tried different times, and this seemed to work the best for our group). We try to make these meetings fun and meaningful. We use them for informing and reminding everyone of our policies, as well as team building and vision casting, and we also do in-depth team training for specific ministry areas. We also do team training sessions all throughout the year for different ministry areas. Our security team just had a specialized training for their volunteers, and other ministry leaders organize their own training sessions for volunteers. This is something that is always going on, and it's always a good time to jump into the team and come to a training meeting! We are always looking for ways to help develop our teams and add value to the leaders. Sometimes we go to conferences together (shout out to Illuminate, led by Kenny Conley! Awesome conference for volunteers!!).
4. Hands-on Training
The fourth thing new volunteers do is come and observe and help with another, experienced volunteer, who can teach by example. One mistake I used to make is skipping to this step before any of the others, just throwing people in without the groundwork. We like to pair new volunteers with experienced volunteers and leaders, so they can ask questions and learn from each other. This part is important, and appreciated by the new team members!
It's always important to follow up with new team members, and evaluate- no one is ever "locked in" to a certain role or position. If it's not a good fit, we want to move them to a new job where they can thrive and enjoy! If we have done the first 4 steps effectively, usually people are in the right spot, but we still like to let people know that there is nothing wrong with trying a different place to serve, to find the right fit!
We don't just want warm bodies in a room, doing a job they don't care about. We want energetic and visionary team members, who love serving and are in the right spot for God to use them most effectively for HIS purposes.
It makes a huge difference in the energy and culture of the children's ministry when the team is full of people who love each other and love serving in children's ministry, and it also makes others want to join the team to be a part of something so great for the Kingdom!
Children are a Gift
kidmin leader, mother, and servant of the Lord.
These are the views of Lynne Howard, and are not necessarily the views and opinions of any church.