Last night, I spent an evening at the bowling alley celebrating with a group of amazing kidmin volunteers and leaders, laughing and enjoying being together. As I made my way through the crowd of families and kids enjoying themselves and having a great time, I thanked God for this group of people and their dedication to Him. And we had a blast bowling!!
We are blessed with great volunteers and great volunteer retention, in a ministry that TYPICALLY has a lot of turnover because of the demands and frequent burnout... I talk to many children's pastors who are DESPERATE for volunteers, and the ones they do have are overworked, tired, discouraged, and burnt out.
We have very little volunteer turnover. A couple of weeks ago, one of our wonderful Sunday School teachers asked if she could move UP with her Sunday School class (when they promote up to the next grade level), because she had developed such deep relationships with the kids! My answer? OF COURSE! That is what it's about! Volunteers who are committed and dedicated.
Here are some ways we intentionally and strategically keep these amazing people on the team:
1) VALUE and APPRECIATION
I am a HUGE fan of everyone who serves on the team, and they know it! I try to let them know how valued they are as often as I can, and through a variety of ways... hand written Thank You notes, homemade treats and sweets for them on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights, a random surprise of their favorite candy bars, public recognition, fun bulletin board designs letting them know they are loved, personal verbal affirmation and encouragement, and personal relationships. Last Christmas, we did a really fun and unique video where we "Elfted" our Midweek Leaders. We made a video where we went to their homes and left cookies and a fun surprise on their doorsteps. Then we showed the video on Wednesday night, and they loved it! We are always looking for fun new ways to show value and appreciation to our leaders. Click HERE to see the video.
We have a culture of value for our kidmin team, and everyone is an integral part of the team, no matter what role he/she serves in.
Serving in the kidmin is (in my opinion) one of the most FUN places you could possibly serve in the church! We have a blast, both in and out of the church. Sometimes, we just get together to have fun, like going bowling together with our families, or putt putt golfing, or going out to lunch. We have fun together. Fun and friendships are a high priority for healthy teams, and unfortunately, if it's not intentional, sometimes fun slips through the cracks and it becomes more of a duty than anything else.
We have worked to develop a culture of fun, laughter, and authentic friendships within the team.
Speaking of the team... we always try to use the word "TEAM" to remind people that they are a part of something- they belong to a team. A team of people who love each other, who serve together, who lift each other up and pray for each other. When you sign up to volunteer in children's ministry, you're not just going to be thrown into a room alone and left on your own, you are joining an amazing team. We also use the word "leaders" as often as possible (instead of volunteers), to remind people that they are truly leaders. They are influencers. We work to grow as a team and grow and develop as leaders together.
Yes, we sometimes give gifts (I love to surprise people with Starbucks gift cards to random other gifts, just to let them know they are loved), but I'm not talking here about giving gifts. I'm talking about using our gifts. When people are serving in their sweet spot and using their gifts, they will become energized, passionate, and excited to serve, rather than burned out. We make sure our volunteers are serving in the right spot, rather than just placing someone in the first place we need help. I have seen people who were almost ready to quit, who were discouraged and tired, who THRIVED in a different role and area of children's ministry. We are blessed to have amazing volunteers in every area of the children's ministry. These are the teams that make up our kidmin team, and each team has a wonderful and dedicated leader: Security Team, Preteen Ministry Team (Club 56), Preschool and Nursery Team, First Impressions (Hospitality) Team, Media Team, Sunday Morning Programming Team, Midweek Team, and Outreach/Special Events Team. Each team recruits people based on their gifts and passions.
People want to be a part of a life transforming, gospel centered vision. A vision that reaches their hearts and drives them to make a difference in the world. Where the vision is strong, there are passionate people, ready to pour themselves out for the Lord. Children's ministry is truly an important place to serve, and our vision is for kids to love God- for kids to walk away from church knowing God more and saying how awesome He is! This is our opportunity to make a lifelong impact on kids' lives and lay a foundation that will last for eternity! Reminding people of the vision is important in helping them know their value as they serve.
While many churches struggle to recruit and keep volunteers out of desperation, we have developed a culture where children's ministry volunteers are almost on a waiting list, because people are excited and passionately serving in a meaningful way. But this isn't something that happens overnight. It hasn't always been this way; God has been faithful and we have been intentional, and it is amazing to be a part of such a wonderful team, who truly is the hands and feet of Christ. Volunteers are my inspiration. It is a privilege to get to serve with them, and I thank God every day for people all over the world who serve Him so faithfully, especially kidmin volunteers, who often feel unappreciated and unnoticed (espc
A little girl came up to me as her Kindergarten Sunday School class was ending. I bent down and asked her if she had enjoyed Sunday School. She said something that I will never forget. Full of childlike faith and power, she said, "An angel whispered in my ear and told me I will be a missionary someday...and I will tell many people about Jesus." I knew at that moment that the Lord has amazing plans for this little girl. I told her that was wonderful! Then she said, "I am going to go home today and tell my little sister how much Jesus loves her. Then I am going to go all over the world telling people that Jesus loves them." Tears began to run down my face. She looked up and me and said, "Don't cry, Miss Lynne- I'll come back!"
This little girl is so full of the Holy Spirit that you can sense His presence whenever you are around her. She is passionate about God and His Word, and she loves telling people that Jesus loves them. She loves to pray for people. And she is only 5 years old.
I truly believe that God speaks to children. I think sometimes we adults try too hard to BE the voice of God to kids, and what we need to do is simply get out of God's way, so HE can speak to them. God has a plan for their lives, and His plan doesn't just start when they grow up and become adults. I believe God has great purposes for kids, even now when they are young. My goal as a leader is to bring kids to a place where they can hear the voice of God, and allow His Spirit to work in their hearts.
It is an amazing experience to be a part of God's work in the lives of kids. Their faith is so pure, so child-like. That's why I believe Jesus said in Luke 18:17 "I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn't receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it."
Have you ever experienced God speaking to kids?
Children are a Gift
Children's Pastor, wife, and servant of the Lord.
These are the views of Lynne Howard, and are not necessarily the views and opinions of 12Stone Church.