There's a joke about children's ministry leaders that when church members see them walking toward them in church, they run and hide so they don't get asked to volunteer. It's funny, because many times, it's true. And many children's ministry leaders dread that "ask" even more than the people running to hide. Many children's ministry leaders are trying to do all the ministry themselves, desperate for volunteers, and then end up apologetically begging people to step in and "just do this." But here's the problem: people don't want to just do a small task. They want to be a part of a team; they want to do something important and life-changing. How do we go from struggling to have enough volunteers to having a waiting list of people because so many want to serve?
Yes, you could do a ministry fair, a recruiting campaign, a bulletin announcement, a pulpit announcement, or you could even require parents to serve, but you might not end up with passionate, energized, committed volunteers doing those things. Or you could . . .
1. Invite them to a big vision.
Instead of asking someone to come to the nursery to change diapers, invite them to come change lives. Cast the vision for the importance and eternal value of children's ministry, and invite people to be a part of that vision. Don't give them small jobs or make it seem as simple and insignificant as possible. Raise the bar for serving and give them leadership and ownership in the ministry. People want to be a part of something significant and life-changing. Ask people one-on-one, rather than just blanket announcements.
2. Create an irresistible volunteer environment.
When you have a culture of celebration, fun, excitement, and life-transformation, people will want to be a part of it. Share wins. Keep a high standard of excellence in your ministry, in the way you care for and celebrate your volunteers, the way you communicate, the community you create, and excellence in the details of the children's ministry programming. If your environment is irresistible, people will be excited to be a part of it!
3. Develop teams and care structures.
Care for the volunteers you currently have. People don't want to serve as lone rangers, they want community and a team to belong to. Develop a team for every volunteer area, and a designated team leader to care for and invest in those leaders. When your current volunteers feel valued and well-cared for, they'll stick around, and also want to invite their friends to be a part of the team as well.
4. Know who you're looking for.
Write job descriptions for every role you want to fill. You can't fill roles if you don't what you're looking for. Look for people with the gifts, experiences, and passions to fit those roles. Don't put people where you need them; put them where they will thrive and be passionate to serve. Look for leaders and people with the spiritual gifts you need, then give them an opportunity to use their gifts. Develop and invest in people to help them grow in their leadership and spiritual gifts.
5. Equip your current volunteers.
Give your current volunteers ownership and responsibility for recruiting and for real leadership in the ministry. Don't just delegate tasks, give people opportunities for leadership and ministry. When the current volunteers are bought in to the vision and the ministry, they'll invite others to be a part of it too.
6. Host a regular new volunteer orientation.
Hosting a regular (monthly would be awesome) event to share your vision with potential volunteers will give people who are interested a concrete event to attend. Use it as a time to introduce them to your ministry, your vision, and the opportunities for them to use their gifts on your team. Follow-up with everyone who shows interest in serving within 48 hours.
7. Be present and think outside the box.
Show up to church events that don't involve your ministry. Make sure you're in the main worship service regularly. Show your face around the church and get to know people in as many ways as you can. Being present allows you the opportunity to see people's spiritual gifts and passions, and share your vision and wins from children's ministry. Also, think outside the box when you're looking at potential volunteers. Many children's ministry leaders go to the obvious choice for the volunteer pool: parents of kids in the ministry. But you could also look at teens, college students, young single adults, young married couples without kids, parents of teens, empty-nesters, grandparents, widows. Create intentional diversity in your volunteer teams. Invite people from all walks of life to serve, and you might be surprised by some who become your best volunteers!
My volunteer bundle includes everything you need to recruit and assimilate children's ministry volunteers. It includes volunteer job descriptions, interest flyers, volunteer orientation overview, volunteer handbook, volunteer applications, volunteer interview questions, and more! And it's all editable.
I remember being a new children's pastor and running around like a chicken with my head cut off on Sunday mornings, trying to do it all myself. I dreaded Sunday mornings, knowing we would always be short-handed, and dreaded even more having to ask people to serve. I would apologize and ask them to just stand there and not do very much. But after God changed my views and gave me a fresh vision for recruiting volunteers, I saw the volunteer teams I was leading grow and flourish. A team I led that started with 30 volunteers grew to over 150 volunteers, with some areas overstaffed, because so many people wanted to serve. God gave me a passion for developing teams, investing in leaders and helping them grow, and giving away the work of the ministry to others.
You could go from struggling to having a waiting list of people lining up to serve in your children's ministry!
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.