Do you have trouble getting and keeping volunteers in your children’s ministry? If your answer is yes, then keep reading because help is on the way!
The #1 Problem in Kids Ministry
Not long ago I asked groups of kids pastors on Facebook what their biggest problems were in their children’s ministries, and by far the number one answer was getting and keeping volunteers! So, let’s take a quick look at possible solutions.
This is going to be in two parts. First, I’m going to give you 3 foundational guidelines you must have in place before you start looking for volunteers. Then 10 ideas of how to actually find volunteers.
Three Foundational Guidelines
Foundational guideline number one is advanced preparation: when it comes to recruiting volunteers for your kids ministry there is actually a lot of advanced preparation you need to do before you ever begin looking for people. That’s because people aren’t going to volunteer just because you need them. They don’t want to be a part of something that is disorganized and haphazard or looks like a babysitting job. You’ve got to demonstrate to them that when they volunteer their time it’s going to be a great, meaningful experience.
Side issue —and by the way if you do not feel your strongest gift is organization, then find someone who is gifted in the details to help you. Staff to your weakness. If you aren’t naturally organized, i bet you know someone who is. Bring them in as your partner. It could be your spouse or a best friend. Depending on the size of your church or kids ministry just trying to organize volunteers can a full time job, so find someone who can help you with that so you aren’t the one on Saturday night trying to find someone at the last minute filling a position because aunt Suzy called in sick. Don’t try to do everything yourself.
Now back to advanced preparation — you need to sit down and evaluate all of the areas you need help in. Ask your existing volunteers for their input. A lot of times they know things you don’t know about what they do especially if you are new on the job. Potential volunteers need clear, detailed descriptions for each position that includes your when, your where, your what, why, and how. Are there any positions that require physical expectations? Write it down. Include any special skills or abilities that are needed in specific areas, as well as times and days when you need help.
People who volunteer are going to want to know exactly what they are signing up for. Anything that feels like busywork or babysitting or feels disorganized is an automatic turn off.
Foundational Guideline #2
Foundational guideline number #2 — be flexible in your expectations. It’s very rare these days to find volunteers who have endless time to give and will just volunteer with no limits. Like it or not people are busier than ever before, and if you don’t respect that, you are going to have a tough time finding people to commit. So, decide if there are positions that could be short term, or ones that can be shared among a group where they can rotate in and out for periods of time.
It’s not the ideal situation, but it’s a reality of our current society. So, as you approach people, ask for a three-month commitment, or a two-month commitment, or even one month. Let them know there is an end to their commitment, so they don’t feel like they will be stuck there till Jesus comes. You may find it much easier to find volunteers by doing this. Then as people get involved in your ministry, you will eventually find those who will stick with jobs permanently.
Foundational Guideline #3
Foundational guideline number 3 – have a clear vision – I can’t stress the importance of this enough. People commit to a vision they believe in so take this seriously. Pray about it! What is the holy spirit speaking to you about the direction of your kids ministry? Without a vision the people perish. Or we could say without a vision, you are going to have trouble finding and keeping volunteers in your ministry! Volunteers don’t want to feel like they are just filling a hole. They want to be part of something meaningful that they will find in your vision.
I strongly suggest that you read my book Redefining Children’s Ministry in the 21st Century: a Call for Radical Change. It flips everything upside down that you ever thought you knew about children’s ministry. So, before you decide on your vision, read this book!
Share Your Vision Constantly
A vision needs to be shared constantly. Just because it’s in your heart, and clear in your mind doesn’t mean everyone else knows it. Talk about the vision in your meetings, in your newsletters, your email announcements, etc., because it reminds your volunteers of the reason for what they are doing. It’s exactly like Habakkuk 2:2 says – “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.”
Make a big banner with your vision statement on it and hang it by the entrance of your kids ministry so your parents, church leaders, and volunteers can see it at all times. For instance, the slogan for our ministry is equipping boys and girls to walk in the supernatural power of God. When people hear this, they know they are going to be a part of something beyond the ordinary kids ministry.
When you seek out volunteers make sure they know what your vision is. Try to keep your vision statement short. Reduce it to a byline or slogan that you can repeat quickly and often. Then create what is called an “elevator speech.” This means you need to be able to explain your vision in a little more detail that you could clearly share in a short elevator ride, or around one minute. It should contain your slogan, but a little more specific.
So, these are your foundational guidelines to put in place before you start looking for volunteers. Now we are ready for my 10 quick ideas of how to actually find help.
10 Ideas to Help You Find Volunteers
- The least effective method is making a generic plea or announcement from the main pulpit in the adult service, sending out an email, or just hanging up a sign-up sheet somewhere. Human nature is to think in those situations that someone else is going to respond. You can make announcements from the platform, but you’ve got to make it more specific and personal, which I will explain in a minute.
- Don’t sound desperate! You must frame your search in vision and positive messaging. No one wants to sign up for a sinking ship!
- Get student volunteers from the youth ministry. Not every position needs to be filled by a bonified adult, and students or youth have tons of energy and love to help. On the flip side, look for help among your senior citizens! They have a lot of time on their hands, a lot of experience, a lot of patience and love to give, and are rich in spiritual heritage.
- Ask your current volunteers to find others to serve with them. Everybody knows somebody that you don’t know. A lot of times people will volunteer when they can work alongside a friend and not feel like they are being thrown to the lions by themselves.
- Don’t forget the importance of praying for volunteers! You don’t want just any warm body. You want people the holy spirit sends you. Intentional prayer can result in people volunteering even without being asked. Your entire ministry should be bathed in prayer, including the volunteer positions. We go into a lot of detail in this in my teaching Evaluating the Church and her Children which you can find linked below in the description.
- Ask parents to volunteer while they are dropping off their children. This is where it pays to know people with certain talents or skills, so you can match them in areas of their strengths. Such as if you know a particular parent is a good artist. Maybe they will help make object lessons, or creating hand out sheets, etc.
- Moderately to less effective methods are Facebook or bulletin inserts—so if you are going to do this, make them attractive, positive, vision packed, and be specific about certain positions including time commitments and limited commitment possibilities. Include your vision statement in every announcement, and it wouldn’t hurt to add in touching testimonies of children in your group that have been impacted in some way through your ministry.
- When making announcements from the stage make your vision and your spiritual goals your top priority. Again, people respond to vision and purpose. And specifics. Mention a few specific areas so people get a good idea of whether or not they would meet the need.
- Offer training and be sensitive to upspoken needs. For instance, many do not want to volunteer because they don’t want to miss out on the adult service. Of course, if your church has two Sunday morning services, offer that as a solution. I always made arrangements so my volunteers were given free audio copies of the Sunday morning sermon. Today many churches have online services already. If they are going to sacrifice their service, they need to feel they are not giving everything up and can still stay connected to the adult service.
People Don’t want to Miss Out on God’s Presence
One more important thing to keep in mind is a big reason many people don’t want to miss the adult service is they want the presence of God – so make sure His presence is evident in your services. It’s shocking to me how many children’s ministers never even consider deliberately creating an atmosphere where the presence of God is felt and present. It is possible for you to have a greater move of God in your children’s services, than they have in the adult services. And remember, kids want to experience the presence of God too! My leaders never felt like they were missing out on anything because we made sure the lesson or sermon was packed with the deep truths of God’s word, and we always took time to experience Gods presence.
If you don’t know how to do that I highly recommend my teaching on How to Bring Children into the Presence of God as an mp4 download. I have it linked in the description below.
The Number One Most Effective Method
- And the number one most effective method of finding volunteers is simply walking up to a person and asking them to serve.
Now i want to share with you what i personally feel is the number one key to attracting and keeping volunteers based on my personal experience. And here it is
In one word – vision. And when your vision truly is inspired by the holy spirit, and not just a well-thought out idea that sounds good, you are going to be passionate about what you do. It’s going to be the fire in your belly and the driving force behind every decision you make. And people sense when you are passionate about something. And vision bathed in passion attracts people to get involved. You have purpose that is palpable with a God given vision.
I Did Not Want to Serve in Kids Ministry
When i first got involved in children’s ministry, our church was experiencing revival. We were seeing souls saved, filled with the holy spirit, the worship was powerful, and the revelation of God’s word was rich. I loved every minute and i didn’t want to miss any of it. So, when God began stirring my spirit to take over the children’s ministry, I really didn’t want to do it, because i didn’t want to miss out on what God was doing in the adult services.
But the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let me off the hook. So I made a deliberate decision. It was “if I have to do this, we are going to have a genuine move of God in our children’s services too because I refuse to miss out on what God is doing!”
That Fire in my Belly Propelled Me!
And that was the vision and the fire in my belly that propelled me forward. Now in all honesty it took some time to get to that point because I had no road map to follow. At the time I didn’t know anyone else who was doing it. I had to figure it out for myself with the help of the Holy Spirit.
But the vision – the passion – the fire in my belly was my driving force. And honestly, I do not remember ever having a problem finding and keeping helpers in my kids services. I pastored in two different churches over a ten-year period. I don’t even remember asking for volunteers. I probably did, but I just don’t remember it ever being a problem.
The only place I had to recruit and ask for help was in the nursery and preschool department, and once in a while in our mid-week Sunday school classrooms. But my passion even extended to the little ones, and there were key volunteers who caught the vision, and were faithful throughout my tenure.
Vision Gives You Direction
Vision gives you direction. Vision will inform everything you do in every area of ministry. If your activities do not in some way contribute or reflect your vision you need to rethink them. Reevaluate your activities. Are you just doing things because you saw other kids ministers on Facebook doing them and they looked like really good ideas? Or do they really contribute to your spiritual goals.
See that’s another thing we could talk about at length – spiritual goals. Someone has said if you aim at nothing, you will hit the target every time. Your vision should naturally cause you to have specific spiritual goals. I talk about this at length in my School of Supernatural Children’s Ministry, which I highly recommend if you truly want to go to the next level in your children’s ministry. That too is linked in the description below.
But for now, thanks for reading this. And go find some awesome volunteers!
- Resources mentioned in this teaching:
- Redefining Children’s Ministry in the 21st Century (book) – https://buff.ly/2IFphuY
- Evaluating the Church & Her Children (MP4) – https://buff.ly/2z5lK9b
- How to Bring Children into the Presence of God (MP4) – https://buff.ly/2L5DbvN
- THE SCHOOL OF SUPERNATURAL CHILDREN’S MINISTRY https://buff.ly/2Pr2YRk