People are busy! It is hard enough to get people to volunteer, so how can we ask them to serve every week? Weekends are busy with family commitments, or time to relax and sleep in. Volunteering weekly will be the most rewarding for volunteers but how can we get them to understand that?
Have you read The Formula for Building Great Volunteer Teams? This book has moved into the position of “Top 5 Must Have” books for Kids Ministry. It is LOADED with information.
My friend Dale Hudson is the author of this amazing book. This guy has tons of Kids Ministry Experience and really knows his stuff when it comes to kids, volunteers, recruiting, training and motivating. His blog is loaded with resources and ideas on many different kids ministry related topics. He has a humble spirit and an amazing servant’s heart. I have visited the church many times where he was on staff as the Kids Ministry Director and my kids loved being in the kids program there. He is an international conference speaker and trainer, and I have learned so much from this guy and his experience. He is the author of several kids ministry books, and his most recent, The Formula for Building Great Volunteer Teams is one of my favourites.
When people sign up to volunteer in our Kids Rooms, we want to equip them with all the info they need to get started, and do their job well. It can be a little overwhelming for a new volunteer to try to remember everything, so we created some booklets for each room that give them the basics to get started.
Sometimes the number of things that need to be done in Kids Ministry can be overwhelming. How do you balance the urgent things with things that should be a priority? So many times the urgent can take a lot of our time, but they are not necessarily things that are a priority. A Kids Ministry To Do List might be just the thing you are looking for. It’s not just any to do list. It’s specifically designed with things in mind that are important for a Kids Ministry Leader.
Sometimes I like to show my volunteers a video clip to illustrate a point. Despicable Me is a great movie that shows an example of Gru doing a not so great job as a dad, and then later, a much better job as a dad. This illustration can be used when it comes to volunteers in Kids Ministry. These two Despicable Me video clips illustrate how volunteers can own their role instead of rent it.
When I think of volunteers, this is the picture that I have in my head. Volunteers are in different stages. Some are new, or come occasionally while others are the committed people that do the majority of the work. As I look at these circles, here are some thoughts on how to find kids ministry leaders:
There are some things that only the leader of a team can do. Bill Hybels talks about the gift of ENERGY that a leader can give to their team & the difference it will make. In this video he talks about going from feeling anxious & overwhelmed to feeling focused and energized on the leadership goals that were in front of him.
People lead the best when they are renewed, refreshed & re-envisioned. Bill Hybels, the Lead pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, talks about the challenges of staying replenished and the priorities that he puts in place to keep recharging.
Bill Hybels is a well known pastor & speaker. His talks are challenging and motivating.
I came across this video of him speaking about Coffee with God. Great reminder of where our priorities should be & the difference it will make.
If you want things to run smoothly in Kids Ministry, it’s probably a good idea to spend some time training your team of volunteers. However, usually when you mention the word training, people’s schedules suddenly fill up quickly. Here are some tips that can help you be successful at creating a training event that people will want to come to:
#1. Value people’s time. Limit the amount of events that you ask them to come to. I hold an annual training event for all of my volunteers. I strongly encourage them to attend, but that’s the only ‘training event’ that I ask them to attend all year.
#2. Go Big or Go Home. If you are going to take the time to put together a training event, then make it FUN! – Choose a theme & run with it. Pinterest has zillions of ideas on every theme possible. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Cardboard, paint & paper can go a long way to make your decor look spectacular. Door prizes are always fun for people because they like winning things. Take home bags with some resources, notepaper, a pen & a few candies are another good idea to include.
#3. Have a schedule and stick to it. Include things like a main session, workshops, guest speakers, discussion panels & team building time.
#4. Food. You have to have food. If possible get your food to match your theme. Once again, visit Pinterest.
#5. Make it motivational. Somewhere in your schedule you need to include a motivational talk. Remind people why they do what they do. Remind them that they are making a difference. Use stories &/or video to help illustrate this.
#6. Make it practical. Give people some ‘how-to’s’ and some ideas that they can implement in their roles. Post cards with websites for more info, or a guest speaker, or a top 10 list are great ways to do this.
#7. Give people a chance to talk. The last thing you want to do is talk AT people the whole time. Get them to turn to their neighbour and share one idea or story. Do some round table discussion. Give them time to get into groups of 3 or 4 to share ideas.
#8. Help them discover action steps. Be sure to include times throughout your event when they can pause and WRITE DOWN one thing they can do to improve what they do in Kids Ministry.
#9. Include a ‘more information’ option. Some people might be willing to learn more! Be sure to include some books, videos, websites & blog posts that might be beneficial to them if they want to learn more.
#10. Celebrate the wins! I love to include a video or slideshow of the volunteers in action. It helps people see that they are not alone and there is a whole team of people who are serving along with them. Be sure to take lots of video clips & pics in the weeks leading up to your event so you can catch your current volunteers in action! Add some funky music & you have a celebration presentation!!
Look what came in the mail today! I love reading books on leadership, especially ones that are related to Disney.
Employee Engagement was written by Pete Blank who was a cast member at Walt Disney World. He shares his knowledge & experiences from working at Disney, specifically on the topic of keeping employees engaged. In the first chapter, he talks about 4 reasons why people work and stay in their jobs. I think the same principles apply to volunteering in kids ministry.
They like the job – These people like to do the role they are doing. They are wired to do it and simply love doing what they are doing.
Look for people to serve in areas of their passion. If you find the role to fit the person, they will stay serving because they are doing what they love to do.
They like the organization – These people believe in the organization. They may volunteer in your church because they believe in it and are willing to do what it takes to see ministry happen.
Look for people who have been around for many years. Different stages of life bring about different serving options. Perhaps people who are retired now have time to invest in the next generation.
They like the boss – These people are connected to the leader. They like how they lead, the friendship & the overall benefits of interacting with the leader.
Connect with people outside of kids ministry. The friends you make will probably want to help you in kids ministry because they have connected with you.
They like the people they work with – These people like to be with their team! Volunteers in these roles have a sense of community with the people they serve with.
Be intentional about placing people on teams where they can connect. Put young adults with young adults. Put families with young children with families with young children. They will probably have a lot in common and will become friends. Friends like to serve with their friends.
If you work on these 4 areas, chances are you will have less turn over and your volunteers will stick around.
I went out for lunch with my family after church on Sunday to celebrate the last few days of freedom before school started. While we were eating, I couldn’t help but listen in on the conversation happening at the table next to us. The lady was telling her friend about her experience growing up in a church. The now grandmother age lady recalled a building with hard pews that were uncomfortable to sit in, a pastor who spoke long, and a Sunday morning experience that was extremely boring. The religious experience was all about rules & consequences for breaking the rules. When she was old enough, she decided that she had no interest in this thing called church.
As she told her story, I couldn’t help but think about how many other people have grown up with this same experience. During their formative years, their experience of church was irrelevant & boring.
Parents, Teachers, Pastors & Volunteers wish there was a simple answer to the question: How do you keep kids from leaving the church when they get older? Although there is no secret formula, I do think there are several factors that increase the chances of them sticking around.
Relationships – As I think back to my own experiences growing up in the church, I had many people who greatly impacted me and were great role models. My parents, my parents’ friends, Sunday School Teachers, one-on-one buddies, midweek leaders, youth pastors and summer camp leaders. Note: People who invest time in kids may not see the reward of their investment until many years later.
Regular Attendance – My parents believed in going to church EVERY Sunday. Not just once in a while, or when it worked for our schedule. EVERY Sunday. This taught me that church was a priority, not just optional when it worked for us. We planned our family schedule around our church schedule.
Relevant – I went to Sunday School. I went to the mid-week program for kids. I went to youth. During each stage of my life there was a program available for me to attend that was fun & taught lessons that were appropriate for my age group.
Real – My family didn’t grow up in a perfect bubble. We had our share of challenges. My dad died of cancer when I was 16 and that left my mom to raise 5 kids on her own. The church surrounded our family with love & support. They prayed for us & helped in practical ways. They were doing what Jesus would have done. It taught me that the church sticks with each other through the good times & the not so good times.
Serving – (sorry I couldn’t think of a word that started with ‘R’) – From the time I was a young teenager I was given opportunities to serve. I helped in Kids Ministry & was involved in music. It took the focus off of myself and helped me focus on others. I was using my gifts & talents in the area of my passion. Church was about giving, not just receiving. In those serving roles I built relationships with people of all ages who were happy to spend time with me and encourage me as I served along side of them.
As I look at the lives of those who grew up in the church with me, many of them are still connected in a church today. Many of them would list the same list of things as I did. It’s probably not a complete list, but it’s a good start.
If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. This is also true in Kids Ministry.
Every year I take time with my team to evaluate and celebrate things that happened the previous year and think about what we need to focus on for the upcoming year. I give my leaders a checklist of things to start the creative thinking process:
- Do you have enough volunteers?
- What does your room look like? Is it tidy & organized? Counters cleaned off, cupboards organized?
- Signs – Posted in appropriate locations?
- Schedules – Are they posted in volunteer areas?
- Curriculum – Printed? photocopied? Bins ready to go?
- Sets & Props for Large Group Time?
- Music – CDs ready to go in the room? Worship Teams ready & on same page?
- Small Group Bins – Ready to go? Do they need any basic supplies?
- Room Supplies – All stocked up?
- Toy Cleaning – Do you have times/dates scheduled for this?
- Meeting with your Volunteer Team – Large Group Teachers? Room Leaders?
- Welcome Letter/email from you to your volunteers.
Once they read through this list of questions, I ask them to write down 3 goals for each of the following categories:
- 3 months from now
- 6 months from now
- 12 months from now
Every year I am amazed at the goals that they come up with. They set the bar high & go beyond what I had hoped for. We take time in our meeting to give everyone a chance to share their goals. This helps build the sense of team as they share their ideas with each other. Each month at our meetings we review these goals & check-in to see how they are doing with them. More times than not, they accomplish their goals well before their target date. I am reminded every Leaders Meeting about the importance of setting goals, reviewing them & taking time to celebrate the things that God is doing!
Finding leaders can be challenging. Usually it takes time for you to find people who are willing to serve at the leadership level. So how does this happen?
Almost all of my leaders have come from serving faithfully in kids ministry rooms, and I have asked them if they would consider being at the leadership level. Going from a new volunteer to a leadership role usually happens one step at a time. Let’s take a look at the process:
Step 1 – This type of volunteer is new to volunteering. They probably volunteer in a ‘helper’ role with very little responsibility. Start small and don’t overwhelm them. It’s important to get these volunteers connected with a more experienced volunteer who they can build a relationship with, and see the benefits of volunteering on a regular basis at a higher level of leadership.
Step 2 – Increase the level of frequency. When people volunteer on a regular basis, they can see the results faster. They build relationships with kids faster & get to know them better. They begin to see the results of their investment in the kids lives.
Step 3 – Increase the level of responsibility. Once they have had some time to see various roles in action & they have time to learn the culture of the ministry they are involved in, they may be willing to do a little more to help the team.
Step 4 – Invite them to be a leader. Meet personally with the volunteer & cast the vision of why you think this person would make a great leader. Highlight the benefits of leading & the impact it will make on their life.
I have been to the Leadership Summit several times at Willow Creek Church in Chicago, IL. It’s a great time to focus on leadership & renew my passion for leading people. Several years ago I heard Bill Hybels speak about the 3 C’s when it comes to building your dream team. Bill also talks about the 3 C’s in his book Courageous Leadership. As I look for people to be leaders in children’s ministry, I remember these 3 things and ask the following questions:
1. Character – Are they a Christ Follower? Do their words & actions reflect this? What is their character like? Are they humble? Do they have a servant’s heart? Do they have a positive attitude?
2. Competence – Are they capable of doing the job? Do they have the skills & gifts needed for the role they are filling? Are they self-motivated & have a high level of excellence?
3. Chemistry – How will they fit on the team? Will their personality work with the rest of the people on the team?
Bill lists these 3 things, and is careful to note that they are in a specific order. Character is the most important thing. Someone might be capable of doing a job, even excel at it, but if their character is not in the right place, he would not bring them onto his team.
What do you look for in a leader?
Here are 10 books that I am currently reading or have purchased to read in the next few months.
Creating Ever-Cool – A Marketer’s Guide to a Kid’s Heart – Gene Del Vecchio
Dream It! Do It! – A Half Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms – Marty Sklar
Be a People Person – John Maxwell
The Advantage – Patrick Lencioni
Amplified Leadership – Dan Reiland
Deep and Wide – Andy Stanley
Rock Solid Children’s Ministry – Larry Fowler
Autism and your Church – Barbara J. Newman
Here is a list of my favourite leadership books that I have read. They have helped shaped the Kids Ministry Leader that I am today.
Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels
The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork by John Maxwell
Simply Strategic Stuff by Tim Stevens and Tony Morgan
Simply Strategic Growth by Tim Stevens and Tony Morgan
Stretch – Structuring Your Ministry for Growth by Jim Wideman
Be Our Guest – Perfecting the Art of Customer Service – Disney Institute
The Church Mouse – Leadership Lessons from the Magic Kingdom – Christopher W. Perry
The Land Between – Finding God in Difficult Transitions -Jeff Manion – a must read book if you ever go through a difficult transition.
Here are some of my favourite Kids Ministry books. I have read each of them and they have had a big influence in how I do Kids Ministry:
Sue Miller & David Staal’s book – Making Your Children’s Ministry the Best Hour of Every Kid’s Week
Jim Wideman’s book – Children’s Ministry Leadership – the you-can-do-it guide
Dale Hudson & friends’ book – 100 Best Ideas to Turbocharge your Preschool Ministry
Dale Hudson & Scott Werner’s book – 100 Best Ideas to Turbocharge your Children’s Ministry
Aaron Reynolds book – The Fabulous Reinvention of Sunday School
Jim Wideman’s book – Volunteers that Stick
Jonathan & Thomas W. McKee’s book – The New Breed – Understanding & Equipping the 21st Century Volunteer
Barbara Blton & friends’ book – Care and Feeding of Volunteers
Tony Morgan & Tim Steven’s book – Simply Strategic Volunteers
Craig Jutila’s book – Leadership Essentials for Children’s Ministry
Keeping vision in front of your volunteers is one of the most important things you will do as a Kids Ministry Leader. Reminding people over and over of why they do what they do.
On my most recent trip to Crossroads Church in Cincannati, I was reminded of something that they do to keep vision in front of their volunteers. Many of their kids ministry rooms have a picture wall. The pictures are specific to the ministry that happens in that room. The volunteer room has pictures of volunteers with kids, the special needs room has pictures of one-on-one buddies with their special friend. Each picture represents a story of a volunteer making a difference in the life of a child. Many of the volunteers that came with me from my church noticed the picture walls, and were impacted by the message in the form of pictures.
How do you keep vision in front of your volunteers?
This is one of my favorite Disney pictures. I have it framed and it’s part of my office decor.
Before Walt Disney World in Orlando came to be, it was a bunch of swampland. Walt Disney had a vision of what could be, and he had a big job ahead of him to communicate that vision to his team.
Sometimes in Kids Ministry, I can see the vision of where we are headed, but I need to communicate that vision to my team. I can see the potential in volunteers, in the building & in the kids. Here are some ways to paint the picture of your Kids Ministry, and the vision that you have for the future:
1. Stay Positive – There will be challenges along the way, but don’t let discouragement settle in to get you off track for what God has planned.
2. Stay Focused – Many things could distract you or demand your time. As the leader, you need to stay focused on what lies ahead.
3. Communicate – Do whatever it takes to help people see where you are going. Draw pictures, create vision statements, tell success stories, share the dream, have meetings, and connect with key leaders one-on-one.
4. Be Passionate – Make sure you are fired up & excited about where you are going! If you are not excited about it, how can you expect anyone else to be?
I love looking at this poster on my wall. What reminders help you keep the vision in front of your volunteers?
What do you picture in your head when you hear someone say that they teach Sunday School?
Do you think of a lady standing in front of a class? Do you picture a group of children sitting in a circle listening to someone talk?
Methods of communication have changed over time & there are so many different options available today. Consider the following information that was put together by William Glasser. People remember:
What about the people who ‘teach’ in your children’s ministry? What methods are they using? If they are going to go to all the trouble to teach the lesson, one would think that they would want the kids to remember it. Consider using different methods when teaching children. Here are some ideas:
Video – DVD’s
Teacher narrates while kids act outReading
Listening to different people speak
Small Group Discussion
What other methods of teaching do you include?
Someone once told me that if a millionaire wants to become a billionaire, then they need to spend time hanging out with billionaires.
In order for a millionaire to become a billionaire, they must first learn everything they can from people who are already at the next level. They learn what their goals and priorities are, they learn what their focus is, and how they make decisions. They spend time with them, watching them, observing them, & seeing them in action.
If you want to become a better Kids Ministry Leader, then you need to spend time with people who are doing kids ministry at a higher level than you are. What makes them a next level leader?
Here’s what to look for:
– they have a similar ministry to you, but have more responsibility
– they are from a church that is larger than yours (and their kids ministry is larger)
– they have more experience than you do
Once you find a next level leader, you need to connect with them, and spend time with them and learn from them.
Here are some suggestions:
– Go for coffee with a next level kids leader who is in your area. Have a list of questions prepared that you can ask them about how they lead.
– Go visit a church on a Sunday morning to see their kids ministry in action. Walk around with them & observe them as they connect with their volunteers. Visit their office. What do you notice?
– Take a team of volunteers with you to go visit a church that does a great job doing kids ministry
– If you don’t have a church in your area, is there one within a day’s drive that you can go visit? (I have driven 8-10 hours just to go visit churches)
– Find a next level leader online & connect with them. CMconnect.org is a great place to start.
Are you striving to improve how you lead? If you are, then you should be hanging out with next level leaders, and in time, you will become like them.
This is one of my favourite books. Creating Magic. It’s a book about leadership. It’s all about people. Here’s a quote from the inside cover,
“It’s not the magic that makes it work, it’s the way we work that makes the magic.”
Lee Cockerell is the former Executive Vice President at Walt Disney World. He has many years of leadership experience and working with people. In one of his chapters, he outlines some strategies that will help employees (in our case, volunteers) feel engaged, motivated and fully committed to the goals of the organization. Here are 13 things he talks about:
1. Make sure everyone matters, and that everyone knows it – If any job was unimportant why would you get them to do it? Make sure every person on the team knows that they are equally important.
2. Know your team – Each person has different motivations, priorities and preferences. Get to know your team and what motivates them and what they are passionate about.
3. Let your team get to know you – The more authentic you are, the more your team will respect you and trust your judgement.
4. Greet people sincerely – Don’t walk past people and ignore them. Take time to say hello.
5. Reach out to everyone on your team – Make it clear that you want to hear from everyone. Ask for people’s opinions and ideas even if they don’t volunteer them.
6. Make yourself available – Do everything in your power to be there for people when they need you.
7. Listen to understand – Give people your full attention and genuinely listen to what they have to say.
8. Communicate clearly, directly, and honestly – Good communication is clear communication. Use ordinary language and say what you mean.
9. Stand up for the excluded – Be on the lookout for anyone who feels left out.
10. Forget about the chain of command – Good leaders are willing to listen to anyone in their organization.
11. Don’t micromanage – If you want to be a great leader, put great people on your team, be perfectly clear about their responsibility, authority and accountability and let them do their thing. Don’t look over their shoulder all the time & don’t make decisions for them.
12. Design your culture – Successful cultures are established by design, not by chance, and they’re clear, well defined and purposeful.
13. Treat your people as you would want your customers to be treated – Disney’s list of how they treat their employees is the same as the list for their guests.
What can you learn from these principles? Can they help you as you lead your team of Kids Ministry Volunteers?
Every time I go to Walt Disney World I notice how welcome they make you feel. Everything from greeting you when you arrive at Magical Express at the airport, to the coach bus, to arriving at the resort, to arriving at the parks. They do a great job of making you feel welcome. But one thing I didn’t expect was for them to be just as intentional to say Thank you when we left.
I first noticed it when we were leaving the Magic Kingdom. Not only did they have cast members everywhere waving goodbye with their Mickey Gloves, they held up signs just to make sure we got the message.
I also noticed that they thanked us for coming & wished us safe travels as we left the hotel, & got off the coach bus back at the airport. It might just have been coincidence, but perhaps they are very intentional to train their cast members to say thank you & be present when it’s time to say goodbye.
What about your kids ministry? Are you available to welcome families as they arrive? What about dismissal time? When families are on their way out the door after the service, are you standing there to say goodbye to everyone? A simple thing to do and it could make a huge difference.