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.
I finally finished a project that I have been working on for a few weeks. I wanted to create a way for kids and parents to say thank you to the volunteers who help on Sunday mornings. I created a DIY Mailbox, where kids can mail a thank you card. We set up tables in an open area where parents and kids could work on making a card together. Then, once they finished making their card, they could mail it in the mailbox. At the end of the month, we will distribute all the thank you cards to the volunteers. I printed off a list of all the volunteers for each room, so parents could find the names of the volunteers if they need them. If you want to create your own DIY Mailbox, this is how you can do it:
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:
Every year we have a volunteer training event in September. We review the safety stuff as well as the vision and values. It’s a chance for new volunteers to learn the basics and returning volunteers to be reminded about why we do what we do. At this event we review our Volunteer Training Handbook. This book outlines our safety policies as well as the need to know info for our Kids Volunteers.
This weekend we had our annual Kids Ministry Volunteer Training Event. Here’s what we did:
Promotion – Start months ahead with a few “save the date” emails. Then 3 weeks before the event, send emails weekly, and get your leaders from each room to email their teams of volunteers. Put posters of the event up in kids ministry spaces. Get people to sign up online.
Theme – Choose a theme that is fun! This year we went with a Transformers theme and focused on moving beyond Supervision (of kids) to Transformation (in their lives)
Set up – Have the room decorated, set up & stuff on people’s chairs like training manuals & chocolates when they arrive. The first impression when they arrive will be a great one if you have everything ready to go & you pay attention to detail.
Food – Definitely include food. It’s even better if you can get your food to match your theme!
Fun – Include a game or event that is just plain fun. Because we had a transformers theme, 5 volunteers had to try to transform the transformer toy from a robot into a vehicle. Game music & cheering help to bring energy to the game.
Prizes – Door prizes are a great way to go. People love to win things. Get as many as your budget will allow. Ask for donations if you have a limited budget.
Have people talk other than you – We had a discussion panel of volunteers. I sent them questions ahead of time so they were prepared with their answers. It was so great to have them talk about stuff that I usually say. It was very powerful coming from them.
Power Point & Video – Keep things visual whenever possible. Media helps to keep people’s attention. Video clips bring variety and can help drive your point home. I used a video clip of Bill Hybels, “Coffee with God“. It helped to illustrate about the life transformation that can happen when you spend time with God.
Motivation Talk – Remind people why we do what we do. Tell stories. Show videos.
Neighbour discussion – To help break up a longer time of “sit and listen”, have volunteers turn to their neighbour & tell each other one thing they just learned from what was just talked about.
Take Home – Have them write down (on a card that you make ahead of time) one thing they can do to improve what they are doing & tell them to take it home & put it in a place where they will see it on a regular basis to remind them.
Appreciation Video – a few weeks before the event get video footage of as many volunteers in action as possible. Edit it together & add some music & play it at the end of your main session.
Breakout Groups – Give people a chance to chat about their own area of ministry with their team. The last hour of our training event is spent in ministry specific groups all over our building. They chat about things that are specific to where they serve.
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.
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?
Summer is in full swing & we have lots happening on Sunday mornings at our church. We have some of our regular volunteers as well as some parents and occasional volunteers helping in Kids Ministry during the summer. I know that a lot of people could be out doing things on the weekends, especially when the weather is nice, so I really want people to know how much I appreciate them & the time they are taking to serve the kids and their families this summer.
So, the first thing on my “to do” list for Monday mornings this summer is to say THANK YOU! I will email all the people who volunteered on the previous day, and thank them for taking the time to serve in Kids Ministry.
Throughout the year, I send Thank You cards to random people. Sometimes it’s for going the extra mile, and sometimes it’s just to say thank you for faithfully serving. That’s another Monday morning thing. I write a hand written card and say something specific that I noticed. Then I pop it in the snail mail box for them to receive some time that week.
Take the time to say Thank You. It will make a huge difference.
If you lead a team of volunteers, this is a must read book for you. It’s loaded with 99 chapters that are all 1-2 pages each.
This blog post would be extremely long if I were to list all 99 topics, so I have chosen a few to highlight:
Teach Shoulder Tapping – if pastors are solely responsible for finding volunteers, growth will be limited.
If You Don’t Need a Volunteer, You’re in Trouble – Is your vision too small?
Quality Attracts Quality – If your team is known for quality, then those who value quality will be attracted to your team.
Master the Art of Celebration – Quality celebrations are key to good leadership.
You Grow at the Edges – New people reach new people.
You Can’t Steer a Parked Car – Forward direction and momentum are required to make good decisions about ministry effectiveness.
Helping High-Capacity People – Help them find the place where they will have the most effectiveness.
If you do not already have this book on your shelf, then add it to your list of books to purchase. You’ll be glad you did.
If you want to keep the volunteers that you have, here are some things that you should remember:
Communication – Volunteers want to be in the loop and know what is happening. Don’t spring surprises on them or forget about them when it comes to communication. Stay in touch with them on a regular basis.
Feedback – Ask volunteers what they think. Ask them how things are going in their room. Send out a mini survey to get feedback on specific questions. When you ask them their opinion it helps them to feel like they are valued on the team.
Make it personal – Doing ministry is about serving together. It’s not about getting a job done, it’s about connecting with people on the journey. Sure you may be working together to accomplish a task or a goal, but really the priority is about the relationship that you are building with them. When people see that you value them as a person more than what they do, they will feel cared for. By keeping teams of volunteers small (max 12 people per leader) then you can build relationships at a personal level.
What are you doing to help reduce volunteer turnover in your ministry?
When new volunteers come to volunteer in Kids Ministry it’s important to make them feel welcome and give them details about what they need to do. Crossroads Church has a sign posted in their Kids Rooms that reminds the current volunteers what they should do when a new volunteer arrives in the room to serve.
Greet them – Saying hello when they arrive lets them know that they are valued and you are happy to have them there!
Make Introductions – Help them get connected by introducing them to the rest of the team.
Give them the 411 – Let them know what is going to happen that day, and what you need them to do.
Action! – Connect them with an experienced volunteer and help them jump right in.
Any Questions? – Ask them if they have any questions.
What do you do to help your volunteers on their first day in Kids Ministry?