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.
One of the biggest challenges that Kids Ministry Leaders face is Finding and Keeping Volunteers. I have taught several workshops/classes on how to find & keep volunteers. This post includes a free PowerPoint Presentation that I used at a recent event. It includes ideas on how to recruit, and who to ask. It gives ideas on how to run a recruiting event and how to keep volunteers long term by helping them find the right fit.
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:
Sometimes when it comes to recruiting volunteers, you need to think outside the box. Bulletin announcements & mass emails are just not working. That’s when you do a BIG Recruiting Event. Here are some recruiting ideas that we did to make our Recruiting Event Successful:
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.
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.
Do you have people in your church who tell you that they don’t like to work with kids? They can still be part of your kids ministry team!
Here are some of the roles we have in Kids Ministry that do not require people to be with the kids:
Bin Prep – For each age group we have a volunteer who does all the photocopying, chopping, cutting & prep for the Small Group Leaders. They come in when it is convenient for them and get everything ready for Sunday Mornings.
Reference Checks – We check references for every person who volunteers in our Kids Ministry. We have a volunteer who does all the emails/phone calls for all the new volunteers.
Birthday Cards – We send a hand made birthday card to every child. We happen to have a retired person who loves to make cards do them for us. She makes the cards, writes a message in each one & puts the address & stamp on the envelope.
We Miss You Cards – We track attendance for our kids. If they are away for 3 Sundays, we send them a card.
Check-In – Volunteers help families with Electronic Check In & Sign-In at each room.
Decor Team – These people help with sets & props and work behind the scenes. We also have a volunteer who decorates our Kids Space with the change of each season.
Resource Room Organizer – Although I do not have a regular person in this role, it is on my wish list. Someone to keep the resource room organized & inventoried.
Sometimes people in these roles don’t mind being with kids, but they prefer to do these roles. They are just as valued on our team as those who spend time with the kids. Each person depends on the other, and that’s how they work together.
What roles do you have in your church that people could do if they don’t like to be with the kids?
Summer is a challenging time to find enough people to help in Kids Ministry. Many people take some well deserved time off so it can be difficult to put people on the schedule when it works best for them. I have found the most success when I let them choose their own dates. To do that, I use a Google Document. You can create a spreadsheet right in Google Docs that you can share with people. A Google Document allows you to share the info with everyone who has the link. The document is always up to date, and people can see what weeks have enough volunteers and what weeks still need help. It allows people to sign up for dates that work with their schedule.
Here’s what I do:
#1. Set up the document – Create a spreadsheet with all the rooms, dates & services. I create one document with separate tabs (sheets) on the bottom for each room.
#2. Share the document – You will need to edit the settings to “everyone can edit”.
#3. Email all your current volunteers – Send them the link to the document, and ask them to add their name to the dates/times that they would be available to help.
#4. Email all your parents – Summer is a great time to ask them to help for one or two Sundays. They are not signing up for an ongoing basis, but they are probably willing to help once or twice when they are around.
#5. Send reminders – Each week I send a reminder for people to sign up to help. I do this for about 4 weeks prior to the summer.
#6. Send more reminders – During the summer, I will email everyone who is scheduled for the following Sunday. I’ll send the reminder email on Mondays.
To see a sample of the Google Doc I use, click on this link.
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.
One of the biggest challenges in Kids Ministry is a shortage of volunteers. There never seems to be enough of them.
I have volunteered for other people before and I have taken what I learned from that experience to see volunteering from a different perspective.
Don’t ask the question before you paint the picture – Announcements, general emails, posters, videos, power point slides etc. They may not result in droves of people banging down your door to ‘sign up’ but they do help raise awareness that you need help. You need to paint the picture of WHY this ministry is so amazingly important. Paint the picture of why you need their help.
Don’t be vague on what you are asking – Be clear on what you need them to do & what it will take to get the job done.
Don’t take their time for granted – My time is valuable. I don’t want to show up just to be an extra set of hands. I want a specific job to do and feel like they would be in big trouble if I wasn’t there to fill that role.
Don’t think that no response means ‘no’ – Sometimes people hear you ask the question, but they have to go through a process before they get to the place where they can commit to a ‘yes’. Maybe they have to check their work schedule, or ask their spouse to take care of the kids. Maybe they read your email on their phone, but were busy at the time and forgot to respond. All of these things take time. Consistent, gentle reminders are usually effective to keep the idea in front of people. And then, when you give them a personal ask, the chances are way better that they will be willing to help.
Don’t think that ‘no’ means ‘never’ – Timing is everything. It just might not be a good time for them to help. Or, the job you are asking them to do doesn’t light a fire in them, but perhaps a different job will. Always have a back up plan. If now isn’t a good time, when would be better? If you don’t want to do this, would you consider that?
Usually people are willing to help. It’s your job to effectively communicate that you need help, and to help them find the right fit, at the right time.
When I went to visit Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta, I saw this board in one of the offices. As people move through the process of becoming a volunteer, their name is moved along in the categories. (names are greyed out for privacy) It’s a great way to remember who you have connected with, where they are in the process and what is the next step for them. It even included details such as the date they got moved to that category or which service they will be serving in. If you are a visual learner, this method might be beneficial for you as you look for volunteers to join your team.