Great news! We scouted the best ways to get temporary summer
volunteers -- tried and true ways to maximize all the human
resources surrounding you.
Local colleges and universitieshouse competent summer interns,
so connect with faculty members or student services to publicize
your summer needs. Provide specific job postings with details and
approximate schedules. Offer a variety of times and tasks to
potential interns. Interns often prove to be some of your most
dedicated volunteers because they're on a mission -- to learn.
If you use interns, pay them in experience what you can't pay
them in money. Coaching, training, evaluation, and on-the-job
education are "perks" for interns -- things they'll look back on in
their future careers as key learning points. Internship benefits
also include résumé-building, real-life experience, a chance to
work with children, rewarding volunteer work, and more.
Home for the Summer
When summer break hits, a different type of college student
heads home to their parents (and your congregation). Inquire with
parents, provide a list of positions and descriptions, and invite
these young adults to join your summer team. The key here is
follow-up -- with parents and the students. Point out the benefits
of serving -- kids will love being around these fun, young adults;
and college students will gain experience, summer diversion, and a
great volunteer title to put on a résumé one day.
And don't forget to scout for high school students on summer
break -- you'll likely find a few who are willing to pitch in for
Teachers, professors, and other professionals who have summers
off make great temporary summer volunteers -- even if they're not
enthusiastic about volunteering during the school year. Teachers
are a perfect fit -- they love kids, they're experienced, and
during summer they may be willing to jump back into the "classroom"
for a higher purpose.
Teachers may want to serve an age group they don't teach during
the year. Do detective work to find teachers in your congregation.
Ask your ministry children for referrals -- you may find an
excellent teacher just looking for an opportunity like one you're
Tap into a wealth of wonderful summer help by seeking out
retirees who spend their summers in your area. Target these folks
by making your presence and needs known in your congregation
through bulletin announcements and before- and after-service
information booths. Emphasize that your ministry is the perfect
place for temporary residents to get involved and get connected.
Also design attractive, informative announcements to post at senior
events in your church.
Some churches have developed successful "standby" programs that
you can easily create. Several established church members who
aren't regular volunteers sign on for the standby program that asks
for occasional service only. The church calls on standby members to
serve during summer programs and in other times of need based on a
rotation schedule. Standby members receive an advance schedule with
the date and time they're needed, and they're only scheduled to
serve once or twice during an entire program.
This standby rotation model works well for members who are
committed to the church but aren't serving regularly. It's very low
on time commitment and offers these people the chance to check out
what's happening in children's ministry during one of the most
exciting times of the year. It's a win-win situation: Standby
members stay involved with minimal obligation or burnout, and your
church has an automatic list of willing "extra" volunteers.
Inspiring families into service is nothing new, but recruiting
them as a unit to staff your summer programs may be something you
haven't considered. Families of all shapes and sizes can make
valuable contributions to your summer programs.
Karen, the children's director of a small church in Florida,
struggled with recruiting enough summer help until, out of
desperation, she called her sister in a neighboring town and asked
her to help with vacation Bible school. The sister brought her
husband and children, ages 3 and 13. The entire family got involved
-- the 3-year-old officially greeted kids, the 13-year-old
delivered snacks and assisted other adults, and the husband and
wife led worship and served as the cleanup crew.
When the church members saw this family's willingness to help
make VBS a great experience for kids in a church they didn't even
attend, they created a family volunteer program. Now families
choose an event and then are assigned various positions according
to their ages and interests. This program has operated successfully
for several years and has provided more than enough volunteers to
staff special summer events.
Church of the Nazarene, a mid-sized church in Durango, Colorado,
has created a long-standing alliance to fill summer positions in
children's ministry with the help of the youth director and a
willing attitude from its teenagers.
"Every year our youth director asks his group of teens who wants
to help out in the children's department over the summer," says
Alison Trabing, a Sunday school teacher and former Sunday school
superintendent. "The teenagers love it -- they love the little
kids." Trabing says the keys to successfully recruiting teenage
help are simple: "They're not serving every night, and of course,
we feed them!"
Recruiting teenagers for positions ranging from snack management
to game refereeing benefits everyone. Your children get to hang out
with the "cool" kids and see them serving God in the church.
Teenagers experience the reward of helping younger kids, taking on
leadership roles, developing their interests, and doing something
extraordinary over the summer.
Keep 'Em Coming!
Keep temporary volunteers coming back by making their volunteer
experience in your ministry unforgettable -- for all the right
• Be specific. People respond best when they're clear about your
expectations and needs. Create a master schedule or sign-up sheet
that lets volunteers know the dates and times they'll serve. Be
specific about their duties. Stay in communication with them. Don't
assume that your fleeting mention of a need for help translates
into a commitment in the mind of a potential volunteer. Ask
yourself whether avenues for confusion exist -- and work to
eliminate them through communication and organization.
• Think outside the norm. You'll have more volunteers if your
events are accessible to more people. Design your programs
creatively. For instance, consider sponsoring evening programs, not
just programs during the day. More people can volunteer in the
evenings after work, so you're likely to get volunteers who
otherwise might've said no. With each program you organize,
challenge yourself to find ways to make it more accessible and
• Diversify. Diverse positions draw diverse volunteers. Offer
volunteers a variety of duties, from grass mowing for an outdoor
event to snack shopping. Briefly outline the duties for each
position, and check for variety. No one wants to spend the eight
hours they've volunteered doing the same thing over and over --
counting cotton balls, counting jelly beans, counting hairs on
kids' heads, and so on. Variety is the spice of volunteering.
• Do the check. No matter what the person's role, age, or
history with your church, do background checks. Require references
and follow up. Understand that short-term positions by nature carry
a higher risk for opportunity-seeking predators to gain access to
your church. Your kids' safety is vital, and everyone will enjoy
peace of mind when proper safety checks for all volunteers are part
of the package.
• Offer opportunities. Once short-term volunteers get a taste of
the exciting things happening in your ministry, you may find that
they're willing to become more involved. Communicate about
longer-term openings. Talk with those who express interest in
developing their volunteer "careers." Encourage those who thrive in
short-term positions. Grow your long-term volunteer base by
connecting with and developing your special-events teams.
• Say thanks. Every gift, no matter how large or how tiny,
rightly deserves a thank you. By donating their time, volunteers
give an extraordinary gift to your ministry. So whether they
donated 30 minutes to make phone calls or seven days during VBS,
acknowledge their contributions. Be specific in your thank you, and
let each volunteer know the concrete ways they contributed. And of
course, invite them back!
Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and
prices are subject to change.