Let's face it, the most dreaded part of vacation Bible school
and almost every other children's program is recruiting volunteers!
Whether your program is large or small, we all face the same hurdle
-- finding enough people to staff it.
After working with dozens of vacation Bible schools, special
programs, and literally thousands of children, let me encourage you
to try network recruiting -- getting your volunteers to recruit
other volunteers who'll recruit other volunteers who'll recruit...
I think you get the picture!
When looking for leaders to help recruit, make sure these people
have good skills in relating to others. Find people who are good at
making friends, because most people will start with their friends
when they recruit. And build in relational ties in your children's
ministry teams so your volunteers feel connected to one another.
Use these three keys to ignite your volunteer recruitment this
1. Ministry travels the road of relationships.
This past summer one of our married couples thought they might
check out some opportunities to lead adults in our church. They
were invited to attend a summer leadership training. They'd been
serving with first-graders, leading them in a small group time on
Sunday mornings during our Christian education hour.
On the Sunday that they missed being with their first-graders to
attend the leadership meeting, they struggled with whether they
should leave children's ministry and become adult small group
leaders instead. That question was quickly answered for them as
they made their way across the parking lot after the training
meeting. One of the boys from their small group spotted them and
said, "Say, Doug, where have you been, we missed you!" That
confirmed in their hearts that the right place for them was with
the kids. It was the relationship with kids that pulled them back
into the ministry.
When you recruit potential volunteers, share stories such as
these about workers who have great relationships with kids.
Encourage volunteers to tell others their stories about
relationships with kids to motivate people to consider children's
ministry as a place to serve in the church.
One of our volunteers who has worked with kids for 16 years
tells this story: "I'm not by nature very patient and forgiving of
either myself or my peers -- but when caring for these little
folks, I find I can be both patient and forgiving. As I've come to
love the children more, I've likewise been better able to
understand the immeasurable love, patience, and forgiveness of my
heavenly Father. Sunday morning nursery duty is absolutely the high
point of my week!
"The best argument I can give to anyone else is to tell them how
blessed I am by the privilege I have to spend an hour or so each
week with the tiniest members of the body of Christ -- and then
invite them to experience the same blessing. Volunteering is kind
of like salvation itself -- it's such a great blessing that my only
natural reaction is to want to share it with others."
2. Variety is the spice of life -- and it gets more
people involved. Our church has been blessed with a
growing children's ministry, which means we must constantly add new
people to work with our children. We have four services on Sunday
averaging 700 children. Currently, God has blessed us with 250
volunteers. And, no, that's still not quite enough.
Yet not all those volunteers do the same thing. We've created as
many different types of jobs as we can think of. We have more than
30 positions people can fill -- that way almost anyone can find a
place to serve with our children. Some are directly involved with
children and others are in more of a support role. I've even had
one person tell me he could get involved as long as he didn't have
to work with children! Believe it or not, we had a place for
Vacation Bible school always needs people to drive buses,
someone to handle snacks, someone else to lead crafts, and so on.
Variety gives almost everyone an opportunity to serve out of their
giftedness or interests. It's also the key to getting as many
people as possible involved in ministry with children.
3. Make it fun so your workers recruit others!
Make it fun for everyone -- including adults. This is easy to do
with VBS. When something is fun, everyone wants to be involved --
kids and adults alike! Usually there's great enthusiasm for
vacation Bible school. If only we had that same VBS enthusiasm for
all our programs!
Our key to success on Sundays has been that we invest the same
amount of energy usually reserved only for VBS. We're working at
building a program that's fun for everyone. When I came here five
years ago, I designed a Sunday morning program that was structured
like a vacation Bible school. With the same idea of having a theme,
crafts, games, snacks, small groups instead of classes, and big
group worship, we experience fun with a purpose.
Fun is contagious! One current worker who got involved only to
help as a floater said, "I just enjoyed the excitement on the kids'
faces and their excitement about learning about Jesus, so I was led
to stay and help!"
Having our volunteers recruit other volunteers started out with
having them find their own substitutes when they'd be absent. As
time went by, some began to find their own replacements when their
time of service ended. Recruiting isn't only the job of our paid
staff anymore; it's now all of our volunteers' responsibility.
Here are stories from some of our people to show how it's worked
in our church.
Deidra says, "I recruited a friend who I'm discipling. I
suggested that she could use her musical talents to glorify God
while serving others."
Stan and Jo recruited their daughter. They say, "Our 9-year-old
daughter helps us with the crawlers, and in turn she's learning her
role as a willing servant."
Annie recruited her teenage friend. She says, "I recruited
someone who wasn't doing anything after youth service, so I said,
'Come help upstairs, we can always use extra help.' She came and
has been coming ever since."
In a sense, what has happened, has happened by itself. We didn't
set out to spur people to recruit others, but it happened because
people enjoyed serving and wanted others to experience the same
In review, here are the three keys to start a great recruiting
- In as many ways as possible, with as many means available, tell
and retell the stories of the good things your workers are
experiencing and doing with children.
- Create as many different kinds of jobs as you can think of to
get more people involved.
- Make it fun so your volunteers will naturally pull in others to
work with them.
Dwight Mix is a children's minister in Lowell, Arkansas.
Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are
subject to change.