Do you have a volunteer crisis? Is your children’s ministry in a state of chaos because you don’t have enough volunteers? Take this quiz.
- Do you ever find yourself dreading a church service because you won’t have enough help — again?
- Have you ever actually hoped attendance would be down in a classroom?
- Do you attend “church online” because you can count on one hand the times this year you’ve attended an adult service?
- Have you ever thought to yourself that if you hear just one more person say, “Children just aren’t my ministry,” you’ll scream?
- Have you considered joining the choir (it seems like everyone else does) so you can escape the classroom?
- Do other people in your church view children’s ministry as hazardous duty?
- Do you think a senior pastor getting up on Sunday morning and “really giving it to them” is an effective recruitment method?
- Have you ever closed a classroom because there was no teacher that day?
- Can you really assure that there’s adequate adult-to-child ratios in all your classrooms every time the doors are open?
- Are you ready for an approach to building healthy children’s ministry teams?
If you answered yes to any of the questions in this quiz, it’s time to take a fresh look at your core beliefs about recruitment and team building in your children’s ministry. There’s a saying that there are three things you’ll always have to grapple with in children’s ministry — time, space, and money. For the most part, that’s true if you’re part of a growing ministry.
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But, if we were to be completely honest, the #1 cry that’s heard all over the world in children’s ministry is: Are there ever enough volunteers to meet the needs?
Yes…if you stop focusing on recruiting teachers only. Instead, change your focus to building ministry teams, finding good leaders, and involving parents in the classroom. Our 450-volunteer staff in children’s ministry didn’t happen with recruitment campaigns, pulpit appeals, or guilt-trip responses.
This staff happened because we intentionally focused on structuring our classrooms to operate on a team method, and we were willing to overhaul everything we ever thought about recruitment and teachers.
1. Choose Your Leaders First.
Many years ago, I realized I needed to stop finding only teachers and start looking for good leaders first. Our leaders don’t have to be great teachers or, in fact, know much of anything about kids. Skills can be taught. Understanding of children can be taught. Leadership principles can be taught, but not everyone has leadership ability.
Our leaders have to be natural leaders. Of course I want great teachers, but many teachers aren’t necessarily good classroom leaders or team builders. Yet in most churches, we ask each teacher to be the classroom leader, team builder, administrator, cook, maid, first-aid provider, disciplinarian, usher, and if there’s time left over, teacher. Our first priority is finding leaders who can orchestrate all the things that need to be done and free up teachers to do what they’re called to do — teach!
2. Build Teams Next.
My goal is to have individual teams, each with a team leader, a teacher, and at least two to four classroom assistants. Structuring a team that way allows the leader to focus on the administrative aspects of running a classroom, and the teacher is free to develop and teach awesome and incredible lessons.
The classroom assistants help with the million and one small needs. No one feels overburdened, and everyone flourishes. Even in the largest of classrooms, all the kids have needs met, incredible teaching and activity times, and personal interaction with adults. Parents find orderly classrooms, clean counters and rooms, and friendly team members.
Teachers look forward to church because they’re getting to do what they want to do. And the team grows when individuals are placed in positions where they excel.
3. Recruit Parents Always.
For too long, parents have been left out of the equation. So we’ve developed a Parent Partners cooperative program. Parents’ primary fear is that we’re going to ask them to teach, or worse yet, leave them alone in a room with 40 3-year-olds.
Once we’re able to remove that fear, the vast majority of parents are more than willing to help once a month in a variety of roles. In our ministry, all parents get to be on the team of their choice, but again, it’s only once a month, and it’s with the same team every month.
We offer a range of places for parents to participate besides the classroom. Parents can plug into the special events team, drama team, office help, summer camp staff, and more. So even a parent who’s involved with choir (or anything else) can participate in our Parent Partners program.
The co-op is not an option. But promoting it in a positive way helps parents feel they get to, not have to, be involved. Keeping a positive approach is essential when communicating the value of the program to parents and existing children’s ministry team members. As a result, we have a huge pool of classroom helpers.
Sue Kahawaii is a children’s pastor in Tacoma, Washington.