Turn Around This Ministry: Part 1

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Follow this new children’s ministry
leader as he tackles a serious need to double his volunteer
team.

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We can all relate to volunteer shortages — for many children’s
ministers, limited people-power is the greatest challenge they
face.

In this second installment of our two-part series, you’ll meet Ray
Tollison, a new children’s minister at a large church in Colorado.
Ray, whose ministry serves more than 200 children weekly, has a
major problem: He’s seriously short of volunteers.

Children’s Ministry Magazine paired Ray with Dale Hudson, a
17-year veteran children’s director, speaker, and writer in Las
Vegas, Nevada. Over five weeks, Dale and Ray worked together to
grow Ray’s volunteer base. Read on to learn what happened.

Week 1

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Dale’s Notebook:

No matter the size of the ministry or church, we all face the same
challenge: We need more volunteers. Ray’s in a large church, but
that doesn’t mean he has new volunteers banging on the door every
week wanting to get into the children’s ministry. 

Ray shared the exciting things happening in his ministry, areas
where he needs more volunteers, and specific steps he’s taking to
enlist people. 

We talked about how the overall church culture plays into building
a great team of volunteers. When the pastor and executive
leadership believe strongly in children’s ministry and make it a
high priority, the payoffs are huge when you need people to
serve.

We also agreed that the squeaky wheel gets oiled. As children’s
ministry leaders, we must also be the champions of children’s
ministry. I encouraged Ray to share examples and current
information with his leaders that demonstrate the importance of a
strong children’s ministry.

Ray’s Notebook:

The first day I heard from Dale was perfect. I’d just learned I
was going to be several volunteers short on Saturday night. Since
we usually only have eight or nine volunteers, that can make things
crazy.

Our goal is to have kids form groups of five or six, but that
never happens. Our leaders sometimes end up with 15 to 20 kids per
group. Not only do I worry that the kids aren’t getting anything in
groups this size, it frustrates the leaders because it’s difficult
to keep control. You’re really only teaching to a few kids and the
rest are just hanging out.

My goal is to recruit 25 new volunteers — that would double my
current number of volunteers. We’re having a children’s ministry
open house next week, so with Dale’s help, we’re going to combine
our volunteer drive with that.

Week 2

Dale’s Notebook:

Ray’s open house is coming up this weekend. I’m excited for him
and his team. They’re inviting the entire church and it’ll be great
exposure. 

I told Ray how our team made a dream list of volunteers. We
created a flowchart mapping out every single position we’d want if
we had an unlimited number of volunteers. We then began to pray and
work toward seeing those positions filled. We still have openings,
but we’ve filled more than 200 positions in the past year and a
half. It all began by mapping our vision, working toward it, and
bathing it in prayer.

Ray’s Notebook:

Dale suggested using “entry points” — opportunities for people to
join without the weekly commitment — to get people
involved. 

Dale sent me a list of volunteer ministry descriptions. I’ve taken
those, tweaked them, and added them to our list — room assistant,
game director, and on-deck staff, for example. On-deck staff
includes people who are “on call” and come in as needed.

We also discussed ensuring leadership is behind the event and that
we have plenty of “advertising.” So I made support from leaders a
topic at our church staff meeting. Our leaders were really excited
and committed to being present in the children’s area before,
after, and between services. We also put together a short video
advertising the open house.

Dale and I talked about using balloons as a visual representation
of our need. We’re going to have red and blue balloons — red for
the volunteers we have and blue for those we need. So as we talk
about recruiting volunteers in big church, people see just how many
volunteers we need. We’ll replace a blue balloon with a red balloon
when someone signs up.

Week 3

Dale’s Notebook:

It was exciting to hear the open house went well. Ray’s team
definitely raised awareness and enlisted several new volunteers.
The easy entry points helped them pick up new volunteers because
they offer ministry on a smaller scale with less time commitment.
Many people are intimidated because they feel they can’t teach a
lesson or lead a song. But easy entry points such as greeting,
helping with crafts, or running a soundboard get people in the
door. God often raises them up to do things they never thought they
could do.

Ray’s Notebook:

Our open house went well this weekend — we had seven new
volunteers sign on. Over the week we had three more people
volunteer for a total of 10. Next weekend we’ll be a little more
“in your face.”

Dale and I talked about ways to get volunteers, especially
parents, to take ownership in the ministry. We set up a Parent
Opportunity area by our check-out station. All the positions are
“entry points” — nothing requiring more than 20 minutes a
month.

The balloons were a great visual. Several people asked if we
really needed that many more people. But they still didn’t sign
up.

Some great news: We also created volunteer opportunities for kids
(Prayer Team, Shout Team, and Greeters) and a total of 180 kids
signed up!
     

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