View From the Potter’s Wheel

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SHAPING THE FORM
Every church struggles to find volunteers, and Destiny House is no
different. But Meyers had a solution for the problem — Cynthia
Hunt.

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“Cynthia was my first employee…She was my first volunteer. And
her job as the first volunteer was to organize the volunteers,”
Meyers says with a laugh.

“I realized it was going to take a lot of people to make this
work,” remembers Meyers. “I prayed about it and said, ‘God, send me
people. Send me people!’ And he sent me people.”

Suddenly finding enough volunteers wasn’t the problem; the real
problem was finding the right volunteers. Meyers quickly uncovered
personality conflicts, mismatched expectations, and commitment
problems that couldn’t be resolved. So even in the face of dire
need, he was forced to look for new volunteers. “I had to find
people who were committed enough to do a number of things during
the week, which expanded the commitment of what they had to do. It
was, at that point, like a second job without pay.”

Meyers prayed again: “God, send me who I need.”

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God answered. “God started sending people who could help undergird
all that we’re trying to do in our vision.”

Meanwhile, Hunt developed the volunteer program — a plan for
recruiting, organizing, and affirming the growing number of
volunteers.

Hunt and Brown have propelled the volunteer program forward
successfully with careful planning and diligence. Part of building
the volunteer program was deciding how to effectively screen
volunteers to avoid the snags that had plagued the program early
on. The other part was finding ways to get the most out of a
limited commodity — other people’s time.

“I started asking our volunteers to give me a résumé — and not a
spiritual résumé,” says Meyers. And the résumés were surprising. “I
found we had people who could do a number of things. We started
looking at these résumés, and it was like, ‘Oh, look at this! Grant
writers, fund raising.’ ” Meyers says, “It’s great if you can teach
3-year-olds, but you know how to manage people. I need to pull you
out of the classroom to manage…or develop databases.”

That shift in procedure had tremendous effect. Meyers says that
all along, the real question he needed to be asking volunteers was,
“Who are you?” instead of “What can you do?”

Thanks to the résumé requirement, says Meyers, “We’ve found a
better caliber of volunteer.”

About two years ago, the team implemented another change.
“Ninety-five percent of our volunteers work full-time jobs. And
they don’t work for church. So if we don’t put things in terms of
what they’re used to, they come to church and get discouraged,”
says Meyers.

So Meyers, Brown, and Hunt created job descriptions for each
volunteer position available.

“When we started [doing all these things], we started getting a
different type of volunteer,” says Meyers. “They’d see the job
description and say, ‘Okay, I can do this.’ “

Meyers and his team are committed to empowering Destiny House
volunteers. “You wouldn’t know that they’re not full-time staff,”
he says. “If you empower people, you’ve got to let them go. They’ll
make small mistakes…Our job is to make sure they don’t repeat
those errors but to allow them the opportunity to make some
decisions.”

To be a Destiny House volunteer is to be accountable. All
volunteers are required to sign contracts that specifically outline
their responsibilities and the length of time they’ll serve.

“Let them understand that they’re not committing to me, or to her,
or even to the ministry,” Meyers says. “God called them to work
with children, and we ask them to commit to that. We have them sign
a yearlong contract that basically says if you say that you’re
going to work every Sunday 8 a.m. service, that’s what I’m going to
hold you to. I’m not going to pull you to the 11:30 service…I
want you to do what you say God told you to do. And that way we’re
all adults about this…I want them to hold me to what I say I’m
going to do.”

The volunteer program is about making connections and keeping
lines of communication real and intact, says Hunt. It’s also about
tapping into people’s gifts.

“They understand the vision of the church and why they’re here,”
Meyers says. “They understand what we’re doing and what our plan
is, so that if our plan is going this way, they’re not going that
way.”

FINISHING THE VESSEL
The biggest volunteer challenge Destiny House encounters is the
issue of timeliness.

“If volunteers don’t show up on time, that throws everything off,”
says Hunt. “It’s so key because parents did have to fight traffic
to get here. And if teachers or service managers aren’t here on
time…it does affect the whole ministry. We have to close the
class if they don’t show up on time. Not so much we have to put a
hold on the class, we actually have to close it. That means those
kids have missed the opportunity to be ministered to on their
level. We don’t want to turn kids away.”

Hunt and Brown have attacked the timeliness issue on several
different fronts.

“We’re working on it piece by piece. And we’ve made progress.”
Hunt now requires all volunteers to arrive one hour before class.
“That way, they won’t come in here running.

That gives them leeway.”

Hunt and Brown have volunteers called service managers in place
during each service to help ensure that things are running
smoothly. They have another set of volunteers in place to call all
teachers the night before to remind them they’re teaching the next
day and to make sure they’re planning to attend.

“We’ll know ahead of time if they can’t attend, because Naomi and
I are running so much on Sundays that it makes it hard to remember.
That phone call is their opportunity to say, ‘I’m probably going to
run late tomorrow.’ It gives us the opportunity to move someone
into that class,” says Hunt.

•••

As we tour the vast children’s sanctuary, our voices are tempered
as much by its enormity as by reverence. There’s a feeling of
security and yearning here, of something in motion that’s headed
toward the future. There’s an overwhelming sense of excitement, and
it emanates from Meyers, Brown, and Hunt. It’s awe-inspiring.

“Pastor, you forgot to tell her about Jeremy,” chimes in
Brown.

Meyers grins. Jeremy is a success story. “Of all the teachers,
leaders — myself included — I’ve heard speak, Jeremy is so
natural. He’s way up there with the very best I’ve ever heard. And
he gets those kids so excited. He went through the Bible
Discipleship Program and our mentoring program.” Meyers gestures to
the pulpit. “He’ll stand up there and speak to a crowd of 500 kids
and not miss a beat. He’s just amazing.”

“Jeremy’s 17,” says Hunt.

Destiny House is the ultimate goal, really, of the Potter’s House
Jakes has poured his life work into. It’s a ministry that touches
the future by attending to the present. And the people leading this
important ministry wear their own visionary streaks like badges.
They’re vigilant over their work and the precious lives they’re
affecting.

Meyers offers his take on children’s ministry: “I don’t believe
God wants you to get into ministry so it can kill you. If it’s
God’s will, there ought to be some peace in it, there ought to be
some successes in there, there ought to be his hand in it. If it’s
always stressful and uncomfortable, there’s something you’re not
doing right. So that’s the balance of life — just enjoying life.
My life is not church. I do work at this church and God has called
me to work at this church. But he’s called me to another life, too.
I’m a husband; I’m a father. I’ve got to be able to have a good
balance in that.

“You have to be called to be here. It’s not the point of could you
do children’s ministry or youth ministry or whatever someplace
else. The question is, ‘Can you do it here?’ Because we are a
fast-paced church. It’s high energy all the time. We’re moving in a
fast, fast motion. There’s change. Doing it here doesn’t allow you
to sit back and get lackadaisical. Doesn’t allow you the
opportunity to rest on your last achievement. You’ve got to keep
all over it.” cm

Jennifer Hooks is managing editor of Children’s Ministry
Magazine.

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