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We've Got Spirit!

Carmen Kamrath

Use this win-win game plan to build community with kids, parents, and volunteers in your children's ministry.

One of my favorite things about football games in the fall is the instant community I share with total strangers. As I spot another loyal fan sporting my team's jersey or waving colored pom-poms in the air on any given Sunday, I have an immediate and strangely loyal connection to these people. Yet, sadly, I can enter another favorite venue on any given Sunday -- church -- and lack that same connection to those around me.

Building community is a winning aspect of your ministry game plan each week. Without relational connections, loyalty is a short-lived value. So to create connection and loyalty on your team, use these ideas with your key players -- kids, parents, and volunteers.

Hellos & Goodbyes

Never underestimate the power of a simple greeting or farewell.

• Hello to Kids -- Train your team members to engage kids within 30 seconds of the time they enter your ministry area by inviting children to join in a conversation, game, or other activity. Also train your regular kids to make connections with new kids by being their buddies for the entire time. Start each week by having all kids introduce themselves and share something about their week.

• Hello to Parents -- As parents drop off their kids, train your team members to let Mom and Dad know what kids will learn. Also have team members personally give parents any take-home materials at drop off rather than placing them in an impersonal "out" box or door folder. This provides eye-to-eye contact with every parent.

• Hello to Volunteers -- When I started a new children's ministry director position, a seasoned volunteer asked me whether she'd see me on Sunday mornings. After laughing out loud, I realized she was absolutely serious. She said she'd been volunteering for nearly a year and had never spoken with the previous director after her first day on the job. Instead of disappearing, have your volunteers meet for a morning huddle before kids arrive to touch base, hear announcements, share prayer concerns, and pray together. Not only will this give leaders face time with volunteers, but it'll also allow your team members to chat and build relationships.

Common Purposes

Nothing brings people together more quickly than working toward a common purpose.

• Purpose With Kids -- Have kids work on a project together such as sponsoring a child in a Third World country or creating snacks for a neighboring small group. Offer opportunities for kids to work together each week. Extend this opportunity into the school week by giving kids a weekly challenge such as looking for ways to show God's love on the playground or searching the Bible for a verse relating to forgiveness. When kids return to your ministry the following weekend, let all kids share their discoveries.

• Purpose With Parents -- The one thing you know all parents have in common is that they have kids. Begin by offering parenting classes, small groups, or play groups so parents can connect. Then look for ways to purposefully add on to and strengthen these connections, such as creating a parent group on Facebook or setting a standing "coffee shop date." Connect parents with kids of similar ages so they can share the joys and challenges of parenting as well as glean advice from each other.

• Purpose With Volunteers -- These folks already have a common purpose: helping children get to know Jesus. Regular contact with your volunteers is critical to renewing your ministry's vision and purpose. But many leaders of volunteers forget that encouraging volunteers to form bonds outside of ministry service -- whether a softball team, book club, social networking group, or Habitat for Humanity team -- will strengthen those ties and provide a sense of camaraderie that comes only from friendly, casual interaction. Being together away from a service commitment will build your team's community and, as a result, their commitment to ministry.

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