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Confessions of a Children’s Ministry Volunteer

What are your volunteer team members not telling you? Let’s put ourselves in volunteers’ shoes and consider what they need most from our leadership. Read these four volunteer confessions and discover how to set volunteers up for success, communicate effectively, and truly value people for who they are rather than what they do.

According to Merriam-Webster, when you “confess,” you admit something. You tell the truth about how you really feel or what you really did.

I wonder…what might your volunteers want to confess to you?

As children’s ministry leaders, when we ask volunteers for feedback, we need to be ready to hear the truth—even it if hurts. But take heart, the truth will set us free! Free to lead with more compassion and humility—like Jesus did.

Let’s explore four confessions of a children’s ministry volunteer. What might your volunteers not be telling you?

Volunteer Confession #1: “Do you even need me?”

As leaders, it’s so important to let volunteers know we need them! The number one reason people don’t volunteer is because no one has asked them. And perhaps the number one reason people don’t commit to volunteering on a regular basis is because they don’t think you really need them to.

Volunteers won’t commit if they don’t feel needed. They’ll prioritize other things until you make delegation and relationship building a priority for your ministry.

When we delegate, we realize our way may be the best way, but it isn’t the only way. We acknowledge that others are capable and have good ideas, too. And we empower them to do their own thing—even if it’s a little different than ours. It’s hard. But it’s the best way to make sure our volunteers feel needed.

When you improve your delegation skills and ask for commitment, you’ll show volunteers that yes, they are really needed.

Here’s another confession from children’s ministry volunteers.

Volunteer Confession #2: “I have no idea what I’m doing.”

Children’s ministry volunteers come from all walks of life. They’re grad students, grandparents, farmers, engineers, and insurance agents. Some are parents, so they’re used to a few kids running around, but most aren’t accustomed to managing a room full of rambunctious children. Volunteers want to share God’s love. But without skills and experience, they may resort to just wanting to get through the lesson and keeping the children alive.

As their leader, consider sharing bite-sized classroom management tips with your team. They may not be able to attend a long training, but consider sending them tips you’ve found online or offer some help or suggestions.

And the best way to help volunteers with classroom management to is to choose and provide an engaging, age-appropriate curriculum that sets them up for success.

When you intentionally set volunteers up for success, they succeed! When they know how, they’ll be even more committed to their why. They’ll help kids learn more about God and Jesus. They give back to their church, and they’ll have a blast doing it!

Speaking of having a blast: When was the last time you served with your volunteers? If you can’t remember that last time you taught a lesson, monitored a check-in station, or prepped supplies, then you are missing a leadership opportunity. Your volunteers may want to tell you this:

Volunteer Confession #3: “You seem a little out of touch.”

Ouch! That’s not very nice. But is it true?

As leaders we oversee and empower teams of people to serve kids and their parents well. It’s good to equip volunteers so you’re available and approachable on a Sunday morning.

But serving with volunteers every now and then shows that you’re NOT out of touch. In fact, you’re in touch with what they see and experience. You aren’t a lofty leader who’s beyond diapers, snotty noses, and classroom management challenges. You see and you care, and you can help!

Serving with volunteers builds relationships and trust. It helps you troubleshoot with and for volunteers. They feel less isolated and used and more supported and valued. And you just might learn a thing or two from excellent volunteers. Let’s be leaders who learn from our team!

When you serve with volunteers, you’ll no longer seem out of touch. Instead, you’ll be ready to appreciate and validate your team—which is so important.

Which leads us to our next message from volunteers…

Volunteer Confession #4. “Appreciate who I am more than what I do for you.”

My friend once stopped volunteering. She needed a break. Some concerns she’d voiced had gone unaddressed. There were things going on in her life and she needed to step back. Unfortunately, she didn’t hear from her leaders again. That experience sent a not-so-great message. She felt like she was valued for what she did more than who she was.

This experience made me think back to my time as a children’s pastor. And I invite you to consider with me:

Have we ever made volunteers feel ghosted? Did we love them when we needed to, or did we really love who they were more than what they did for our church?

Let’s look at some things that former volunteers said in a survey.

  • “Prepare volunteers for success.” That’s familiar! In other words, show them how.
  • “I wish to serve again!” That’s great. Let’s be sure to circle back and let them know they’re needed!
  • “Volunteers need a lot of verbal and written encouragement.” And we know specific things to thank them for when we’ve served with them and have seen them shine up close.
  • “Appreciation is easy. Say thank you!” Is it me, or does that one drip with a little sarcasm?
  • “Leadership needs to listen and follow through.” When we do, we show volunteers that we care about who they are and what they need, and not just a role they fill for us.

These are real confessions. As leaders, let’s listen and respond. And let’s be sure to appreciate volunteers for who they are and not just what they do. Saying “thank you” is a little thing that goes a long way.

What you do matters! Thank you for leading well.

Need more volunteer management resources? We’ve got you covered!

Group’s Group U Course: The L.I.F.E. Strategy for Recruiting and Equipping Volunteers will equip you to shift from “getting warm bodies” to engaging people in vibrant, satisfying, effective ministry. You can also check out Volunteer Myth-Busters: 7 Things You Thought You Knew About Volunteers and Top 20 Best Ways to Lead the Volunteers in Your Children’s Ministry for more helpful tips!

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