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What You Can Learn About Volunteers From the Hottest Team in the Midwest

Find out why these volunteers at East Tulsa Christian Church are so on fire.

I’ve looked forward to introducing you to this team’s leader, who’s also the church’s children’s pastor–Cheryl Hall. This dynamo, by the grace of God as she’s quick to point out, has created a hot volunteer team that’s smoking in East Tulsa.

And believe me, where there’s smoke, there’s fire! Listen in on a conversation I had with Cheryl.

Q: Tell me about your volunteer team.

A: I’ve never seen a group of people that has the energy or the vision that this group of people has. We have 17 coordinators for nursery through worship. These gals are the glue that holds it all together. Outside of that, we have 142 volunteers in our children’s ministry for an average of 200 kids.

Q: What’s so incredible about this group of people?

A: High energy. Creativity. Dedication. Always go the extra mile. They give until they hurt. It’s just unbelievable the amount of hours they put in. We’ve been in the building anywhere from 9 in the morning until 3 the next morning. I’ve never seen another group of people like this. I think God has blessed this church tremendously.

Q: How long have these people been with you?

A: I’ll be here five years in March. Some of them have been with me through the very beginning stages of creating the ministry, and some of them are just coming in. We’ve got the old and the new merged together, and the neat thing is that no one knows who’s new anymore.

Q: Would you say the team personality has evolved?

A: I think it’s evolved. They were pretty burned out. The same teachers had been back there for a bazillion years. We still have some of them, but that’s by choice. They really didn’t have anyone to say, “This is where we need to go” or “This is how we need to get there.”

Q: How did you turn the program around?

A: Basically, Chris, I didn’t do it. I just came in and shared some of my concerns. The building was dirty. So I said what about if we paint? What if we do primary colors? What if we do scenery on the walls? What if we do learning centers? I’ve never seen a group of people so willing to try so many new things. They did and they loved it. When you’re doing that, it builds relationships.

Q: Tell me what recruiting is like for you.

A: I really don’t have the problems other people have or that I’ve heard. These people are servers. If I can come up with the right match–and that’s what I try to do is match the right person for the right job-and have a decent rotation system, I’ve been very fortunate.

Q: Tell me how you do the right match.

A: We pray a lot, and I try not just to grab a body and put them in a class or into a program. I try to get familiar enough with people, or have the coordinators become acquainted with them, so we know what areas their interests lie in and where their giftedness is. If it’s your gift, it’s going to be easy for you to succeed in this.

Q: Do you use any formal tools to determine gifts?

A: You know, I tried a formal tool–the paper fill-up-the-question kind of thing, and it’s real intimidating to people. So the more I can talk to them, the more time I can spend with them, the better off we all are.

Q: You said something about a decent rotation. What is that?

A: In several of my elementary classes, we have a month on and a month off. We try to do a month rotation in our preschool area as well. We’re trying something in our JOY University Wednesday night program. We have four weeks on and two weeks off all the way through. On the weeks off, the coordinators, volunteers, and I do service projects or a fun night out with the kids. So it gives the teachers a good break.

Q: How do you keep your volunteers focused?

A: I’m not sure that I do. I love these people. We have become a family. When one of us hurts, we all hurt. If one of us is in the hospital, we’re all at the hospital. We just care about each other.

One of our preschool teachers was also the janitor of our church. Her husband became very ill. Our volunteers took food in. They cleaned the building. They made sure the janitorial duties were covered. Let me tell you–that’s a labor of love. I was just so impressed with the way that family had been loved.

Q: What motivates your team?

A: I think the desire to share the vision with so many children. They have a burning desire to make this the best children’s ministry that there is. We want to reach as many children as we possibly can.

Of course, you know I can’t pay my volunteers. I wish I could pay them all what they’re worth, but that’s never going to happen. So what I try to do is compensate with something. I had a retired gentlemen down here yesterday; it was gorgeous–75 degrees. He loves to golf, so it was a real sacrifice for him to give up his golfing time. He painted our kindergarten room. We have a really neat restaurant that’s open here, a wildlife-type thing that he’s real into, so I’ll give him a gift certificate from there so he and his wife can enjoy a dinner for coming to paint. I think I could own stock in Pippin’s Pie Restaurant because we constantly give pie certificates for little thank yous.

Q: It sounds like you really know people well.

A: We try.

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