One of the biggest pain points children’s ministry directors face is how to recruit volunteers that love children, that want to serve, and that will stick around. To help ease the pain of recruitment, we’ve compiled our top six secrets to recruiting for a successful ministry.
Top 6 Secrets for Successful Ministry Recruitment
1. Look for volunteers of all occupations.
Volunteers aren’t all alike. Some have been trained to teach, many have not. Some enjoy working personally with children, others welcome indirect children’s ministry. A few can organize while others support. You may find an excellent volunteer who’s a retired construction worker, a housewife who home-schools her children, a middle-aged single adult who’s had little contact with kids, a father with five children, a janitor, or the CEO of a large company. Remember that age makes no difference. Some of the best children’s workers are teenagers and older adults.
2. Know Who to Avoid
Les Christie, in his excellent book Unsung Heroes, suggests three types of volunteers to avoid. First, avoid adults who want to recapture their childhood. Kids need an adult, not another kid, to lead them. Second, avoid adults who are content to merely chaperone. Volunteers are children’s workers. They’re not sponsors or even coaches. Children’s ministry is hard work. Finally, Christie encourages the avoidance of adults who view their role as that of preachers. To work with children is to be more than a dispenser of moral advice. Sometimes children just need a hand to hold or a friend to play ball with. While our role is to teach children about Jesus, children should see Jesus in us as well.
3. Evaluate personal interests and gifts.
As you recruit, match people to positions. Organized adults can easily plan day trips, develop a curriculum, or design a children’s program. Adults who enjoy writing can create a children’s or parent’s newsletter or can type up a recruitment letter. Drama enthusiasts can start a children’s puppet ministry, provide dramas for children’s worship, or develop a clown ministry. Musical adults can lead children’s worship or choirs.
Sometimes you may need photographers, cooks, drivers, painters, publicists, seamstresses, typists, carpenters, fund-raisers, missionaries, and teachers. Rather than recruit a few to wear many hats, recruit several people—with various gifts and interests—to wear a few hats each. It’s easier to enlist someone for a 15-minute job than for a 15-hour tour of duty.
4. Recognize, reward, and restore your workers.
Successful recruitment incorporates affirmation of volunteers. Jot a note to every volunteer each month to express appreciation for each person’s sacrifice and contribution in leading kids. Give workers time off. Keep a list of substitutes who will fill in every once in a while for a teacher who needs a week off.
Rewarding your volunteers can be great fun. January is a great month to designate as Children’s Ministry Month. Create an annual celebration and spotlight your children’s teachers, helpers, and workers. In a special worship service, present each worker with a flower or plaque. Host an appreciation dinner prepared and served by the children and parents. Feature workers in your church newsletter, weekly announcements, and bulletin boards.
Affirmation doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. One small church in Colorado purchased a basket for each of its children’s workers and invited the kids—during a morning worship service—to fill their teachers’ baskets with fruit and to say thank you. The children of another small congregation serenaded their teachers with thank you songs set to the music of carols. To the tune of “Jingle Bells,” they sang, “Thanks to you, thanks to you, for all the things you do.”
Children’s workers who quit generally do so because they feel used or tired. Affirming your teachers will restore their confidence and stamina and will improve their teaching. Also, public affirmations draw attention to your children’s ministry and subsequently attract potential workers. Everyone wants to be on a winning team!
5. Create success early.
When we toss volunteers into situations beyond their ability, they’ll likely become discouraged. And they’ll probably say no when they’re asked to renew their commitment.
On the other hand, volunteers who experience early success will enjoy their work and will be likely to stay. Start workers out on small, fun projects. Allow them to experience a small success such as going along on a trip to the zoo. Then begin to challenge them with larger jobs.
Schedule a training time for new teachers before they begin teaching. Then have new teachers team-teach for a few weeks with the outgoing teachers. Finally, have the new recruits teach the lessons under the observation of the outgoing teachers. With proper training, the new teacher is more likely to experience success early.
6. When There’s Nobody Left to Ask
It’s not a pretty sight: You’ve got a class but no teacher. You’ve called everyone in the church directory and no one will help. What do you do? Here are a few possibilities.
- Rotate parents. Parents of the children in the class have the most at stake, so rotate them in to teach or help. This is less than ideal because children learn better when their classroom experience is stable.
- Find someone who will team-teach with a teenager. This is an especially good option for younger children. Make sure the adolescent is responsible and spiritually mature.
- Rearrange the classes. If you can’t find a teacher for your third- and fourth-graders, try moving the third-graders in with the younger grades and the fourth-graders in with the older grades. This is often an acceptable solution unless your classes are already large.
- Shut down the class. It’s a last-ditch option, but it’s sometimes necessary. Notify the church at least three weeks ahead of time to make sure everyone gets word. Announcing the closing of a class will almost always produce a teacher, though he or she may be motivated by guilt. Give such a volunteer extra help and encouragement.
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