Two veteran children’s ministers sound off on the pros and cons of rotating volunteers in your children’s ministry.
Rotation: The Solution for Today’s Ministry
by Selma Johnson
If someone had told me decades ago I’d be pro-rotation in children’s ministry, I would’ve said, “Never!” Having been a children’s pastor for more than 30 years in small churches and in megachurches, I know all the arguments for having the same team members serving in children’s programs. Those reasons were great for the ’60s, ’70s, and maybe even the early ’80s.
Those were years when more traditional families went to church. Volunteers had more time to prepare, there weren’t as many “every-other-weekend” parents, and children were more accustomed to traditional church structures. Families made certain their kids were in Sunday school every week. Not as many grandparents, aunts, and uncles were raising children, and not as many jobs required weekend work. Small and large group children’s ministry models weren’t even thought of yet.
Despite all that, I wish rotation had evolved early on in children’s ministry—what a difference it could’ve made in how those children, who are now adults, view church.
This is the 21st century. New ministry techniques are in place all over the world, and they’re working amazingly well. Kids learn much more visually, beginning in their preschool years. Adults are no longer the central focus in the classroom.
Pros of Rotating Children’s Ministry Volunteers
Through my experiences in the church, I’ve become a huge proponent of a rotation system for volunteers in children’s ministry. Here’s my list of reasons
It’s Better for Volunteers + the Church
- Busy volunteers are more willing to step up and to commit in a rotation system that meets their scheduling needs.
- Over time, our ministry’s concept of “teachers” has transformed into the concept of team leadership. We’ve experienced better cooperation among volunteers and leaders in various departments using this concept.
- Our rotation system lets volunteers use their specific gifts for music, games, creativity, resources, and more, without pushing them into positions where they’re less equipped or comfortable.
- More men are willing to step up and get involved because they can use their specific gifts.
- Due to employment situations, a lot of our team members could only serve every other week or once a month. A question we had to ask ourselves was, do we penalize a good volunteer by being so rigid and saying, “We can’t use you because you can’t be here every week”? The answer, obviously, is no.
- Volunteers can negotiate days among themselves if something comes up or they can’t serve during the time they’ve been assigned.
- Rotation is an excellent solution for churches with multiple service schedules. Saturday and Monday nights and multiple services on Sunday require a fluid schedule.
- Our children’s ministry began a volunteer rotation schedule, and we’ve tripled our volunteer base.
- We’ve increased our volunteer base with people who are eager to be there with kids and are doing a superb job teaching children about Jesus. As a church, that’s what we want.
- Adults are happy, children are happy, and I’m not stressing to find subs every weekend. I’m sold on rotating volunteers, and I have no desire to go back to the “old way.” I no longer dread services, worrying over who’ll show up (or not show up) or who’ll have a sad face and wish they weren’t there.
It’s Better for Children
- Today’s church has a huge population of kids who come twice a month or less due to changing family dynamics. Kids are used to change and have adapted to it as a way of life.
- Kids are more excited and eager to attend because team members are fresh and eager to be with them.
- Most kids change classes and teachers earlier and earlier in school. They’re accustomed to seeing different faces in school classrooms—why not at church?
Selma Johnson has served more than 36 years as a women’s and children’s minister and is now associate pastor to families, women, and children at Church at the Epicenter in Burnet, Texas.
Consistency—Not Convenience—Is the Key
by Bonnie Workinger
I’ll never forget Mrs. Johnson. If she only knew the impact she had on my life; the stability and security she provided every Sunday when she greeted me with her warm, loving smile. When I was young, life wasn’t exactly stable and secure. My family moved a lot. We didn’t attend church. I longed for roots and familiar faces. Mrs. Johnson provided that. She was also the one person who reminded me week after week, that no matter what, Jesus loved me.
Today we live in a busy world where divorce and separation in families are common. Kids experience change—and often upheaval—daily. As a society we’re so busy that we devote little time to investing and developing relationships. I’m saddened that our churches aren’t much different when it comes to offering these things to our children.
As the church, we strive to offer the children who walk through our doors acceptance, love, and trust. This happens thanks to consistent and committed volunteers week after week. There are significant advantages to establishing a consistent team geared toward developing relationships with kids as opposed to rotating volunteers each week.
Volunteers Understand Their Value
Consistent volunteers recognize their value within the body of Christ. By asking people to serve weekly, they transition from being mere “volunteers” to members of a dedicated team that fosters the stability and security lacking in many churches today. Consistent volunteers understand the significance of using their God-given talents, gifts, expertise, and strengths to serve children and their families.
Children’s Ministry Is a Mission Field
Consistent volunteers see that children’s ministry isn’t just providing child care. When team members realize the potential they have for reaching children for Jesus, what an impact it has. One of the church’s greatest mission fields is the children’s wing of every church. Who better to serve than people who know they’re called, consistent, and committed to the privilege of teaching our children?
Relationships Develop Through Stability
For the church to live, we must meaningfully reach the next generation. The Bible is full of scenarios where Jesus instructs us to “teach the children.” Building relationships with children is elemental to teaching them-and it requires consistency and great commitment. A key function of a children’s team is to build relationships with children, parents, and other members of their team. This doesn’t work when volunteers are rotated or when parents step in here and there. The average number of times a family attends church is twice a month; that isn’t a lot of time to build a bond to begin with. With a rotation volunteer schedule, the chances of kids building loving, trusting relationships with significant people of faith are even slimmer.
Children Deserve the Best We Can Offer
One of the best things we as the church can provide for children is stability. Stability means consistency, predictability. The same team members greet kids each week. Kids and volunteers recognize each other. The teacher knows kids by name. Children feel secure. Parents feel comfortable. Everyone knows what to expect.
I venture to say that if our school systems used the rotation system for teachers, we as parents would strongly object. And as the church, we strive to set ourselves apart, to raise the bar of excellence higher. We want to offer what the world can’t. We want to offer excellence in all we do for children. And above all, we want to offer what’s best for our children.
Different Needs Need Relationships
If you peeked inside classrooms today, you’d quickly discover the different personalities, behaviors, and needs kids have. The benefit of a consistent, established team is very evident when it comes to children who have different needs in the classroom. If a teacher doesn’t know the kids in his class, how can he possibly lovingly manage a child with challenges? Our church’s elementary coordinator knows the children in our ministry. A situation occurred with one special child that required quick action. An adult unfamiliar with the child might’ve assumed discipline was necessary-the child was disruptive and didn’t respond to correction. But through the consistent relationship with the child, our elementary coordinator knew specifically what to do to help the girl respond positively.
Dedication Reaps Results
I’ve learned much from watching my boys participate in sports. The coaches have always amazed me. Most are volunteers. They show up each day no matter the weather. They’re dedicated. They have vision. They love what they do. They’re consistent. Kids learn to trust, depend on, and listen to them. And of all the coaches who’ve trained my kids, those who’ve been committed for the long haul are the ones who go undefeated and win championships. Teams with inconsistent coaches aren’t as prepared. There’s no consistency, no order. Great kids don’t come back to inconsistent coaching; they lose interest.
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If it weren’t for the Mrs. Johnsons who faithfully commit to being there week after week, we’d miss so many opportunities to consistently serve great kids and help guide them into a relationship with Jesus.
Bonnie Workinger is the children’s ministry director at Westover Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, where she’s been on staff for nine years.
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