We all know that eager (and reliable) volunteers can be hard to find. So once an A+ volunteer walks through your doors, you want to ensure they’ll stick around. But all the craziness of ministry often leaves us heaping too much on the dependable volunteers, while forgetting to encourage, support, and grow our volunteers. To fix this issue, and keep the members of all star team happy, here are 5 ways to provide volunteer care.
1. Strong as Samson-ite
If your volunteers arrive with arm loads of supplies, give them this back-saving tip. Use a portable luggage cart wheel rack to transport curriculum, craft supplies, puppets, and whatever else they’re carrying. This also saves on the number of trips volunteers have to make from their car to the classroom.
2. Meeting Maker
Before your next teacher-training meeting, cut a large piece of foam core into several puzzle pieces. Give each teacher a puzzle piece to take home and decorate to represent him- or herself. Teachers may color the piece, write a poem on it, or glue on pictures.
At your next meeting, have volunteers bring back their puzzle piece. Give teachers time to each explain their piece. Then put the puzzle together. This is a graphic display of how all the pieces of your team fit together to make a beautiful team.
3. Creative Training Ideas
A concerned mother took her adolescent daughter to the doctor for a hearing check. After the test, the doctor told the mother, “Your daughter has perfect hearing; she just has mother deafness.”
If you think your volunteers have developed a deaf ear to your training, try these ideas:
Bring in new blood.
Capitalize on the strengths among your staff. Someone else may say the same things you’ve been saying, but hearing them from a new source may be the difference your teachers need.
Trade with another church.
Offer to trade training time with another children’s pastor in town. Your strength may be setting up learning centers, while the children’s pastor across town is a whiz at puppetry.
Assign each volunteer a different book to read.
Ask volunteers to give brief book reports at your meetings. Suggested books:
- Sharing Faith With Children by Sara Covin Juengst (Westminster/John Knox Press).
- Almost Every Answer for Practically Any Teacher! by Dr. Bruce Wilkinson (Multnomah Publishers Inc.)
- Why Nobody Learns Much of Anything at Church-and How to Fix It by Thom and Joani Schultz (Group Publishing).
Send people to different training classes.
When your staff attends a training conference, have your teachers break up and take different classes. Then have volunteers reteach their class to other volunteers. People who take classes together can team teach.
Hire an educational consultant.
Invite someone from a nearby college, denominational office, or publishing company to speak to your church in a three-hour seminar. Invite other churches in your area to help defray expenses.
4. Creative Team-Teaching Ideas
If your potential teachers are afraid of teaching alone, try these creative team-teaching ideas:
Pair up teachers in a classroom.
Actually, there should always be two teachers in every classroom. Teachers can take turns teaching every other Sunday with the help of an assistant.
Give teachers a break in lesson preparation. Have two teachers teach a unit for one month. Then have them trade classes and teach the same unit. They’ll have different children but can recycle the unit they prepared for the previous month.
Enlist volunteers who are skilled in specific areas, such as music, crafts, storytelling, puppetry, creative snacks, or games. Set up each specialist in a different room. Have specialists prepare their part of a lesson each Sunday. Have kids travel in groups so there’s a different group in each room at all times. This is a great way for teachers to plan less and kids to enjoy more.
Use parent helpers.
For each classtime, bring in parent volunteers who can help facilitate learning centers, take care of administrative tasks, or teach part of the lesson.
5. Family Thank-Yous
When a parent volunteers in your program, the entire family is involved. The family has to show up early with the volunteer. The family loses time with Mom or Dad when teachers have training meetings. And family members sometimes have to serve as guinea pigs for new crafts or games.
You’ll encourage commitment from your volunteers’ families if you let them know you appreciate their sacrifice and joint ministry. Here’s how you can affirm families:
After church, serve a picnic lunch to volunteers and their families. Meet at a park so kids can enjoy playing.
Send a letter.
Let families know in writing what their family member’s contribution has meant in specific children’s lives. Tell families the volunteer’s ministry would not be possible without their support.
Provide a movie night.
Ask a video rental store to give you coupons good for one movie rental. Give a coupon and a package of microwave popcorn to each volunteer. Tell families to enjoy a family night together, compliments of the church.
Send them out for a treat.
Give families coupons from a frozen yogurt or ice cream store-one for each family member. Encourage them to go out and enjoy each other.
Recognize families in the worship service.
The next time you appreciate your volunteers, have their families stand also and mention their behind-the-scenes service.
Label families as part of the team.
Give family members buttons to wear at church that say, “My mom’s a Sunday school teacher!” or “My husband teaches Sunday school!”
Give them a Saturday night break.
Ask pizza restaurants to donate pizzas. Or have your church staff or Christian education board make pizzas at your church. Let parents know ahead of time that you’ll be delivering dinner.
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