Keep ‘em happy
When I think of the word Volunteers, my mind immediately goes into panic mode! Do I have enough? Will they be on time? Will their kids get sick at 10:00 pm on Saturday? Will they be prepared? Most kid’s pastors will understand the panic that ensues with that word volunteer. A little more panic comes to mind when you talk about recruiting volunteers. I will be honest, when I started out as a kid’s pastor, recruiting was the scariest and most intimidating thing in my job description. But over the past few years, I have come to LOVE recruiting and here is why: When you are actively recruiting and training volunteers you are completing God’s purpose for believers. It is such a rewarding calling to help believers reach their full potential by beginning to serve the Church with their strengths and talents! And most people think that kid’s pastor just play games and eat snacks.
As kid’s pastors know, kid’s ministries can sometimes be a revolving door when it comes to volunteers. Just about the time we get the schedule settled, someone has a job change, moves, or is just unhappy serving in that capacity. So many times, I am tempted to just find someone with a pulse and breathing to cover a class on Sunday morning. But I want people to serve in their strengths. I don’t want to force someone to teach preschoolers if they absolutely cannot stand 3 year olds. I don’t want someone in one of the infant classrooms if they gag every time they change a diaper. I want people who have the strengths and creativity to share the love Jesus with every child at their own developmental stage. So, how do we keep them happy and ready to serve in their strengths? Here are a few ideas:
- Team Mentality! No one wants to be stranded on an island alone. (OK maybe after a full morning of kid’s church.) It is essential that you build a community that leans on other volunteers for help, support, and ideas. I love to have team meetings and toss them all my crazy ideas for the next quarter and see what they can add. Some of my BEST ideas are not from me, but my TEAM.
- Verbiage! I recently listened to a leader share about the importance of the verbiage we use in our ministries. From emails, to bulletin announcements, and social media posts, they are all watching and listening. I no longer use the phrase “let’s have you work on Sunday.” It conveys that they are an employee not a servant. Instead, I use the word “serve,” it conveys an option, an attitude, and a higher calling. The words we say are so important in conveying the message we want to share. This again is amazing at keeping volunteers happy and willing to serve in their strengths.
- 1st Serve! While I was pastoring in Kansas, I was introduced to the idea of a 1st Serve by our Lead Pastor. At this church, we were having major volunteer needs so we implemented the 1st Serve. We allowed people to “try out” a serving position. They could shadow any leader, volunteer, or teacher for one Sunday and then give feedback. They were not required to complete any paperwork or membership class prior to this 1st Serve (please check with your pastor and insurance to see if this is allowed). After that 1st Serve, I would follow up with them and get their thoughts. Sometimes they were happy with where they were and they didn’t want to try anything else. But sometimes they didn’t enjoy it and they wanted to try another ministry and we happily let them. Once they found a place that they wanted to serve, we completed their paperwork and membership before they began serving regularly. This also helped weed out some of the folks that just thought that they wanted to serve in a certain ministry, or even in a role that they weren’t ready for. After implementing the 1st Serve our volunteer retention soared. I have now implemented this 1st Serve idea at my new pastorate and we are continuing to add more and more volunteers to the team.
- Communication! I tend to be an over communicator (I blame my parents). I am constantly sending emails, checking up on our volunteers, and talking to them after they serve on Sunday and Wednesday. To keep your volunteers happy and understand their strengths, I learned very quickly that I need to LISTEN to them, especially immediately after their serving experience. That is when their ideas are fresh and the most relevant. I keep a note pad with me at all times so that I can write down new ideas and things to change or fix. Once you create the culture that you are willing to listen and will implement their ideas, the ideas will start pouring in!
The last idea is revolutionary. Wait for it. Let your volunteers serve where their strengths are. When you find a volunteer that is serving in their strengths, allow them to stay there. Don’t move them to another classroom, don’t have them work on another project and do not let them lose their focus. Pull them under your wing and continue to disciple and train them in their strengths. Once you begin allowing people to serve in their strengths and keep them there consistently, your kid’s ministry will take off in new and exciting ways.