At almost every kids ministry conference, breakouts on recruiting and keeping volunteers are almost always full. Many key voices in ministry have written books on the topic. My hope is that you find something new in this post that you’ve never seen before. I also hope that you might find the formula that works best for you in your church. Aim high and trust God. His resources are limitless.
My hope is that you have more volunteers than you need.
Let’s start with this; Volunteers Make Things Click. It’s a truth as well as an easy way to remember these four values. Take the first letter of each word in the phrase and use the following foundational values for the volunteer process in your church. Try to hit each one of these or the system gets wobbly. V. M. T. C.
This is critical. What’s this look like on the other side? Do you want one leader for every kid? Isn’t that ideal? Maybe. What if you had one leader for every 10 kids? Seems low. But what if those leaders are the “I’m all in” kind of leaders that show up early and leave late for everything you do? Only you can determine what you need, or better yet, what God can use. Cast this vision. Be reminded that God normally accomplishes His will with much less than we think is necessary or even possible. Write down HOW MANY volunteers you need and WHEN you need them. Ask others to pray for these specifics. Utilize students. Consider putting new or even non-believers in non-teaching roles. Before you over spiritualize only using believers, consider the multiple people that Jesus used during His ministry to do profound things.
It’s also important to remember that people don’t follow people, they follow vision … or people WITH vision. Continually share it and recruit for it.
If I lived in your neighborhood and you asked me to help you cut your yard, I would be reluctant. What’s in it for me? You might say that I get to live next to the prettiest yard around? Ehhh. I’d find a reason not to help you. What if you said that our neighborhood might get a free cookout if your yard wins a yard-beauty contest? Well, maybe, but still, I’m not into cookouts. But what if you changed your question? What if you asked if I would mind helping you cut the yard of the lady next door … the single mom who barely gets home before dark each day? That’s a mission! I’d jump in. I’d want to see that mom’s face the first time she pulls up in her driveway and her yard is finely manicured!
Don’t merely call on the people in your church to serve in your ministry because a need exists. Don’t even bait them with the cool factor. Call them to go on a mission with you to serve families in great need. Call them to go on a mission trip without leaving the walls of your church building. (That might come later!) Kids need Jesus. Families need faith. We all want to see the faces of those families that God has used us to reach when they enter into eternal life.
People are more likely to walk with you on a God-sized mission than to step into a church-sized ministry. Don’t be afraid to ask for more. Most people want to be asked. BE the “crazy kid person.”
These next two will help you to RETAIN the volunteers that you recruit.
Express gratitude consistently and constantly. Take a note from the apostle Paul and thank God for those with whom you serve. Do it publicly. Do it personally. Do it en mass, annually. Remind them that we are all serving the Lord together. Tell stories. When a leader knows that they were part of a child or family’s eternal transformation, they will be back for more.
Leave no room for surprise or expectations in your volunteers. Even if you, like me, are not the most organized leader, your volunteers need to feel like they are of prime importance to you and are not only “in the loop,” but “insiders” in your ministry. Let them take the lead. Let them be the stewards of the ministry that God is doing.
Test question for whether you are on track; If you left your church next week, would your volunteers carry on every component (at least for a season) without you? That’s what we’re going for here.
Oh yeah; wash, rinse, and repeat. Don’t ever stop this process. Don’t make recruiting a seasonal occurrence. Make it a permanent passion.
Jeffrey Reed serves as a Kids Ministry Specialist for Lifeway Kids. He has served as a worship leader, director of children’s ministry, and on the executive leadership in several growing congregations. He, his wife Katherine, and their four kids live in Spring Hill, Tennessee where they serve each week in their church’s Kids Ministry.