I always tell people my favorite part of my job is the chance to listen and talk with KidMin leaders across the country and world. Our team at LifeWay Kids has our ear to the ground with church leaders either on the phone, in the field, or online—engaging in thousands of catalytic conversations from leaders in all kinds of churches—small, big, mega, rural, urban, multiple denominations and non-denominations. One thing is consistent without fail; the number one pain point of children and preschool leaders is volunteer recruitment and retention.
We spend lots of energy blogging, podcasting, conferencing, book-writing, and so forth talking about this dynamic which is particularly important to kids ministry. Sure, other ministries need volunteers—but not at the same rate and volume as kids ministry. Am I right? So, out of all the strategies and tactics of volunteer recruitment and retention, I want to hone in on one that I believe is often overlooked: the importance of fostering community within the volunteers that serve with you.
Think about it. When you make the big ask for someone to serve in children’s ministry you are more than likely asking them to give up an hour where they would be in community with adults. In fact, this is one of the main reasons adults resist serving in children’s ministry. They don’t want to give up a small group or Sunday School class with their adult peers. So, how can we as KidMin leaders change that perception?
One of your primary roles as a Children’s ministry leader is to develop adults. I know most of us got into kids ministry because we love kids; but when you truly survey your role—who do you mostly work with? Adults. Therefore, it is our role to pour into them, develop them, and foster community with their fellow volunteers. More times than not, when we develop community with our leaders, they will stay with us longer. Here are some ideas for how to do just that:
- Pray together: It seems obvious, but I’ve talked to countless leaders who don’t meet regularly to pray for each other and the children they are teaching. Carve out time to do this either before or after class or during another environment (such as Wednesday night Bible study).
- Break bread together: Find a regular time such as a monthly lunch to eat and fellowship together. It’s essential to have time to get to know one another, share about families, jobs, hobbies, and talk about how the Lord is moving in each of their lives.
- Bear one another’s burdens: The more prayer and community time your volunteers have together with each other and with you, the more they will begin sharing prayer needs in their own lives.
- Encourage each other: Be sure your volunteers have contact information for everyone serving and begin to model how to text and call to check on one another. It may be a verse to share, a prayer need lifted up, or a call to action to help someone in need.
- Feed your people: We already discussed breaking bread with meal, but even more importantly, feed your people with the Word. Take time to share Scripture—even studying the lesson being taught to kids each week. If time is prohibitive to do this, an online, private Facebook community could be a great avenue to share God’s word (as well as other vital communication such as announcements, etc.)
As you can see, fostering community with your volunteers can be a key factor for retention. You want them to become friends and go deeper as brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. It’s scriptural and you won’t regret the time it takes to invest in them. Before you know it, your ministry will have a waiting line! For His glory!
“Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
Jana Magruder serves as the Director of LifeWay Kids. She is a Baylor graduate and offers a wealth of experience and passion for kids ministry, education, and publishing. She is the author of Kids Ministry that Nourishes and Life Verse Creative Journal, which she co-authored with her teenage daughter. She and her husband, Michael, along with their three children reside in Nashville.