We bring our expectations with us into every situation. The primary factor in feeling successful and satisfied is how well our expectations and our situations match up.
When our expectations are met or exceeded, we’re happy and satisfied. The best way to set ourselves, and everyone around us, up for success is to clarify and communicate what is expected.
When expectations are not identified or articulated, stress and struggles ensue.
When it comes to recruiting and leading our volunteers we need to take the initiative in setting clear expectations right out of the gate, and in reinforcing them often.
Whether you’re recruiting short-term helpers for camp or VBS or investing in long-term teachers who lead recurring groups and classes, here are six expectations that are worth considering for the kids ministry volunteers you lead.
1. ACTIVE ENGAGEMENT
Every volunteer is expected to actively engage with children.
Some may think that their mere presence in the room is enough and that it’s okay to passively pass out papers and make sure the kids don’t hurt one another.
Others may be inclined to scroll through their phones while their teaching partner carries the bulk of the load.
We need to clarify that all helpers are expected to actively engage with kids during ministry times. Our spaces are No Phone Zones, and our leaders are present for the purpose of participation.
2. ENTHUSIASTIC PARTICIPATION
Speaking of participation, another expectation is that everyone on our team participates with a proper attitude of enthusiasm.
Kids are drawn to enthusiastic leaders, and enthusiasm is contagious. When our leaders refuse to play the games, learn the verses, sing the songs or do the hand motions, kids won’t want to do them either.
Attitude is everything. Set the expectation that your leaders not only participate, but that they do so with energy and enthusiasm.
3. RELATIONAL CONNECTION
Teaching can be done via video or from a stage or a printed page, but discipleship can only happen in the context of a relationship.
Set the expectation that your leaders invest in learning kids’ names, knowing their family situations and listening to their prayer concerns.
There’s more to kids ministry than facilitating a lesson; we need our leaders to build relationships with the kids in their groups and take an active interest in their lives.
Years from now, kids may not remember much of what we taught, but they’ll absolutely remember those who cared about them.
4. CATALYTIC CONVERSATION
Catalytic conversations are intentional interactions that happen apart from a lesson. This may mean answering questions that kids ask or listening to their concerns.
Kids often ask profound and thoughtful questions seemingly out of nowhere.
We need our leaders to always be ready to engage in these kinds of discussions with kids. They don’t have to be able to answer every theological puzzler that a kid might throw at them.
But we can always seek out answers to tough questions and get back to them later, but we do need our leaders to look for these opportunities to engage in one-on-one conversation.
5. SUPPORTIVE SUPERVISION
Clarify the expectation that all of your adult leaders and volunteers need to be authority figures during ministry times.
As the main leader, you cannot police every child and monitor every situation on your own. Your adult leaders need to be supporters and co-enforcers of the rules you have instituted for kids in regard to behavior and participation.
That means not undermining your authority but encouraging kids to respect whatever guidelines you’ve put into place.
6. PRAYERFUL PREPARATION
People care for what there’s prayer for. Though that sentence is not grammatically correct, it is absolutely accurate.
Encourage your leaders to pray for their ministry times before they arrive, committing their lessons and sessions to God and asking Him to speak to guide thoughts, words and attitudes for His glory.
Ask your leaders to pray with, for and over the kids in their groups every week. Part of our ministry needs to be lifting our kids before The Lord.
Another part should be modeling prayer for children to see. Prayer-filled people are care-filled people. Set an expectation of prayerful preparation for your leaders.
Expectations that are not identified, clarified, and articulated cannot be met. Lead your volunteers well by setting and communicating clear expectations for them to pursue.
CHUCK PETERS is director of operations for Lifeway Kids. He is a graduate of Columbia Bible College. A creative person by nature, Chuck’s unique combination of leadership experience in media production, business, and ministry has caused him to become an unexpected fan of leadership, strategy, data, and analysis in ministry. He lives outside Nashville with his wife and four kids.