By Nathan Jones (with Alyssa Jones)
I was serving on the hospitality team—brewing gallons of coffee each week, preparing communion, and welcoming people as they walked in the door of our church plant every Sunday morning. Add to that, an early men’s BIble study, plus a Monday evening community group meeting, and I had just about any reason not to serve in my church’s kids ministry.
But as I dropped off my own kids in the preschool and younger kids hallways, I recognized the need for more volunteers. So I approached our kids ministry director and asked if there was somewhere I could serve. A few weeks later, I found myself standing in front of a group of second and third graders. By the end of class, I had regrets.
My biggest regret? Not getting involved sooner. It turns out that kids ministry is not as hard or as scary as I imagined. In fact, I kind of had fun!
If you’re a man like me, you probably have some excuses for not serving in kids ministry. If you’re a kids ministry leader or volunteer, you’ve probably met someone like me. Here are seven excuses that regularly crossed my mind as I sat on the sidelines. Use these tips to encourage yourself or someone you know to serve kids at church.
1. It’s already under control. Despite the monthly plea for volunteers in the after-service announcements, maybe you assume the kids ministry doesn’t need any help. Or maybe you think it’s already full of volunteers who are great at what they do. Even if that’s the case, I have a hunch there are some overlooked laborers who could use a week off. Don’t be afraid to ask what the needs are.
To kids leaders: Be clear what you need. If everything isn’t under control, reach out and ask for help!
2. I’ve never taught kids before. You might be a gifted teacher, but maybe you prefer investing in adults who can handle your big thoughts of God. Well, there’s nothing more effective than preparing to talk to first graders to expose how little you actually understand God. You don’t need to fake it; dig down and ask for understanding. I’ve found that teaching kids the gospel has been the best practice to remember the gospel myself.
To kids leaders: Provide training for your volunteers. Allow them to observe a class before serving so they can better know what to expect.
3. Kids make me uncomfortable. Yep. That’s OK. The only way around that is jumping in the deep end. Take a genuine interest in them. They aren’t judging you. Yes, there may be challenges, but there will also be moments of joy and connection that outweigh the discomfort and awkwardness.
To kids leaders: Help new volunteers find a good fit. If someone is nervous around babies, let him try working with elementary-aged kids.
4. No one has asked me. Unless someone has told you no, the offer to serve kids stands. You might already have in mind what your strengths are. Ask for a role that suits your skills. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone, but do remember the church is like a body and all the parts can work together in service to God’s kingdom.
To kids leaders: It can feel discouraging to be told no when you ask people to volunteer, but keep asking. A “no” now might be a “yes” during another season.
5. I don’t have kids. Being a parent is not a prerequisite to working with kids. In fact, you might be able to offer kids some fresh energy and enthusiasm while blessing tired parents. Look at the unique opportunity to share the greatest news with the future of the Jesus’ church every week.
To kids leaders: Don’t be afraid to ask adults without children to serve in kids ministry. Cast a vision for discipling the next generation.
6. I have kids. I get it; you need a break. Volunteering in kids ministry might mean missing the sermon from time to time. But you can make the sacrifice for a season to serve others’ kids—and even your own. The Bible has something to say about laying down your life for the sake of others.
To kids leaders: Make sure volunteers have access to a recording of the sermon if they miss out during a teaching rotation.
While making coffee, cutting the communion loaves, and holding the door open for visitors are all noble acts of service, those don’t have quite the impact on me as kids ministry does. A classroom of young kids is often a mission field, and kids are eager to learn! So don’t run away when you see your kids ministry leader coming toward you. Better yet, surprise your director by approaching him or her first. You won’t regret it.
Nathan and Alyssa Jones worship and serve at Refuge Franklin, a church plant outside of Nashville, Tennessee. They have three children.