by Lynley Mandrell
Confession: I have zero stage presence. In every church, there are those anointed few that God bestowed with a bubbly, magnetic aura. You know who I’m talking about. The lady that can command the attention of seventeen squirming kids, recounting an Old Testament story like it happened yesterday, and even break out into a silly dance that causes the kids to cackle.
I’ve always wanted to be that life-of-the-party person. In fact, for many years, my New Year’s resolution was to suddenly turn on the “fun” switch. Well, God hasn’t morphed my personality but I have grown to accept that the gifts He gave me are enough, and my passion is to help others find their sweet spot in ministry. That’s why volunteer ministry stirs my heart like nothing else.
A quick word about my background. Years ago, my husband and I launched a church in the West. Since God placed us in a land flowing with little kids, it was obvious that we needed a first-class children’s ministry. Since I had four of my own involved, this felt like a natural place to dig in. At first, I was terrified by the title of Director of Kids Ministry (lack of fun factor mentioned above), but with time I realized how thrilling it is to see families engaging and enjoying church.
Though the job was fulfilling, it was also very challenging. The greatest challenge, of course, is the monstrous job of finding—and keeping—volunteers. Loving on the volunteers should be at the top of the list for kids ministry pros. It took time for me to learn this lesson, but I would love to share a few tips I discovered:
Finding and Keeping Volunteers
- Avoid the temptation to hire it out.
Utilize volunteers for as long as you can. Stay lean and avoid the temptation to pay people. There are so many gifted people in your church, able to serve, if you cast vision and empower them.
- Don’t be afraid to ASK!
Asking your pastor to pressure the people from the pulpit is always a temptation but the better way to build a strong team is by recruiting them yourself, through personal invitation. There is power in the personal. Ask people to serve. Pick up the phone, shoot a text, or even better—approach them face-to-face. All you have to say is: “You seem like a really fun person…have you ever thought about serving in the kids ministry?” All the person can say is no. They won’t hurt you.
- Be a gift giver.
Monthly, or quarterly, give them a thoughtful gift. Don’t leave it in a room for them to grab. Roll a cart around to each room, fully stocked with snacks and drinks, and smile. In doing this, you are screaming “You are seen! You are needed! You are appreciated!” People don’t need another snack. They need a leader that cares about them.
- Host “office hours.”
Rather than emailing pdfs, or shouting in the hallways on Sunday morning, choose a better route. Invite the volunteers to pop by during the week. When things are calm, you can slowly show them around, hand them a copy of your policies and procedures, explain how Sunday morning works, and simply spark a relationship. Become their friend. Remember the old adage: “People want to work with you, not for you.”
- Invent opportunities for those who are “tired of kids.”
Create jobs in your kids area for those who don’t enjoy the classroom. Many young moms, for example, feel the burden to pitch in, but are coasting on fumes every week. Invite them to write monthly birthday cards, or to lend a hand in follow-up. They could be classroom cleaners, restockers, or craft-builders. These types of things can be done during the week and they are still making a difference on Sunday.
- Watch the back door.
If you have a volunteer coordinator, communicate often about those who are drifting away. Call that person and check on them. Be sensitive to the battles they may be facing in life. Ask if they have any ideas or suggestions on how things could be improved for the volunteers. Assure them that if they’re feeling disillusioned, others probably are as well and you need their feedback in order to grow as a leader.
Many hands make light work. I hope these tips are helpful as you strive to build a solid team in your kids area!
Lynley Mandrell is the wife of Ben Mandrell, the new president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Before coming to LifeWay, Ben and Lynley spent five years in Denver, CO, planting a church designed to reach the unchurched. She is a mother of four and a fan of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Dr Pepper, and silence.