Celebrate your teachers and volunteers with this small token of appreciation! Print out the tags below and attach them to a pack of gum. Pass out these gifts in classrooms at church or consider doing a porch drop-off if your church is meeting online.
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.
Remind volunteers how much you appreciate them AND keep them germ-free with this fun volunteer appreciation idea!
Supplies: Hand sanitizer, ribbon/twine, tags
Instructions: Print out the tags below and attach them using ribbon or twine to a bottle of hand sanitizer. If your church is meeting in person, hand out these gifts in person. If your church is meeting online you can leave a bottle on each volunteer’s porch!
Print out the tag below and attach to an oatmeal cookie or oatmeal breakfast bar. Hand out the treats to volunteers at church or drop off on volunteers’ porches if your church is meeting virtually.
This quick and easy gift is a great way to show volunteers how much you appreciate them this Christmas season. If your church is not meeting in person, you can also drop this fun gift off on a volunteer’s porch.
Here’s a delicious way to say thank you to volunteers this fall. Download the instructions and tags here.
It was the beginning of a new ministry year. I was excited to have new teachers join our team. We followed our churches policies and procedures of enlisting new teachers, they completed training, and were ready for the new year. In the first few Sundays, I noticed something I needed to discuss with a teacher. Although it wasn’t an immediate concern, I knew it was something that needed to be addressed for her to have the best teaching experience. How could I address it with her? I didn’t have a long term established friendship and I didn’t want to discourage her in her first few weeks of teaching. As I contemplated the situation, the idea of scheduling times to meet individually with our new teachers sounded like a good plan. I wanted to have an informal discussion and hear about their first few weeks of teaching. I contacted them and scheduled time to meet with each of the new teachers. I shared with them four questions I’d like to discuss. Here are the questions I used when I met with the teachers:
1. What have you enjoyed the most about teaching?
2. What challenges have you experienced while teaching?
3. What do you wish you would’ve known before you began teaching?
4. How can we support you as you teach?
These questions led to rich conversations and an opportunity not only to hear of his or her experience in the classroom but served as a step in building a relationship with a new teacher. I found it so useful that I began implementing the same process with all new volunteers. It provided me an avenue to learn and listen to others. These conversations reminded me of a perspective of a new teacher, which can be easily overlooked.
Through these conversations, I gained helpful and useful information. I discovered possible future training topics. We established open communication at the beginning of their time serving. As a result, the teachers felt more comfortable sharing the joys of teaching, expressing concerns, and asking questions. I discovered this process helped the teachers feel more invested in the ministry and part of the team. They knew their opinion and needs mattered. What began as an idea to reinstruct a teacher became one of the most useful tools for me as a leader. I challenge you to make a priority to connect and ask questions of your volunteers. What questions would you add to the ones above? What questions would be most beneficial for you to ask?
Fall is a time that we have new leaders and seasoned leaders serving in our children’s ministry areas. Have you done anything lately to show them how much you appreciate them? This year it may be more important than ever! Check out the simple project below: