As the weather begins to cool (slightly), the team here at Lifeway Kids is looking forward to fall. With that in mind, we have a fall-inspired way to let your team know you appreciate them. Attach these tags to some leaf-shaped cookies for a sweet surprise.
Get a group of kids ministry leaders together and invariably the twin subjects of enlisting and equipping volunteers emerge. The fact that we’re experiencing a global pandemic only intensifies the conversation. Truthfully, for the last few years, we’ve known that we need to develop new models of volunteer training. The impact of COVID-19 on in-person gatherings has accelerated that quest.
For many of us, our work lives are now consumed with virtual meetings as we sit in front of the cameras on our laptops or desktop computer monitors. We try to maintain some kind of decorum amidst barking dogs, slinking cats, and yelling kids. Naturally, some of us have begun to transition volunteer training from in-person to virtual gatherings using some of the same tools we use for our jobs.
Last week I led both live virtual training and pre-recorded virtual training, much like many of my colleagues are doing. I’m still learning the best way to present training content in virtual settings; however, here are some of my observations to date:
- Ignore attendance numbers. For live video training, resist the temptation to focus on how many are actually online at the same time you are teaching. The training session is probably being recorded so that people can watch it at their leisure.
- Pretend you are in a physical room with participants. The live training I led last week was in the form of a webinar, so I could neither see nor actively interact with the attendees. However, the meeting host did two helpful things. First, she started and ended the session. Second, she monitored the online chat so she would be able to communicate applicable questions to me during the last part of the session.
- Allow for interaction with attendees. Whether the discussion is live or via chat, participants in the training will be more engaged if they are able to communicate with you or a designated online facilitator.
- Dress appropriately. I pre-recorded two training sessions last week and dressed as if I were standing in front of an actual group of people. The camera on my laptop only captured my person from the waist up, so technically I could’ve worn shorts and flip-flops. Instead I was in khakis and nice shoes. Dressing in business or business casual attire affects how you feel about yourself as you lead the training, regardless of how much of you people actually see.
- Use visuals. People grow bored if all they see is a talking head on screen. Visuals could include presentation slides, as well as, physical posters and props.
- Consider handouts. If the content lends itself to an interactive handout, make a PDF of the handout available to virtual attendees.
The more you and I train volunteers virtually, the more comfortable we’ll become. Nothing will completely take the place of live, in-person training in which relationships are formed. However, when we can’t interact with conferees face-to-face, we can still provide training and encouragement virtually.
Lifeway Kids has developed an online training course for new volunteers. You can find it on our Kids Ministry From Anywhere page in the training section.
Landry Holmes is the Manager of Lifeway Kids Ongoing Bible Studies and Network Partnerships, Nashville, TN, and is a graduate of Howard Payne University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The author of It’s Worth It: Uncovering How One Week Can Transform Your Church and general editor of the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary for Kids, Landry is a church leader, writer, workshop facilitator, and publisher. He teaches kids at his church in Middle Tennessee, where his wife Janetta is the Preschool Minister. They enjoy spending time with their two adult sons and their wives, and spoiling their grandchildren.
Let your volunteers know they shine. Show them your thanks by attaching these tags to a candle.
Let your volunteers know you appreciate them. Attach one of these tags to a notebook for a fun surprise.
With many churches back up and running or planning to reopen soon, I imagine that figuring out kids ministry in this “new normal” will present some new opportunities and also bring back some age-old challenges.
My role at my church is volunteering in kids ministry and I know one thing every church leader needs is dependable volunteers who can serve in ministry. Whether you have plenty of leaders or plenty of open spots, I challenge you to invest in teens as a part of your kids ministry’s future.
We know that kids don’t stay kids … they grow up and turn into crazy teenagers! But we know teens don’t stay teens … they grow up, have families, and figure out stuff in life. I believe there is a place for a person at any stage to serve in kids ministry! You can invest in teens (even those who were in kids ministry last year) and find a place for them to grow and learn about service in the church.
Begin to look for ways to encourage teens to have meaningful experiences and develop helpful skills. All opportunities may not all be in your ministry, but if you are the minister investing in them, trust that you are doing Kingdom work and that it will hopefully turn into more of them coming to serve!
Start with a couple of teens you know and encourage them to:
- Volunteer at church in some area of ministry
- Serve in VBS (if VBS is online this year, you better have some digital natives helping you pull off that event!)
- Coach or help in a sports league
- Volunteer as a tutor with a younger student
Challenge them with skills that pay off in other situations like:
- Doing things without their phone in tow … or at least on silent
- Learning to communicate clearly and concisely
- Overcoming apprehension talking with folks outside their peer group
If there are older teens or college students that you have relationships with or serving in your ministry encourage them to be a summer camp staffer. You get to send them out to get experience with us, we invest in them over a summer, and you get back an even stronger volunteer for your kids ministry going forward! See also “5 Not So Hidden Benefits of Serving on Camp Staff.”
CentriKid is for 2nd-6th graders, but it’s also a place for college students to serve! We’ve got camp staff roles for recreation staff, Bible study leaders, production roles, and worship band spots. We would love to meet students you trust in ministry and help develop them further! Point a potential applicant to centrikid.com/staff for more information.
Remind volunteers of the important role they play in your kids ministry. Attach this tag to a flower seed packet as a physical reminder of the seeds of faith they are planting in the lives of children.
No doubt these last several weeks in ministry have been challenging. We’re discovering new ways to minister and lead while not meeting in person. As you’re creating and discovering new ways to minister. I encourage you to connect with your leaders. They may need your encouragement and ministry more now than ever before. Consider the following ways to connect with your kids ministry leaders during this time.
Communicate with Them: Your leaders need to hear from you. Be careful not to overload them with information, but to communicate important church information. Keep the information concise. Don’t assume they’ll “hear” it from social media, other emails, or another way.
Encourage Them: We all need encouragement. With the feelings of anxiousness, uncertainty, and fear, we need to be reminded God is in control and we can trust Him. The leaders need to know you care for them and you’re praying for them. Send a text, an email, a video message, a note in the mail or use video conferencing. Share a Bible verse and include a word of encouragement. Use this time to become closer to one another.
Equip Them: Even if you’re unable to meet in person, you can still equip your kids ministry leaders. Equip them spiritually. Offer suggestions for digital Bible studies, devotionals, and links to worship music. Equip them as teachers. Suggest articles and podcasts on kidsministry101.com. This free website shares practical helps for kids ministry leaders. Share with them ideas of ways they can connect with the kids in their classes. See this article for ideas on connecting with families. Additionally, share ways teachers can use digital platforms to connect with kids and their families. In doing this, it’s imperative your teachers have access to their students’ contact information, such as child’s name, parents’ name, phone number, email, and mailing address.
During this time, find ways to intentionally connect with your leaders. We’ve been given an opportunity to minister to our leaders as well as to the kids and families in our churches. Communicate, encourage and equip your leaders. In what other ways do you plan to connect with your team?
It seems no matter the size of the church, the greatest challenge for kids ministry leaders is enlisting volunteers. Many times, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by “filling a slot” rather than recruiting individuals to serve the Lord through teaching. In my years of enlisting teachers in kids ministry, I learned the following valuable lessons.
1. Pray and Listen. Prayer is imperative before, during, and after the enlistment process. Pray, believing God will give you the names of people to ask. Pray in confidence. Pray you would see people the way God sees them. Look to see their potential. Be open for what He wants to teach you through this process.
2. Know the Vision. Before we can ask others to pray about teaching in kids ministry, we must know and understand our vision. Why do you believe kids ministry is important? How does it make a difference in the church? Why would someone want to join our teaching team? What is our desired goal for our leaders, the kids, and ministry? Spend time developing or reviewing your vision for ministry. We have to know and understand our vision before we can communicate it effectively.
3. Communicate and Ask. People need to know the why (the vision) before they can understand and say yes to the what (teaching in kids ministry). As God brings individuals to mind, reach out to them to schedule a time to visit in person. Ask individually rather than continuous churchwide blanket announcements. The constant announcements for teachers implies no one wants to serve in kids ministry. Share stories of how God is using teachers to minister to families. Share the joy and excitement for teaching. Make sure to communicate the expectations for teachers. Ask the potential teacher to pray about a specific teaching opportunity in a particular class.
4. Accept Their Answer. After the prospective teacher has prayed about teaching, follow up with her. It’s unrealistic to believe God will call every person you ask to teach in kids ministry. When someone says, “no” to serving, don’t take it personally. You may consider asking if she would be a substitute teacher or interested in another role in kids ministry. If the answer is “yes,” make sure to equip them with knowledge, training, and resources as they begin teaching. Also, follow your church’s policies and procedures for volunteers in kids ministry.
The enlistment of teachers is continual. When I implemented the above strategies, I found recruiting teachers less of a chore and more of an opportunity to see God develop His call in others’ lives. Trust the Lord. He knows what we need and He is faithful to provide who we need.
Looking to connect with volunteers or families in your ministry in a way that feels a little more personal than an online meet-up? Here’s a fun way to let them know you’re thinking about them. Pick up drinks from your favorite spot, attach these tags with a note, and deliver them to doorsteps. You’re sure to bring a little extra cheer to their day.
Step 1: Print out the PDF with the correct lid size for the drinks you’re purchasing. (Tip: For a Sonic Route 44, you would choose the PDF for 44 oz. drinks. For a Starbucks Venti, you would choose the PDF for 24 oz. drinks.)
Step 2: Cut along the dotted line of each circle. Don’t forget to cut out the hole in the center as well. (Tip: Use a hole punch to make this easier!)
Step 3: Write a personal note on the blank space of the tag.
Step 4: Purchase your drinks & tape the gift tags to the lid. (Tip: Sonic drinks are currently half-price any time if you order through their app.)
Step 5: Deliver your drinks to volunteers or families! Call or text ahead of time to let them know you’ll be dropping off a treat. Please remember to adhere to all social-distancing guidelines.