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As a former Preschool Minister, I know how vital volunteers are. I remember saying that if I ever left the local church ministry, I’d be one of the best volunteers ever and I would be ready to step up to the plate to serve.
I was wrong.
I’ve been reminded how hard volunteering can be and that, indeed, there are times I don’t want to join a team. This has been eye-opening, on a personal as well as a ministry basis. I wonder what I might have been guilty of during my ministry and where my heart is now that I’m not being paid to be at church every Sunday.
There really are some legitimate reasons for not volunteering. Sometimes it’s the minister’s fault, sometimes the volunteer’s, and other times it’s nobody’s fault. Here are a few of the reasons that have come to mind.
Track Record of Leader Asking. If the minister has a reputation of having no vision, a lack of passion for ministry, being ungrateful, and disorganized, volunteers are not going to be knocking down the door to serve.
Be sure that you share your vision and how it fits into the overall mission of the church. Show appreciation often to your volunteers. Drop by the classroom and say hi on Sunday mornings or send them a note every now and then. Everything counts! And very important—do your best not to complain! (At least not publicly!)
Lack of Training Offered. Have you ever been thrown into a classroom with no direction? I have. It’s not fun.
The days of weekly or even monthly training meetings are long gone. With today’s busy schedules, find unique ways to train your leaders. Consider alternative methods of training. Use technology—Media Grid, social media, email, links to podcasts, blogs, and the like can fill the gap in getting your teachers trained.
Feeling Overused and Burned Out. We’ve all done it. We find a fantastic volunteer and we ask them to do everything. But if you start asking people to serve in areas outside their giftedness, they’ll burn out and won’t want to do anything. Discover the passion of your volunteer and keep them in that lane. Ensure that your leaders have opportunities to worship and attend small group activities of their own.
Personal obligations. And then, sometimes, people just can’t serve. Try not to take it personally. Life gets in the way. Things happen. And it’s not really a no – it’s just “not now.” Give your volunteers a break when needed. When they have a passion for ministry, they’ll come back. And be even better when they do!
So, if you’re struggling with your volunteer base, know that you’re not alone. Take a look, make some changes, and keep up the good fight. Remember God’s promise in Philippians 4:19: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Blessings friends!
Klista Storts serves as an Editor for Lifeway Kids. Before coming to Lifeway, she served as the Weekday and Preschool Specialist at the Tennessee Baptist Convention and as Director of Preschool Ministries at churches in Oklahoma and Tennessee. Klista has a passion for equipping leaders to share the love of Christ and lay foundations for conversion in the lives of kids.
Volunteers are vital to a kids ministry. When you’re on church staff, it’s easy to forget the perspective of a volunteer. Klista Storts, who has previously served as a kids minister and now serves as a kids ministry volunteer, shares what kids ministry leaders need to know about their volunteers on today’s podcast.
Klista Storts is the editor for our VBS preschool curriculum. She has also served as a Kids Ministry Specialist here at Lifeway. Before coming to Lifeway, she served as the Weekday and Preschool Specialist at the Tennessee Baptist Convention and as Director of Preschool Ministries at churches in Oklahoma and Tennessee. Klista has a passion for equipping leaders to share the love of Christ and lay foundations for conversion in the lives of kids.
I’m a man, and I’ve been involved in teaching kids for over 25 years. While the kid’s ministry profession as a whole has seen an increase of men in leadership, it is still a mainly female dominated entity within the classroom. Why is it difficult for men to step up and fill a role within the classroom? Are there some tips we can use for engaging men in ministry?
How many of you have tried to get men engaged and heard some of the following statements? “That’s for girls.” “Teaching is boring.” “What if they don’t like me?” “What if I don’t like them?” “I’m not perfect.” Many men might respond with these or similar statements when we try and enlist them for our teaching teams.
Before we identify steps to encourage their participation, let’s first think about the qualities we want in a male teacher. We want men who are mature Christians, involved in the church, have a good biblical knowledge and are genuine in their faith. Once you identify men who fit the identity you are looking for, here are a few ways you might want to respond when approaching men to teach.
Men want to be engaged in something fun. Help men see that teaching isn’t boring, it can be fun. Men have a unique ability to take an activity that might not appeal to boys and give it a unique twist that will make it fun for boys too. Men want to do the unexpected. Assure the men that you enlist that they can bring their own unique style and creativity to teaching … within reason of course. Men want to be excited. Allow men to see the excitement on the faces of boys and girls when the men themselves get excited about teaching. Excitement is infectious. Men want to laugh. If your ministry area is one that encourages fun and laughter men will more actively engage in the work you have.
Men bring so many advantages to your kids’ ministry that they might not even realize. Men can help model for boys and girls what a man needs to be. Kids crave male attention and having men in classrooms helps that balance. Men can sometimes, just with their presence, bring order and discipline to a classroom. Men can also model strong male influence in single-parent homes. Interestingly, once you get a few committed men engaged in teaching in your ministry you might be surprised how many other men may just step up and take on the role of teaching in your kids ministry too.
Tim Pollard teaches 3rd graders at Tulip Grove Baptist Church. He’s passionate about helping kids dig deep into Scripture, which he pursues through his daily work as leader of the Explore the Bible: Kids team. Tim lives with his wife and daughters in Mount Juliet, TN.
I always tell people my favorite part of my job is the chance to listen and talk with KidMin leaders across the country and world. Our team at Lifeway Kids has our ear to the ground with church leaders either on the phone, in the field, or online—engaging in thousands of catalytic conversations from leaders in all kinds of churches—small, big, mega, rural, urban, multiple denominations and non-denominations. One thing is consistent without fail; the number one pain point of children and preschool leaders is volunteer recruitment and retention.
We spend lots of energy blogging, podcasting, conferencing, book-writing, and so forth talking about this dynamic which is particularly important to kids ministry. Sure, other ministries need volunteers—but not at the same rate and volume as kids ministry. Am I right? So, out of all the strategies and tactics of volunteer recruitment and retention, I want to hone in on one that I believe is often overlooked: the importance of fostering community within the volunteers that serve with you.
Think about it. When you make the big ask for someone to serve in children’s ministry you are more than likely asking them to give up an hour where they would be in community with adults. In fact, this is one of the main reasons adults resist serving in children’s ministry. They don’t want to give up a small group or Sunday School class with their adult peers. So, how can we as KidMin leaders change that perception?
One of your primary roles as a Children’s ministry leader is to develop adults. I know most of us got into kids ministry because we love kids; but when you truly survey your role—who do you mostly work with? Adults. Therefore, it is our role to pour into them, develop them, and foster community with their fellow volunteers. More times than not, when we develop community with our leaders, they will stay with us longer. Here are some ideas for how to do just that:
- Pray together: It seems obvious, but I’ve talked to countless leaders who don’t meet regularly to pray for each other and the children they are teaching. Carve out time to do this either before or after class or during another environment (such as Wednesday night Bible study).
- Break bread together: Find a regular time such as a monthly lunch to eat and fellowship together. It’s essential to have time to get to know one another, share about families, jobs, hobbies, and talk about how the Lord is moving in each of their lives.
- Bear one another’s burdens: The more prayer and community time your volunteers have together with each other and with you, the more they will begin sharing prayer needs in their own lives.
- Encourage each other: Be sure your volunteers have contact information for everyone serving and begin to model how to text and call to check on one another. It may be a verse to share, a prayer need lifted up, or a call to action to help someone in need.
- Feed your people: We already discussed breaking bread with meal, but even more importantly, feed your people with the Word. Take time to share Scripture—even studying the lesson being taught to kids each week. If time is prohibitive to do this, an online, private Facebook community could be a great avenue to share God’s word (as well as other vital communication such as announcements, etc.)
As you can see, fostering community with your volunteers can be a key factor for retention. You want them to become friends and go deeper as brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. It’s scriptural and you won’t regret the time it takes to invest in them. Before you know it, your ministry will have a waiting line! For His glory!
“Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
Jana Magruder serves as the Director of Lifeway Kids. She is a Baylor graduate and offers a wealth of experience and passion for kids ministry, education, and publishing. She is the author of Kids Ministry that Nourishes and Life Verse Creative Journal, which she co-authored with her teenage daughter. She and her husband, Michael, along with their three children reside in Nashville.
Working together as a team is not the latest management fad, but springs from the heart of the biblical concept of leadership within the church. Check out Proverbs 11:14; 15:22; and 24:5-6 to see the wisdom of including a team.
Don’t forget the early church. In Acts we learn that the early church was founded under the leadership of TWELVE apostles. Acts 6 tell us about SEVEN deacons chosen to serve. Acts 13 teaches that the first missionary venture was a TEAM, Paul and Barnabas and Acts 14 talks about the appointment of MULTIPLE elders.
Paul writes to the Ephesians about the BODY with various parts closely fitting and firmly adhering to one another and in 1 Corinthians he talks about the diversity of gifts but the same Spirit.
So, how do you do it? Below are 8 tips for developing and working with a ministry team that I think will be helpful:
- Determine the Purpose of the Team. Ask yourself the “why” question. Why do we need THIS team? One of the reasons committees and teams get a bad rap is that many aren’t needed. If your team isn’t needed, disband.
- Gather the Right Team! Start with prayer. God is more concerned with our success than we are, so PRAY and ask direction as you assemble your team. Consider different personalities of those invited and don’t pick a bunch of “mini-yous.” Seek diversity that compliments.
- Commit to the team. Be concerned for and acknowledge the whole person not just the team member. Ask, “How can this person best serve the team?” then ask yourself, “How can I best serve this person?” Look beyond the task at hand and make a more thoughtful, deeper commitment to those on the team. Pray for your team members. Ask for spiritual insights into their needs. Make the team your priority and make sure they can see your commitment.
- Cast a Vision for the Team. “Where there is no vision, the people will perish.” (Proverbs 29:18). Develop your vision and share the vision and mission of the team. Clearly define the purpose and work together to create and achieve goals.
- Equip and Facilitate the Team. Provide specific training for specific understandings. Resist the “I’ll just do it myself mentality” because team members might not yet be equipped. Take an “always wanting to learn—always wanting to improve” posture about the work, the team, and YOURSELF. Lead by example.
- Empower the Team. Give things away to your team members. Encourage various team members giftedness and skillsets. Trust you team.
- Recognize the Team. Show Appreciation. Don’t take the credit for the team. Recognize unique contributions and give both private and public recognition.
- Don’t Kill the Team. Failure to do #1-7 will kill your team. Be flexible, seek opinions, and be intentional about evaluation.
Over the years Ephesians 4:12 has become one of my favorite verses. Develop your team and equip them to do the work of ministry to build up the body of Christ. I hope this verse become part of your ministry philosophy, too.
Bill Emeott serves as Lead Ministry Specialist for Lifeway Kids. A graduate of Mercer University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Bill has served as a Kid’s Minister and currently teaches 2nd Grade Bible study.
Sometimes though, all this newness can be a little scary. After all, you’ve gotten into such a good “groove” with the kids you’ve taught all year. They know your routine and you know theirs! It’s hard to let go.
But there’s hope! You’ll love these new kids just a much. And you can get your groove back! Try these few tips to make this year even better than the last!
- Set a few simple ground rules with your kids.
- Remember the age development of your group. Three rules may be plenty to cover what you need.
- Respect (or don’t hurt) others.
- Respect (or don’t hurt) yourself.
- Respect (or don’t hurt) the church property.
- Let the kids help you decide on the rules. They often will come up with very similar rules and will take more ownership when they’ve helped make the rules.
- Remember the age development of your group. Three rules may be plenty to cover what you need.
- Organize your classroom. Be sure that you have the resources you need before you need them! Stock your shelves with paper, crayons, markers, scissors, and other essential items. (Notice I said “stock,” not “hoard.”) Know where other specialty items are located in your church or know that you may need to make a quick run to the store sometime during the week for your next session.
- Get to know your kids before they come!
- Send a handwritten note to each child on your roll introducing yourself.
- Make a phone call to the parents to introduce yourself and ask what you can do to make this a successful year for their child.
- Teach in VBS or other summer activities that include the children you’ll be teaching in the new year.
- Refresh your memory of the age level characteristics of the kids you’ll be teaching. (Even if you’ve taught forever!)
- Don’t start the year with preconceived notions based on other teachers’ opinions of a child. You may have just the personality or teaching skills a child needs that will make a difference in his life. And if you don’t, your teaching partner does! God has put this child in your class for a reason!
- Make a decision now to commit to be the best teacher you can be. I’m guilty myself of starting the new year great … studying my lesson during the week, planning ahead of time, purchasing fun items to enhance my lesson … then as the year progresses, I digress. I find myself waiting until Friday or Saturday to do my planning and realizing how much better my teaching could have been if I had just a little bit more time! Don’t let this happen to you. Commit now to make your teaching a priority. It’s better for you and for the kids. They’re worth it!
And before we go … one for you, personally. Do you know the phrase “physician heal thyself?” Let’s take a little liberty with that statement and change it to “teacher teach thyself.” Too often the excitement of a new year quickly fades because we don’t take the time to continue our own spiritual education. When this happens, we dry up, and have nothing to give. Be sure to study God’s Word and discover what He’s got in store for you this new year!
Now, go celebrate and make this the best year ever!
Klista Storts serves as an Editorial Ministry Specialist for Lifeway Kids. Before coming to Lifeway, she served as the Weekday and Preschool Specialist at the Tennessee Baptist Convention and as Director of Preschool Ministries at churches in Oklahoma and Tennessee. Klista has a passion for equipping leaders to share the love of Christ and lay foundations for conversion in the lives of kids.
It’s the time of year where kids ministers are enlisting new teachers, confirming with current teachers, and praying for needed volunteers for the new ministry year. During this process a few years ago, I understood the need to be more intentional in connecting with teachers. Yes, I knew their name, but I felt I needed to know them past their name and the class they taught. As kid ministers, we are to care for the adults who serve under our leadership. Here are three ways I have intentionally connected with volunteers:
- Learn about your teachers, individually. I asked our teachers to complete an “All About Me” page. This page allowed me to know more about their family, special days, their likes, what the Lord was doing in their life, and how I could pray for them. These pages provided a way I could quickly learn information about each teacher. I found myself referring to this resource frequently.
- Listen to your teachers. Listen for verbal and nonverbal communication. I found many times nonverbal communication speaks as loudly as verbal communication. By listening, I discovered ways I could equip them, ideas for training, and ways I could support them as they served. Provide opportunities for feedback in various ways. Make sure to value the feedback. One of the quickest ways to build a connection with others is to listen to feedback and validate the person. It may not be easy to hear (or read), or the suggestion may not be possible to implement, but in valuing the person who shared the feedback, you are establishing trust and building a relationship.
- Provide opportunities for teachers to build relationships with other teachers. Teaching in a classroom with children is very rewarding, but it can also be lonely. Teachers miss out on adult fellowship and opportunities to build relationships with other adults. Plan specific times for them to build relationships with one another. Schedule a weekly prayer time. Go out to eat once a month. Make a room available at the church for the teachers to plan and study their lesson together. Organize an adult Bible study for them at a time other than when they are teaching.
Connecting with teachers doesn’t happen overnight, or in a couple of weeks. True connections take time and intentionality. In being intentional in building relationships, I found some of these teachers became my closest friends and allies in ministry. What ways have you connected with teachers?
Delanee Williams serves as a Ministry Specialist with Lifeway Kids. She is a graduate of Baylor University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Delanee has served in kids ministry for over twenty years and is passionate about developing, equipping and encouraging leaders.
Deeply hurt, Hannah prayed to the Lord and wept with many tears. Making a vow, she pleaded, “Lord of Hosts, if You will take notice of Your servant’s affliction, remember and not forget me, and give Your servant a son, I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and his hair will never be cut.” 1 Samuel 1:10-11
Hannah simply amazes me. Here was a woman who could not have any children—which was quite a stigma in her day—and it understandably devastated her. To make matters worse, one of her husband’s other wives delighted in mocking her because of her barrenness. (Quick aside: God never permitted polygamy and every time we see it practiced in the Old Testament, it causes trouble.)
Hannah was in such pain because of her inability to have children that she went to the temple and poured out her heart to God with such an intensity that Eli the priest thought she was drunk. But it is the subject of Hannah’s prayer more than her fervency that amazes me.
If God were to give Hannah a son, she would give him back to God. And that is what happened. God gave Hannah Samuel, and she took him to the temple to serve there once he was weaned. Hannah gave God one of her heart’s greatest desires.
Hannah was a godly woman because she was a woman of prayer and Hannah was a woman of prayer because she was a godly woman. Pray fuels intimacy with God and intimacy with God fuels prayer in a beautiful symbiotic relationship.
Our leadership thrives in direct proportion to the health of our relationship with Christ. And as we learn from Hannah, prayer is a vital component of that relationship. Here are five leadership lessons on how we can thrive through prayer:
- Pray regularly. The fuel of any relationship is communication, and a relationship with Jesus is no different. Praying regularly is vital. Having a set time to pray each day is a great start, but think of ways that you can pray more throughout your day such as when you are driving, when you are brushing your teeth, and when you are waiting in lines. Prayer can turn these rather mundane times into refreshing times with God.
- Read Scripture first. When possible, preface your time of prayer by reading Scripture. Scripture will help you focus your time of prayer properly. Instead of praying through a man-centered lens of what you want from God, spending time in the Bible first will reorient your heart and mind to want to pursue God’s glory in your prayer.
- Don’t confine yourself to a formula. There are several outlines designed to ensure you pray in a well-rounded way. While these can be helpful to keep in mind, do not limit yourself by them. Structure can sometimes lead to a wooden, formulaic prayer life and can hinder its authenticity. There will be times when you will simply want to pray thanking God for who He is. There may be other times when you will need to pray just confessing sin to God.
- Be transparent with God. Following up to the previous lesson, strive for your prayer to be transparent. Be real with God. It’s not like you can fool Him anyway! If you are upset like Hannah, share that. If you are confused, angry, happy, worried, frustrated, or whatever else, let God know.
- Pray for others. Enjoying a vibrant prayer life and deepening your relationship with Christ will greatly grow you as a leader alone. But it is when you also pray meaningfully for your kids, kids leaders, parents, and other church leaders that your leadership will grow to the next level. Develop the habit of asking others how you can pray for them and doing it.
Brian Dembowczyk is the team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to Lifeway. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his family live in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.