While “Help Wanted” signs dot the landscape, there are no volunteers in higher demand than in our Sunday morning children’s ministry. Ask any children’s ministry director to list their top three needs, and they are sure to say, “We could use a few more volunteers.” If your ministry is like ours, it seems every time we get a new worker or two, someone else is leaving our team. But rather than be discouraged, we need to recognize that every children’s ministry will have some worker turnover. Here are a few tips on drawing in some fresh help and some ideas to help you retain the workers you have.
Pounding the Pavement and Prayer
When adding folks to your ministry, nothing is more critical than regular prayer and asking God for the people you need to fill the gaps. Prayer sounds logical, and we all agree that we should pray for the workers we need, but I find that prayer for new volunteers is often neglected. Jesus did say, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7–8 ESV). Add in a bit of insight from James: “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2), and it is clear to see that it is time to put praying for volunteers back on the schedule.
In addition to asking God to provide new volunteers, it is also important to ask folks to serve. Sunday announcements and email blasts can get the word out that you need help, but nothing brings more volunteers into the ministry than personally asking people to join your team.
Combine the two, and you have a powerful recruitment tool. Pray and ask God to provide volunteers and ask the Lord to impress upon your heart the names of people you should ask to join your team or fill a key position. Then, when you ask a person to fill a slot, let them know you’ve been praying and felt an impression to ask them to serve. Ask them to pray about joining your team and helping out in your ministry.
Call on the Men
Many dads are qualified to serve in children’s ministry, but oftentimes can view serving in children’s ministry as something the ladies do. We need to rally our dads to lead in our ministry. If you only recruit the mothers and grandmothers to serve, you are skipping over 50 percent of the available serving pool.
Ask dads to serve in the same classroom as their son or daughter and help you disciple and train the next generation. Children’s ministry is also a great training ground for dads to learn more about reaching and discipling their own children. I like to spur on dads by highlighting the effect their teaching in the classroom will have on their kids. Kids love to see their dad in front of the classroom and let the other classmates know, “That’s my dad.”
Deploy Your Youth Ministry
While it is essential to staff every class with adults, teens are great with kids and can provide the extra helpers you need to staff your class. Talk to your youth pastor about your children’s ministry needs and see if he will get behind an effort to deploy the youth in your classrooms.
We created a drama team staffed almost entirely by the teens of our church. They practice performing a short skit twice a month for our grade school classes. Once the program got up and running, the grade school kids started to want to join the drama team “when they got older.” As teens graduated from the ministry to attend college, younger teens fresh out of our children’s ministry filled in the spots left behind.
If you want to retain your workers, create a culture of encouragement in your ministry. Limit workers’ service to once per month so that no one gets burned out. Do a walk-through every Sunday and look for ways to encourage the folks who are serving. Remind parents to thank the workers as they go back to pick up their children.
Check in with a new worker or helper soon after their first class begins to see if they have questions or need any help. One of the best ways to retain workers is to ensure they have everything they need and know what to do. Thank workers who had a rough day with a crying child or other classroom trials.
Finally, encourage your coordinators and leaders. We have a special Christmas dinner every winter and a summer picnic with games every summer for our key leaders. We give them gift cards and gifts to thank them for their service. While parents serving are doing their part, your leaders are called to added responsibility and give additional time that is worth honoring.
When we create an environment of encouragement and joy, we’re more likely to retain the workers we have and help keep the staff we need to provide ample coverage in the classroom. That, in turn, makes it easier for everyone and makes for a fun serving experience. When teachers and helpers enjoy their service, they will stay on longer, which means you will have fewer slots to fill. When the workload is evenly distributed and you are no longer short staffed, folks can sense the order and appreciate the calm and relaxed greetings they receive when they enter your ministry. It is then that you are more likely to have a parent spontaneously approach you and say, “I’d love to serve in children’s ministry—can you use the help?”
Putting an extra set of hands in a classroom encourages everyone and helps with worker retention. So, pray in faith that the Lord would provide all the workers needed to bring in the harvest of the next generation.
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