Being a leader yourself, you already know how important it is to be surrounded by a great team of people. Finding folks to build our team that get our passion, connect with the message, and carry out the vision is a must. A single team is filled with so many different types of people from background, experience with kids, and personalities. So, how do you know which volunteers already serving with you are ready for more? Which volunteers are leaders? Who can you “tap” to do more?
The first thing you need to do is stop. Seriously. If you’re anything like me you have multiple lists of to-do items you are working on, running errands, trying to juggle a few different projects as well as meet with people, counsel, etc. So stop. Carve out time once a week to think with the only objective being to dream about your ministry and think about leaders. Let your mind stop and just slow down for a second. Aside from daydreaming about improving your environments and ministry if the word no were not an option, ask yourself these questions:
- Who shares my passion for ministry?
- Is there someone who takes initiative to improve things and polish their area without being asked?
- Are there individuals who spontaneously ask, “What can I do to help you?”
Those are your leaders. If she’s an assistant, ask her about being a small group leader. If he’s an SGL already, ask him to be a Lead over an environment. If she’s a natural problem solver while prepping and consistent, ask her to lead the team.
Recruiting Attracting Volunteers
First off, let’s change the focus from “recruiting” to “attracting” volunteers. I just got back from Camp KidJam and had the pleasure of learning from Jenny Zimmer—one of Orange’s amazing leaders and teachers—during the leadership session. She made the comment that she uses the word “attracting” because recruiting makes you sound like you’re begging, and you never want to beg for volunteers. I 100-percent agree. I DO NOT make parents serve with kids a suggested amount of time. Just because someone is a parent does not mean that they need to volunteer with kids. Also, I want parents to be able to come and relax and get fed spiritually without feeling that there are hoops to jump through for their children to attend. I also want every single volunteer who serves alongside me to be fully bought-in with the vision of our children’s ministry. If I’m begging people to serve, or if I use their kids’ attendance as a bargaining chip, I’m not getting people who are driven to consistently show up in a child’s life to lead them to Christ. I’m getting a warm body to cover a spot. This is going to cause more work in the long run.
By the way, if you go to Camp KidJam as leader/chaperone and don’t attend the leadership track offered to you by Orange, you are making a bonehead decision. I get it. You are tired. You want to nap. Your head hurts from all the screaming. I FEEL YOUR PAIN (literally, I was just there a few days ago). But I say this with love. Go. Listen. You will get something out of it. Orange has quality people leading those leadership sessions and no matter if you attended the Orange Conference, Orange Tour, or just drank orange juice at breakfast, you WILL get something out of it. Take the opportunity to be lead by some of the best in the biz. (Okay, carry on.)
So, how do you attract phenomenal volunteers? You pray. I know. I just gave you the church answer, right? But I’m serious! How often do we start blazing a trail on a project or idea without praying about it? How often do we stress out about things before we sit down and give it over to God first? Make the right volunteers at the top of your priority list of prayer. God loves your ministry and your kids and families more than you do. Ask Him to open your eyes to those volunteers and place them in your path. You will NOT be disappointed if you do this purposefully.
Reach out to your current volunteers to look and listen for friends and people in their circles of adult small groups and church community that would be a good fit your different areas. They are in your trenches and know what it takes. Plus, if they are a good fit volunteer, they will recruit someone similar to themselves. Right now, we are preparing to amp up again in the fall, and I’m asking each of my volunteers to “replace” themselves. That means, asking them to find someone to fill their spot as if they were leaving. I want to encourage my leaders to grow and move on. It might be spiraling up with their small group to the next grade or environment. It also might be moving away from one area of service to lead a team in another one. What an amazing leadership environment it would be if not only my volunteers were feeding into the lives of their few, but also feeding into the life of one other volunteer.
Lastly, attract great volunteers by taking care of the ones you have currently. Which bring us to . . .
Is your ministry fun to serve in? Are you personable? How do you show you care about those that serve with you? Love on them by knowing what’s going on in their lives, spending time with them, asking them their opinion about how things are going, and treating them to a little something they like on their birthday or just randomly for showing up consistently. We’ve found at our church that instead of spending money to pay a bunch of people to do things, use it to pour into our volunteers by letting them know how much they mean to us by empowering them as leaders with continual training, trusting them to do more, and doting on them a bit—they are more than happy to take things on.
Also, make sure your volunteers are serving in an area in which they are passionate. I love laughing and leading fifth graders. I don’t care if they’re smelly, an eye-roll keeps me on my toes, and their book suggestions are on point for me. However, put me in with a handful of toddlers and my gag relax will get the best of me the first time I have to wipe a snotty nose. Are your volunteers serving with the right age-group of kids? Know what makes them excited to serve. This also means you may lose people to another team at your church. That’s okay! Ideally, this philosophy will become a cornerstone of other teams as well and folks serving with hospitality may be perfect for getting kids excited about walking through the doors of your children’s ministry each day.
Identifying leaders, attracting and retaining volunteers is an ongoing cycle. It is tiring. But it’s also one that is the most worth doing. Remember, your volunteers are the face of your ministry—the ones putting the vision and strategy into place. It pays to take the time and the prayer necessary to get the right folks in place. Go team!