Leading in children’s or family ministry is hard. It’s complex and challenging. It’s time consuming.
Leading volunteers is, perhaps, the most difficult form of leadership (here’s a post on this).
Too often, in my own experience and in working with churches across the country, I see trying to lead their ministry without leading their volunteers. That might sound counter-intuitive, but it’s true. Once the volunteer is in place, we seem too often to simply forget about them until there is a crisis. That’s a great way to lose volunteers. And it’s simply not right.
I believe that, as leaders, our responsibilities for volunteers goes beyond simply enlisting them and putting them in to ministry. Our responsibility is to walk with them in the journey of faith and service.
5 RESPONSIBILITIES LEADERS HAVE TOWARD VOLUNTEERS:
1. Know them personally.
“Ministry happens best in the context of relationships.” Always has, always will. Whether this is parent to child, volunteer to child, staff to parent, or staff to volunteer, ministry always works best in the context of relationship.
Getting to know your volunteers is critical to successful ministry and enables all of the following responsibilities to a far greater extent.
2. Listen to them often.
Besides being the best way to get to know them, listening also is the first step in sharing the vision (see the next responsibility). And do you know that I’ve had more great ideas about my ministry from volunteers than anywhere else? These are the people in the trenches, seeing the reality of what’s going on. They often have the best perspective of what will work and what won’t, what is needed and what isn’t.
3. Align them with vision.
Vision is (or should be) what you and your ministry is all about. That vision must be aligned with the overall vision of the church, and then successfully transferred to your volunteers. If they are not actively engaged with the defined vision, then more than likely they are doing little more than (at best) teaching some great ideas and (at worst) simply babysitting.
4. Equip them for serving.
This is your primary responsibility as a church leader—equip people to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12).
5. Engage them spiritually.
This, of all the things listed here, is the area where I believe we fail the most. Leading in children’s ministry in any capacity is a sacred responsibility. Yet how many of us follow up on the spiritual lives of our volunteers? How often do we ask what they are learning, or how they are growing, or what they are struggling with?
This does not require personal discipleship of volunteers (although that would be great with some), but rather simply creating systems, having conversations, and engaging them in their spiritual journey. Not only is it our responsibility for the purpose of protecting the ministry we are called to lead, but it’s our responsibility because they are as much a part of “our ministry” as the families we serve.
IDEAS FOR FULFILLING RESPONSIBILITIES
- Decide that these are priorities.
- Align your work habits with these responsibilities. This means you probably need to delegate things that others can do so you can focus on what only you can do (like these responsibilities).
- Create systems (it’s OK … even if you think having a system “de-personalizes” some of this, it’s better than not doing it at all. Here’s an example of having a system: The Best Connection Tool).
- Equip other key leaders (whether staff or volunteers) to carry the load of these responsibilities so that they become part of your ministry culture.