Virtually every workplace has standards. It might be personal behavior standards, or program standards, or safety standards…or all of these, and more. Our ministries should be no different.
Yet, as I work with churches, I often find that there are very few standards in place. Things are done haphazardly. Certainly we want spontaneity at times, and we always need to be ready to be flexible. But a lack of standards can endanger our programs, our people and our church. A lack of standards can be especially dangerous with Children’s & Family Ministry.
So what standards ought we to be concerned about? Here are a few to think about as starters…
Standards Every Church Ought to Have for Their Children’s Ministry
This might seem like the obvious one, but I am amazed at the lack of safety standards in some churches. But we are responsible to keep kids safe! And that doesn’t just mean physically—it means emotionally, mentally and spiritually, as well! And these safety standards needs to be known by all and relentlessly practiced.
If you don’t have clear safety standards in your ministry, I would suggest that this just became priority #1 for you and your ministry. If you need a place to start, our partners at KidCheck offer a terrific resource called Improving Child Safety and Security in Your Organization.
“If you are breathing, we will take you!” That seems to be the standards in some churches. And, to be honest, there was a time when that might’ve been more true than not in my own ministry.
But I discovered something: Not only was I putting my ministry at risk by taking anyone and everyone, but I was also making things much more difficult for me! You see, taking anyone who’s breathing means taking people with bad attitudes, bad habits, poor skills and much more. That creates a lot of mess that I will eventually have to clean up.
I would much rather invest in the work necessary to maintain standards at the beginning than clean up a mess at the end.
So what standards do we need to have with our volunteers? I like to go by three “A’s”:
- Attitude. Attitude is critical! Are they cheerful, patient, persistent and positive? Will they support the ministry and help find solutions, or criticize and complain? Attitude matters, so taking time to get to know volunteers is very important.
- Alignment. I want to ensure that all my volunteers are aligned with our vision, our values and our doctrine. I had a friend who discovered that she actually had a Jehovah’s Witness teaching in her Children’s Ministry! Yikes! That only happens when we take anyone and everyone because they seem like a nice person. But if you truly are heading toward a big vision in your ministry, you need people who are committed to going there with you, and that takes alignment.
- Aptitude. This is probably the least important of the three areas of consideration because it is the easiest of the three to correct. But aptitude does matter. You don’t want someone who has never been around babies to be responsible for your nursery. You don’t want a brand new Christian to lead your Children’s Church. You don’t want fearful, timid, introvert stepping in to lead the tween boys. The key is to find out what level of experience, ability and willingness to learn people have, and assign them appropriately.
For more on volunteers, check out these articles.
The pastor’s daughter told me that, now that she had kids in our ministry, she wanted to volunteer to serve. “Great!” I said, “Let me get you the volunteer application packet, and then we’ll set you up to go through the orientation.”
She looked at me like I had asked her to eat a frog.
“What?” she said, rather firmly. “I’ve grown up in this church. You know who I am. Why do I need to do all that stuff? I’m ready to serve today!”
But, no, she wasn’t ready to serve today, because she had not gone through the assimilation process that we had mandated for all volunteers. We make no exceptions to the process because it has everything to do with all the other standards we want to maintain. And, as well as I knew her, and knew who she was, I didn’t know everything about her that I needed to know in order to entrust children of my ministry to her.