Five Reasons Why People Don’t Volunteer

It’s too difficult to get involved.

As children’s pastors, we are very good at making complex, theological concepts easy for kids to grasp.

But we are even better at turning a volunteer sign-up process into a confusing maze.

And I understand, the onboarding process has many parts.

Ma-aaaaaany parts.

There’s a sign-up form followed by a volunteer application, followed by a background check, followed by an interview, followed by an orientation meeting. (I feel like I am missing a few steps, but you get the point.)

If a person stops by your office to learn about children’s ministry, and you give them a long list of everything they need to do before they can start serving in children’s ministry… don’t be surprised if you never hear back from them.

Here’s the truth — people get very easily overwhelmed. For many people, if you ask them to do more than one thing at a time — it’s too much for them to remember and do. As a result, they choose the path of least resistance and do nothing.

SOLUTION: Break down your entire onboarding process into a series of clear individual steps.

Instead of overwhelming potential volunteers with too many details, present only one step at a time (depending on where they are on the journey.)

In all your communications—whether from stage, through email, video, social post, bulletin insert, or one-on-one conversation—have only one action point. That one next step that you want people to take. If you give them two or more, you’ll confuse them, and very likely scare them away.

Even though the onboarding journey has many components, like filling out an application, submitting Child Abuse History clearance forms, signing a waiver, going to a fingerprinting service, attending orientation meeting, personal interview, and more… ask them to do only one thing at a time.

Once they accomplish that one thing, then you can move on and explain what the next item on the list is.

Remember, how you eat an elephant? (One bite at a time.)

It’s the same way how you onboard a new volunteer.

Here’s what we need to keep in mind. People’s lives, brains, and schedules are often overextended and overstuffed. They can remember and focus only on so much at a time.

That’s why it’s important to hand-hold them through the onboarding process.

If it helps, post this reminder on your office wall:

Bite-sized tasks.

Baby steps.

Eating an elephant, one small piece at a time.

People mistakenly think that they are not a good fit for children’s ministry.

Some people in our churches have a warped idea of who is cut out for children’s ministry, so they quickly count themselves out.

Let’s be honest, there are certain stereotypes that need to be deconstructed. Here are just a few of them.


If people are thinking they are wrong for children’s ministry, is it any wonder that they don’t reply to your emails, return your phone calls, or talk to you after the service to learn more about volunteering?

SOLUTION: Actively debunk these stereotypes by highlighting all sorts of volunteers—including men, elderly, teens, introverts, and so on.

Here are just two practical ways I did it in my last church.


Our children’s ministry wing has this big, empty wall 8.6 feet tall and 26 feet wide. What do you do with all this empty space?

But of course, you create a Wall of Fame!

I asked all my volunteers to email me their selfies, and then with a little bit of Photoshop magic and a whole lot of poster printing, this wall appeared.

I kept it for four Sundays!

Kids loved looking for their teachers and pointing them out to their parents.

My volunteers felt appreciated.

And also, this Wall of Fame sent a clear message: It takes all kinds of people to disciple the children of our church.


I wanted to give my volunteers superhero treatment, because they deserve it. So I asked them to email me a selfie and answers to some questions.

And that’s how Superhero Volunteer Cards came to be.

For each grade/class there was an envelope with cards for every volunteer who was serving that particular age group.

Every child received an envelope and took it home. It was a fun way for them to get to know their teachers!

All first time guests also received these envelopes. It helped them remember who taught in their class.

These superhero cards accomplished three big goals.

  1. Made my volunteers more accessible and relatable. Because kids and parents knew some interesting facts about the teachers, it made it easier for them to strike up a conversation and find some common ground.

  2. Provided my volunteers with an extra layer of support. Parents and kids were encouraged to use these superhero cards as prayer cards. They could hang them on their fridge to remember to pray for the volunteers and celebrate them on their birthday.

  3. Created a positive image of the children’s ministry, and sent a message to everyone: Want to be a superhero? Serve the littles!

By the way, if you like these superhero cards, I created a fully customizable kit just for you. You can download it >> here and start creating your own superhero cards right away.