Let’s face it, the most dreaded part of children’s programs is recruiting volunteers! Whether your program is large or small, we all face the same hurdle — finding enough people to staff it.
After working with dozens of vacation Bible schools, special programs, and literally thousands of children, let me encourage you to try network recruiting — getting your volunteers to recruit other volunteers who’ll recruit other volunteers who’ll recruit… I think you get the picture!
When looking for leaders to help recruit, make sure these people have good skills in relating to others. Find people who are good at making friends, because most people will start with their friends when they recruit. And build in relational ties in your children’s ministry teams so your volunteers feel connected to one another. Use these three keys to ignite your volunteer recruitment this year.
1. Ministry travels the road of relationships. This past summer one of our married couples thought they might check out some opportunities to lead adults in our church. They were invited to attend a summer leadership training. They’d been serving with first-graders, leading them in a small group time on Sunday mornings during our Christian education hour.
On the Sunday that they missed being with their first-graders to attend the leadership meeting, they struggled with whether they should leave children’s ministry and become adult small group leaders instead. That question was quickly answered for them as they made their way across the parking lot after the training meeting. One of the boys from their small group spotted them and said, “Say, Doug, where have you been, we missed you!” That confirmed in their hearts that the right place for them was with the kids. It was the relationship with kids that pulled them back into the ministry.
When you recruit potential volunteers, share stories such as these about workers who have great relationships with kids. Encourage volunteers to tell others their stories about relationships with kids to motivate people to consider children’s ministry as a place to serve in the church.
One of our volunteers who has worked with kids for 16 years tells this story: “I’m not by nature very patient and forgiving of either myself or my peers — but when caring for these little folks, I find I can be both patient and forgiving. As I’ve come to love the children more, I’ve likewise been better able to understand the immeasurable love, patience, and forgiveness of my heavenly Father. Sunday morning nursery duty is absolutely the high point of my week!
“The best argument I can give to anyone else is to tell them how blessed I am by the privilege I have to spend an hour or so each week with the tiniest members of the body of Christ — and then invite them to experience the same blessing. Volunteering is kind of like salvation itself — it’s such a great blessing that my only natural reaction is to want to share it with others.”
2. Variety is the spice of life — and it gets more people involved. Our church has been blessed with a growing children’s ministry, which means we must constantly add new people to work with our children. We have four services on Sunday averaging 700 children. Currently, God has blessed us with 250 volunteers. And, no, that’s still not quite enough.
Yet not all those volunteers do the same thing. We’ve created as many different types of jobs as we can think of. We have more than 30 positions people can fill — that way almost anyone can find a place to serve with our children. Some are directly involved with children and others are in more of a support role. I’ve even had one person tell me he could get involved as long as he didn’t have to work with children! Believe it or not, we had a place for him.
Vacation Bible school always needs people to drive buses, someone to handle snacks, someone else to lead crafts, and so on. Variety gives almost everyone an opportunity to serve out of their giftedness or interests. It’s also the key to getting as many people as possible involved in ministry with children.
3. Make it fun so your workers recruit others! Make it fun for everyone — including adults. This is easy to do with VBS. When something is fun, everyone wants to be involved — kids and adults alike! Usually there’s great enthusiasm for vacation Bible school. If only we had that same VBS enthusiasm for all our programs!
Our key to success on Sundays has been that we invest the same amount of energy usually reserved only for VBS. We’re working at building a program that’s fun for everyone. When I came here five years ago, I designed a Sunday morning program that was structured like a vacation Bible school. With the same idea of having a theme, crafts, games, snacks, small groups instead of classes, and big group worship, we experience fun with a purpose.
Fun is contagious! One current worker who got involved only to help as a floater said, “I just enjoyed the excitement on the kids’ faces and their excitement about learning about Jesus, so I was led to stay and help!”
Having our volunteers recruit other volunteers started out with having them find their own substitutes when they’d be absent. As time went by, some began to find their own replacements when their time of service ended. Recruiting isn’t only the job of our paid staff anymore; it’s now all of our volunteers’ responsibility.
Here are stories from some of our people to show how it’s worked in our church.
Deidra says, “I recruited a friend who I’m discipling. I suggested that she could use her musical talents to glorify God while serving others.”
Stan and Jo recruited their daughter. They say, “Our 9-year-old daughter helps us with the crawlers, and in turn she’s learning her role as a willing servant.”
Annie recruited her teenage friend. She says, “I recruited someone who wasn’t doing anything after youth service, so I said, ‘Come help upstairs, we can always use extra help.’ She came and has been coming ever since.”
In a sense, what has happened, has happened by itself. We didn’t set out to spur people to recruit others, but it happened because people enjoyed serving and wanted others to experience the same reward.
In review, here are the three keys to start a great recruiting push:
In as many ways as possible, with as many means available, tell and retell the stories of the good things your workers are experiencing and doing with children.
Create as many different kinds of jobs as you can think of to get more people involved.
Make it fun so your volunteers will naturally pull in others to work with them.