Key Steps to Recruiting Volunteers
Begging is the lowest form of building your volunteer team yet most of us resort to it at one time or another. I discovered first hand that begging only leads to guilty committals that last for a few months at most before the guilty party bows out.
The precious time taken to orientate and train these people is wasted for you and them. In this article we will discuss several key components that need to be in place to not only attract long term leaders and volunteers, but also keep them.
STEP ONE: People Skills
You will need to develop some basic “people skills” to assist you in determining what type of person would best fit the needs within the children’s ministry. What area of children's ministry holds the greatest need for recruiting? Maybe it's one or more of the following:
- nursery workers
- large group leaders
- behind the scenes office workers
In order to fill each of these needs effectively you will want to place the right people in the right places.
For example, you would not want to put someone who is soft spoken, gentle, and meek as lead teacher in a room with 20 four and five year olds. She may do better in the nursery with 3 or 4 babies. On the flip side, babies may not enjoy being cared for by an outgoing, boisterous teacher with a high level of energy and the vocal cords to prove it.
Years ago I was hired as the children's pastor of a church that had strong attendance and growing numbers of children each weekend. With the growing numbers there was a great need for someone to oversee the administration of the children’s ministry. I immediately set out to find someone that had the proper skills to meet the need. A few weeks later I found her within my volunteer base and within 6 months I hired her part time.
In order to fill the positions effectively you will need to do some research on basic personality types. You also must have some knowledge of “gift assessment” and what type of people/personality type’s work best in different areas of children’s ministry. There are many great books and resources that teach on this subject. I have included some basic information based on the D.I.S.C theory. This will help lay a foundation of knowledge for you to build on as you go about placing the right people in the right areas of ministry.
First, you will notice that people will be either TASK-ORIENTED or PEOPLE-ORIENTED in the way they view their daily responsibilities and activities. They will also be either OUTGOING or RESERVED. When you combine or mix these four characteristics you come up with a great variety of personalities. We will begin by giving a definition of each of the above characteristics to help you better understand what to look for in your staff and volunteers.
They are kind of like the energizer bunny! They just keep talking and talking and always seem to be going somewhere. They tend to be:
- Aggressive and emotional
- Not afraid to express themselves and are very visual
- When telling a story they will be very expressive and will involve much body movement
- Like to be involved in something
- Generally enjoy holding a leadership role
- Most like to be in charge of projects, people, programs, and events
- Don’t mind taking chances
The areas they could work on to establish a “balance” would be to take the time to think things through and consider others before they move ahead or make changes.
- Tend to keep to themselves more
- Listen more and ask more questions
- Tend to be more supportive, respectful, and gentle in speech
- Much better control of their emotions than outgoing people
- Generally keep their emotions and opinions to themselves (unless asked)
- Usually polite and demonstrate patience
- Normally very steady and reliable and are not big risk takers
The areas they could work on would be to lighten up and be more assertive.
- Focus on “getting the job done”
- Love to plan things out and make things happen
- Reliable and detail-oriented
- Sometimes so focused on task (get it done no matter what) that they lose sight of the needs of others
- Sometimes so direct that they end up offending others they work with
The areas they could work on would be to take the time to listen to others and be more sensitive to the needs of all those involved in the task.
- More interested in developing relationships with co-workers than the task at hand
- Very open and enjoy sharing with and caring for others
- Good listeners and are sensitive to the needs of those around them
The areas they could work on would be to not lose sight of the task and stay focus on the objective set before them.
Four Basic Personality Types
We will briefly cover the basic characteristics you will find in each of the four personalities. What you will find is that most people are very strong in one or sometimes two of the four.
Another name for this person is choleric. Only about 10% of people are “D’s”, (God knew the world would not survive if there were more than that.)
- Likes to be in control even when not supposed to be
- Can be described as driving, demanding, determined, decisive, and a doer
- Tend to have a do-it-now attitude about everything
- Like to be given options
- Body language is normally very direct and they walk in confidence
- Balanced Choleric's make great leaders
These people will come to mind when you are in need of someone who knows how to control, give orders, oversee and delegate. The plus to having a “D” personality within the children’s ministry is that they tend to “get things done”. The negative being you might have to coach them on people skills and clean up a few “offenses” on the way. I bet you can think of at least one person you know that is a choleric.
Another name for this type of person is sanguine
- Likes to be noticed and acknowledged
- Appreciate the cards and thank you notes the most
- Can be described as influencing, inducing, impressive, interactive, interesting, and interested in others
- Having fun is important to an inspirational person
- Love to talk, and talk, and talk
- Encouraged by incentive
- Proud of their accomplishments
- like the best of everything
These people will come to mind if you are in need of someone to plan an event or bring life to a party. They are also the ones that you spend 20 minutes on the phone with when you only meant to leave a quick message.
Whenever I have to make a lot of calls to teachers to let them know about something, I always call these people last! That way I know I would get all the other people called and not run out of time. It is very important that you be a good listener when talking with a sanguine.
Another name for this type of person is phlegmatic.
- Wants to know that they are accepted
- Go along with just about any choice you make and do it with an easygoing attitude
- Can be described as stable, steady, sentimental, shy, status-quo, and a specialist.
- Very flexible.
- Not afraid to show their emotions rather than keep them hidden
- Not very assertive and tend to communicate through body language
- Tend to be more humble than other personality types
A true phlegmatic will never sacrifice a relationship just to have his way or be in control. They are very “people first” orientated.
Another name for this type of personality is melancholy.
- Wants to be accurate
- Detail oriented. Think of those little things that others tend to overlook
- Like to be informed down to the last detail and then they will add a few more
- Can be described as competent, calculating, concerned, careful, and contemplative
- Like to ask questions
- The more information they are given the more effective they will be
- Tend to ask many questions and keep to themselves
- Tend to always have a concern about something
I suggest you put this type of person over administrative projects and keeping up with paperwork and scheduling.
Second Step: Recruiting the Right People for the Right Job
How you go about recruiting people will determine what kind of response you get. As we discussed at the beginning, begging is the lowest form of recruiting and generally produces a handful of guilty people who commit to help and end up stepping down within 2 to 3 months.
I've found that focusing on the gifts and talents people have and then placing people in areas of service that allow them to use those gifts and talents is one of the most effective ways to attract and keep long term volunteers.
Be specific when recruiting volunteers. Divide your Children’s Ministry into four basic areas of service that people can clearly see where they may volunteer to serve and what will be asked of them. Here are some suggestions:
Teaching – Ministering to, teaching, and mentoring children.
Those who prepare and teach lessons, and maintain classroom order during services.
Those who mentor and minister to the children one on one
Those who follow up and visit children who have been absent, sick, or first time visitors.
Those who commit to ongoing training.
Those who will become lead teachers and commit to mentor other teachers.
Registration – Sign in, transition, hall way monitoring, and child safety.
Those who assist in the signing in and out of children
Those who monitor the hallways and assist in supervising roaming children
Those who greet and give direction and information to new comers
Those who oversee the data entry and maintaining of all info and databases.
Setup before service and pack up after service.
Administration – Miscellaneous office work.
Those who assist with filing, data entry, and paperwork.
Those who assist in placing orders, P.O. requests, and purchasing.
Those who assist with copies, mail outs, flyers, and emails.
Those who answer phone calls and take messages
Those who are responsible for ordering, organizing, distributing, and maintaining all supplies needed.
Support – Special needs and Special Events.
Décor Team – Responsible for decorating all rooms and keeping bulletin boards current
Prayer Team – Responsible for supporting leadership, teachers, volunteers, and families through prayer.
Cleaning Team – Responsible for maintaining cabinets, classrooms, bathrooms, and Hallways.
Special Events Team – Responsible for creating, planning, advertising, and hosting all special events and activities throughout the year.
There are many very creative ways to recruit people to become a part of your team without resorting to begging. Here are just a few:
- You have to develop and believe in your mission statement and vision and then present it in a way that will stir the hearts of those whom God has been speaking to. People want to be a part of something with purpose, and what is more worthwhile than reaching children with the message of Jesus Christ? I have found that the most effective way to attract and keep good volunteers is to have a defined purpose in place for why you are doing what you are doing. Once you've established the vision and purpose of the childrens ministry cast it often in various creative ways. Bullitin boards, T. shirts, flyers, posters and signs, mail outs, etc.
- Make sure there is order and structure to what you are doing, offer clear communication as to what their role will be, and be passionate about ministering to kids. When you have a healthy children’s ministry people will want to be a part of it.Your volunteers will become the best recruiting tool you have because they will be the ones who go out and recruit for you just by the way they talk about the children’s ministry.
- Keep the needs you have before God in prayer and as He lays people upon your heart go and speak with them personally. The #1 reason most people do not help is because they have never been asked. When you ask, do so creatively through skits, videos, songs, etc. Just DON'T BEG!
- Keep the congregation informed as to what is happening in children’s ministry by sending a "How God moved in Childrens Ministry this month" email to your Sr. Pastor. Fill it with good reports about salvations, baptisms, and how kids lives have been changed. If possible have the children do something special during service at least twice a year. Immediately follow this with an invitation e to be a part of what God is doing in the children’s ministry. Invite interested people to come and talk with you, or pass out some forms they can fill out and turn in at offering time.
- Put up a neat, colorful looking bulletin board in a high traffic area letting people know about upcoming events and what areas they could be of assistance. (Have forms available that are in a folder stapled to the board that they can fill out and turn in.)
- Choose a 5th Sunday in the year and honor all those who help in the ministry of the church. Show a video of kids saying "thanks" to their teachers and talking about how they've influenced their choices and lives. After the service, have tables set up with information about each ministry within the church. Invite those who are not yet involved to stop by the ministry table they would be interested in getting involved in.
- Offer “part time” positions that do not require any amount of preparation or teaching, such as “hall monitors, registration assistants, Snack distributors, resource coordinators, story tellers, etc. You’ll be surprised how much time it will free up for the teachers to be able to focus more on the lesson and the class.
- You could even include the youth of your church for some of these tasks. Be sure to lay down clear guidelines & policies when allowing youth to volunteer. You will find basic Youth applications and forms to help you with this under the "FREE STUFF" section. They need to understand that they are committing to work and that helping in children’s ministry is not an excuse to “get out of main service” and hang with friends. Refer to the policies and procedures section that lists guidelines you may want to consider when recruiting youth.
Third Step: Keeping Safety a Top Priority.
The most obvious step towards safety is to keep a first aid kit handy for those minor scrapes and bruises. It is also important to have "Incident/Accident" forms on hand in order to keep parents informed in case of an injury or incident that might take place during service.
No matter what the size of your church, it is very important to do background checks and keep files on all those who work with the children. For more information about background checks call Child Protective Services. You can find their number by dialing 1-800-555-1212 and ask for the 1-800 number in your area. I would also suggest you have a basic application on file for each person who works with the children. I have provided an example of a basic application in the reproducible forms section.
It is also important to set up a check in/check out or registration system, especially for nursery and preschool departments. It can be as simple as having a sign in/out sheet and giving the parent or guardian a laminated card with a number on it that matches the number next to the child’s name on the sign in sheet. They turn the card back into you when they pick up their child. This is a must if you have visitors and are not familiar with who can and cannot pick up the child. It also comes in handy if you need to call a visiting parent out of service in an emergency. You can simply flash their number up on the overhead or have the pastor announce that they are needed in the nursery. You can make your own numbered cards by using Avery business card template #5271 or #5372 and printing number templates. You will find Numbered I.D.cards in the "FREE STUFF" section. Just continue the number sequence so that you have enough for the amount of children you register each service. If you print these out and laminate them you will be able to give a numbered card to the parents as they drop of f their child and then write the number next to the child’s name on the sign in sheet. Whoever picks up the child must have the card with the same number on it as is next to the child’s name.
In order to help teachers remember children's names you could also use 3 column mailing labels. Write the child's name in all three labels across one row and attach one to the child's back, one to the diaper bag and one to the attendance sheet.
Another very important part of keeping the children safe is to have policies and procedures in place that will prevent any adult from having opportunity to be alone with a child. I have listed a few basic policies every church should have in place. You can adjust these to fit the needs of your children’s ministry.
Always require two people to be in the room with the children. One could be a youth.
Have adults monitoring the classrooms and hallways during service.
Have adults stand outside of the bathroom door when escorting a child to the bathroom.
Never allow anyone to be alone with a child.
Keep records on file of all volunteers’ applications and background checks.
Become familiar with the requirements the state has on reporting suspected child abuse or neglect. Contact C.P.S in your area for free information on this.
Train your volunteers to look for unusual behaviors and tell them to ask questions when they see strangers in the children’s ministry area..
Fourth Step: Orientation
There is nothing more frustrating than to be put in a position where you have no idea what you are doing and/or you have no resources to do it. Many children’s ministries are full of very frustrated volunteers that have been put in that very position. They are sometimes handed a lesson and without training, resources or with very little notice, they are placed into a room full of children who are wondering how long they will last. A simple implementation of the following suggestions can create a more positive experience for your volunteers:
- Take volunteers on a tour of the children’s department during service and introduce them to the other volunteers.
- Inform them of the basics of children’s ministry, how it is run, and what they can expect.
- Let them know what resources are supplied, what the procedures are when requesting supplies, and where they are located.
- Put your policies and procedures in writing and encourage them to read it. Schedule a Q & A session to discuss the policies and procedures with them.
- Have a system in place where someone checks up on them regularly for the first month to see if they have any questions or need anything. Do this during service if possible, if not then call them during the week.
- Send them a note welcoming them to the department.
- Make up a schedule on a quarterly basis and mail the schedule to all those who are on it. Take time to highlight their name on the schedule. Most people are willing to commit to 3 months of service. Once they are involved in a thriving children’s ministry they will stay longer if that is where God would have them serve. A very basic "Volunteer Schedule" can be found in the FREE STUFF section.
Fifth Step: Training
It will be a great benefit to the teachers for you to offer ongoing training. This can be in various forms such as books, DVD's, online sites that offer free information, seminars, or workshops held at the church.
Here are some training topics teachers would benefit from:
NOTE: I will continue to add articles covering these topics that can be printed and given to your volunteers. Keep checking back for updates!
How Children learn
Basic Characteristics of different age groups - See "How Children Develop" under the About Kids section.
How to communicate effectively with children
How to make learning fun
Large group teaching
Small group teaching
How to lead a class effectively
The importance of preparation
Dealing with challenging children
How to avoid burn out
How to work with others and not loose your salvation
Of course, the list could go on and on but these are essential foundational topics for any teacher to minister to the whole class effectively.
If you choose to offer training at your church it is very important to make it fun. If teachers leave feeling refreshed, restored, and refilled, they will come back again and again. If a workshop is boring they will think twice about “wasting” two to three hours of their time attending the next one. There are many great resources available to assist you in this area. Take some time to browse the Internet or visit your local Christian bookstore. Creative For Kids Ministry also offers workshops on all of the above topics. Call us toll free at 877-637-0122 for more information.
Sixth Step: Communication
Always remember that people want to know how much you care before they care to hear how much you know. It will be important for you to have a structure set up within the core of your children’s ministry that is designed to reach out and develop relationships with those who teach and volunteer in the children’s ministry. One person can do this for a while, but as the children’s ministry grows your list of volunteers will grow and you will need to establish a group of leaders that will be able to assist in this area. A good ratio would be one leader to 6 or 8 volunteers. Ask these leaders to make it a point to contact each person once a month to see how they are doing and if there is anything they need prayer for or assistance in. You will find great ideas in how to show appreciation for your volunteers if you will take some time to browse the Internet or visit your local Christian bookstore. The main goal is to let your teachers and volunteers know that the children’s ministry cares for them and is there for them just as they are there for the children’s ministry. A key point to remember is that a simple gesture of appreciation, as small as a SINCERE word of thanks or a hug, goes a long way, and will mean a lot to those who give of their time and provisions.
Make sure you also communicate with them on a quarterly basis regarding all upcoming events. You could do this by sending out a quarterly newsletter or by including a fun flyer with their schedules. Email is also a great way to keep in touch on a regular basis.
Seventh Step: Creating unity
You are ministering to children and this does not make Satan very happy. He will do all he can to try to kill, steal, and destroy what you are building. One way he attempts to do this is by trying to bring discord and division between your team of volunteers and leaders. For this reason it will be important for you to build unity and keep it. As you orientate and train people to be a part of the children’s ministry, incorporate the following principles, and let them know that these are the principles you want all of those involved with children’s ministry to apply:.
RECOGNIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF ALL INVOLVED
God has called, appointed and anointed each one involved to play a special part in ministering to the children. All of us fill roles that are needed. We all depend on each other to make this team a success.
ESTABLISH HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS
The goal of each teacher and volunteer should be to establish a healthy relationship with those they work with and build a trust and respect for each other, and for the gifts and talents God has given to each. We will address conflicts and issues promptly, based on the word of God and walking in love. We will do our best not to take anything too personally.
LAY A FOUNDATION OF UNITY
Through communication, prayer, and serving each other we will build a hedge of unity around us so that Satan cannot get through to try and bring strife and cause division in our team. Have clear biblical guidelines on how to handle conflict and resolve it.
THOSE HE CALLS HE EQUIPS
We must realize the importance of being prepared and the need for ongoing training. Each volunteer will be committed to develop themselves through reading books and listening to teaching pertaining to ministering to children and attend all scheduled workshops and meetings.