Children’s Ministries are (for the most part) made up of volunteers. And each fall, as a new year of ministry begins, we happily welcome new recruits. Unfortunately, sometimes we (veteran leaders/teachers) quench new-leader enthusiasm by not doing our part in welcoming them to the team.
Here are some practical suggestions (and please add any that are not included) for engaging that new recruit to the ministry.
1. Be honest about expectations from the word “go.” The standard (and mostly untrue) line to entice people to sign up as Awana leaders is, “you’ll only have to listen to kids say verses.” That sounds easy and painless and maybe even fun, but very few Awana leaders only listen to verses. Even if the one job they have is working in Handbook Time, they need to check other non-memory types of sections to make sure they’re done right. That can take some time (and maybe some personal study) to make sure Bible study questions are answered correctly.
Then, once they’re serving for a few weeks they learn that the group is having a Saturday pizza party that they’re expected to attend, that they need to take their turn at a Large Group Lesson, that they need to help coach Bible Quizzing … Whatever is the case in the ministry in your church – be honest from the very beginning so the new volunteer isn’t surprised.
2. Get in touch with them right away. If their desire to serve in your ministry has come through the church office or another source, get in touch immediately. Tell them how glad you are to have them on the team. Take them out for coffee and get to know them (if you don’t already) on a personal basis. Let them know you’re excited to have them on board.
3. Plan a meeting just for new volunteers. Most ministries have a beginning of the year meeting. However, have a separate one for your new volunteers. (If you have only one new volunteer – you can talk over that coffee we mentioned in #2) If you combine new and veteran leaders for that first meeting – one of two dynamics can happen. The new leaders ask a lot of elementary questions that the veteran leaders already know and if the questions go on for a long time – can make the veteran leaders wishing they had stayed home to watch Monday Night Football. (Time is valuable. Meetings need to be worthwhile for everyone attending). Or, the new leaders don’t ask the questions they should be asking because they figure everyone else already knows the answers.
4. Once you have a separate meeting for the new recruits, have everyone meet together for beginning-of-the-year planning. Pray together, choose a verse for the year, talk about logistics … but also have an informal time where leaders can get to know each other. You also need to make sure all leaders have been through training and the church’s child protection program and that everyone is on the same page in regard to discipline.
5. Write job descriptions for your ministries. These don’t have to be elaborate workplace-type documents, but a listing of the responsibilities for each ministry member.
6. Team up a new leader with a veteran leader the first few weeks of club (but not forever). The veteran leader can give direction as to what to do and answer any questions the new leader might have. Sometimes a new leader gets lost that first night because all the veteran leaders know what to do and are so busy with the kids they ignore the new leader. After a week or two being ignored while everyone else is running around doing what they do, the new leader can feel as if “they don’t really need me” and quit. (Yes, it’s happened more than once.)
7. Send a quick email (or make a phone call) after the first club night and ask the new volunteer how he/she felt things went. Check in again in two or three weeks. Make sure everything is going smoothly. Help with any glitches or concerns the new volunteer might have.