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Four Ways To Deal With Limited Volunteers

Leadership / Volunteers //

Every children’s minister is constantly recruiting. I’ve heard legends of children’s programs that have more volunteers than they know what to do with, but my guess is that such programs are like Sasquatch – we’ve heard of them, but haven’t actually seen one.

OK, I’m just kidding, but the vast majority of children’s ministry leaders are constantly looking for volunteers to fill gaps in their ministry. I’m no exception. Our Awana program just started for the fall, and we got hit with more kids than ever before, so much that we had to close our doors to new students for a week until we found more leaders, and we’re still looking for more. Soon I’ll be looking for helpers for Fall Festival and our Christmas program. Even though I know it will be stressful, I’ve managed to pick up a few ideas on how to manage when your volunteer numbers aren’t ideal. Here are four of them:

Ask memorably: When you’re making a large appeal for leaders, a straightforward “we need help” message is going to get lost in the noise. Instead, make sure there’s something in your request that sticks in people’s minds. If you have more kids than you can handle, celebrate the fact that your ministry has grown. If there’s a new program you want to offer, describe it in exciting ways. Make sure that your ask sticks in the mind of your congregation.

Plan creatively: There’s nothing like a volunteer shortage to help you streamline your ministry. If you’re having a hard time finding the volunteers you feel you need, then perhaps you need to rethink some of your job descriptions. Maybe you’re asking people to fill roles that are awkward for them, and if you tweak them you’ll have more success. On the other hand, maybe you can combine roles or change your program to require fewer leaders. Don’t hesitate to look closely at what you are asking people to do for you.

Point back to the vision: Most people don’t simply volunteer out of the goodness of their heart. They volunteer because they are captured by the purpose of a ministry. So, when asking people to get involved, always point to the bigger vision that they’re a part of. Nobody wants to give their time simply to fill a spot on your excel spread sheet, but they do want to be a vital part of something important. Show them how their building something excellent!

Appreciate the volunteers you have: The most important part of building a larger volunteer base isn’t finding a bunch of brand new leaders, it’s loving on the ones you have. If they feel valued, they’ll do everything they can to be committed, and invite other folks to join in. On the other hand, burning through volunteers makes finding new ones nearly impossible. Start your recruiting efforts by maintaining the people you already have, and new ones will gravitate to you.

There are never as many leaders as we may hope for, but God’s shown me that if I seek them out and appreciate them in the right ways, then He’ll meet our needs. God bless, and please share your ideas for thriving limited leaders!

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About the Author

Collie Coburn is the pastor of children's ministries at First Christian Church in Santa Maria, CA. He loves doing, strategizing, and writing about children's ministry. He loves spending time with his wife and son even more. Collie blogs at innovatekids.com, and is also on twitter.