Utilize online resources
I remember it clearly: the day I realized I could no longer lead kids’ ministry the way I had in the past. On Saturday, August 9, 2008 we had just finished our big training event, designed to kick off the new year of kids’ ministry with a bang. I sent each leader a “Save the Date” four months in advance and had cast vision throughout the previous year of how we needed to raise the bar on how we minister to the kids and families of our community. I truly believed my team was committed and excited about this new season of ministry, but after a dozen emails, reminders in pre-service prayer huddles, and even a few stage announcements in “Big Church” (plus some mild begging) only 65% of our volunteer force showed up for what had clearly been communicated as our most important gathering of the year.
After the final bag of trash had been thrown out, I took some time alone to sulk and think about how awful my volunteer leaders were. In my hurt and anger, I concluded that my team simply lacked commitment. As I began to strategize how I was going to guilt them into being more committed, I was hit with a major dose of conviction. God spoke in such a direct way in saying that, “These people are committed; they’re just busy.” After I lost the argument with God that my 6-hour training marathon was more important than their Saturday with their families, I knew my next step was to use technology to bridge the gap between busy schedules and the needs of the ministry.
Prior to the mega-church and multi-site movements, gathering volunteers for equipping and team-building events was much easier. However, many volunteers currently attend and serve at different services, or different campuses altogether, making a short meeting after church nearly impossible. Effective leaders must be more creative and use available technology to bridge this gap. Technology is driving team management in the secular world today with scores of web tools and smart device apps to connect team members that are rarely in the same room together. This is the world your volunteer teams live in, making the time ripe for leaders to use online resources to build great volunteer teams.
Any ministry can uniquely benefit from utilizing web-based tools, but there are three ways it helps build great kids’ church teams.
- Honoring volunteers’ time
- Building a spirit of collaboration
- Creating a culture of equipping and excellence
There are few members of a volunteer team who have a significant amount of free time on their hands. They want to serve, but they need leaders to understand volunteer ministry is not the center of their universe. When a volunteer believes the team leader honors his time and creatively connects with him without requiring dozens of hours in team meetings, he will respond by serving with enthusiasm. The criticism of this technique is that it damages the relational culture of the ministry and removes the personal contact leaders have with their team. However, the exact opposite is true.
When applied well, using online tools does not take the place of personal relationships; it actually creates the space for them. There are only a limited number of hours in a year that a volunteer can dedicate to a ministry. Online tools simply provide the leader with an opportunity to maximize their limited hours by removing the activities that previously were done in a live group context. Immediately, several hours are freed up for relationship building, praying together, and having fun as a team. Make no mistake—great ministry teams do those three things well. Utilizing online tools gives teams a realistic chance.
Using online resources, like RallyZoo.com, allows a leader to communicate, collaborate, schedule and equip in ways that eliminate the extra meetings, phone calls and emails. It is not honoring to a volunteer to call a 3-hour meeting on a Saturday when the same result could have been achieved online. No doubt the content is vital, but the leader can communicate to the team just as well (or better) by recording a simple webcast at his/her desk and post it to an online gathering spot for that team. Then, volunteers will feel like their time is honored as they participate in the training using their tablet, phone, or computer while on their lunch hour or after putting the kids to bed.
Build a Spirit of Collaboration
Great leaders give their volunteers a voice, which creates a culture of collaboration. Volunteers who feel heard and take ownership raise their level of involvement, and seek to be stronger small group leaders, large group teachers, etc. This is risky for ministry leaders since some of those voices disagree with their philosophy of ministry, and this opportunity to be heard may open the door for conflict. It is tempting for a leader to create a culture where his/her voice is the only one that matters. While easier for the leader, this is shortsighted and only builds a mediocre kids’ ministry.
On RallyZoo.com, a space has been created for team members to gather online on their own time and collaborate through group discussion. Since meeting with each team member individually to allow their voice to be heard is not realistic (and let’s be honest, having more meetings doesn’t help either), this space allows a volunteer the chance to hop on the team page and share his opinion, make suggestions, ask questions, and share stories. Will some of what is posted be out in left field? Yes, but the reward is much greater than the risk when amazing ideas are allowed to be processed by volunteers who know the ministry is also theirs, not just the ministry head’s.
Create a Culture of Equipping and Excellence
In Ephesians 4:11-12, the apostle Paul states that the call of a ministry leader is “for equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” If a ministry leader does not have this first and foremost in his mind, then he has created a culture with major cracks in the foundation. “Equipping of the saints” is not a suggestion; it is a clear description of the primary role of a ministry leader. God has called each of these volunteers to serve, but He’s placed the leader there to prepare them to do well what they have been called to do. Without a doubt, this is hard work; it’s simply not enough to teach volunteers how to use the curriculum and about safety policies and procedures. Volunteer leaders need to be equipped to connect with kids and parents, grow deeper in their walk with Jesus, and become mentors to new leaders. Today’s ministry leaders are over and again faced with the daunting question: When?
Utilizing online resources gives a space for basic levels of equipping to take place online, so that time is freed up for deeper levels of equipping to take place in live settings. Most kids’ ministry leaders are staring down the weekend and know that the experience has to be great, so the idea of taking the time to equip leaders to a deeper level makes their heart rate double. The solution is not to pass over the need, but to utilize resources available to maximize time. Creating this culture builds up leaders, attracts other high capacity leaders, and most importantly, gives our kids a better chance of connecting with Jesus.