Relating with Your Volunteer Team

Leadership / Volunteers //

by Nathan McLean and David Wakerley


Near the end of the book Courageous Leadership, author Bill Hybels reflects on the fact that even though there were many challenges and trials, the original core team of Willow Creek Community Church remains firm friends. In the second half of their lives they still enjoy the company of one another and doing life together. In short, their relationships are not a workplace necessity but a genuine friendship.


I think that is a ministry goal every leader should aspire to. If you want maximum effectiveness with the work you do in ministry, then communication and great relationships with the people who serve in your children’s ministry are vital.


It can often be a struggle to get all the members of your team in the same room at the same time to meet with and train them, so we have to be creative! Here at Hillsong Kids we have a multi-campus ministry and are blessed with many wonderful people who serve with us (of course, like you, we are always needing more!) It’s a challenge to communicate with and build relationships with our teams. We need to be creative and maximize what contact we do have with our volunteer teams. Here are a few things we do that we hope can give you some great ideas for your ministry setting.


  1. Set up a strong team structure – Key Teams

Each service and each age group of Hillsong Kids has a volunteer team leader. This team leader’s role is to communicate with their team, oversee the details of their service and to work out the pastor’s direction in their service. These team leaders make up the Hillsong Kids Key Team at each location. Our children’s pastors focus their communication and leadership development on these people so they can lead their service well. Hillsong Kids pastors meet with their Key Teams every other week to build relationships, give leadership input, pray and prepare for what’s coming up in the life of the church. Our Key Team meetings have a maximum of 8-10 people and run for 1 hour only. During that time, here’s what we do.


0-10 minutes – Connect

Catch up, enjoy a coffee and laugh together.


10-15 minutes – Coming Up

Share dates and information about key events that are coming up. Share the “why” behind the “what” of upcoming events. We don’t have programs just for the sake of doing more; our programs are about people. Use this time to share good reports from the life of your church and communicate to your team that they are part of the bigger picture.


15-30 minutes – Coach

Train your team on a practical skill or specific area of leadership that will help them take the ministry forward. This is an opportunity for your team to take notes so they can share what they’ve learned with others.


30-35 minutes – Cast

Share with your team what you see for your children’s ministry or what you see for an area that you can work together to improve. A powerful way to present this is with the word “imagine.” Rather than saying it’s something we “have to do” use the words “imagine if we …” This engages the emotions and paints a picture that inspires the team to go beyond where they are currently. For example: “We need to encourage children more” versus “Imagine if church was the place that a child looked forward to more than anything else in their week, because they know they will receive encouragement here.”


35-55 minutes – Create

Invite the team to share ideas, present a challenge and ask for input on solutions. Team members have a great sense of ownership, so take the time to listen and engage with them.


55-60 minutes – Conclude

Take a moment to recap your action points so everyone is clear on who is doing what. Always thank your team for coming. Let them know how valued they are and how much you appreciate what they do. Pray together. Always finish when you say you will, and respect that their time is important to them.



  1. Creative communication

Don’t give up on communication just because people don’t have time to meet together. Be creative! All Hillsong Kids Leaders receive an email once a week with a link to what we call “5-Minute Tuesday.” This is a 5-minute video from the children’s pastor letting them know what’s happening, announcing the Leader of the Week, and a quick practical and relevant training on anything from “how to run a great small group for kids” to “how to remember children’s names.” There’s a space at the bottom for comments. The site is also the place where all leaders can download their small group leader guides and children’s activity sheets.


Weekend booklets are a great way to facilitate 3-way communication (from you to key team, from key team to team members and from team back to you). Weekend booklets may include information on the curriculum you are teaching, preaching roster, program times and feedback forms. Team leaders return their weekend booklets to you and then you can follow up on service notes and feedback.


Use social media to build community with your volunteer team. Publicly praise them, engage with them and stay up to date with what’s happening in their lives. However, be careful not to let social media replace an old-fashioned phone call just to say hello. Don’t forget to communicate with and share life with members of your team who are not on Facebook or Twitter!



  1. Make meetings worthwhile

Find a time that can be consistent. If you have a time that works for your team stick with it. Be on time and encourage others to do the same. Plan your meeting before you arrive; maximize the time that you have by being well prepared. This is your time to connect with your key team as much as it is to inspire them, so ensure everyone is connected and feels included. Communicate how much you value the team by following up with people who couldn’t make it. Run through the meeting with them over the phone or in person, at a time that works for both of you.


Prior to opening the doors for weekend services, we have a short meeting with the volunteers from all our programs. In this time we pray together and communicate relevant information. Then we take a moment to review a policy or procedure and give inspiration or a quick training to the team as a whole. Because our volunteers know this time is valuable to them and their development as a leader, the meeting is worthwhile and they wouldn’t miss it!



  1. Most of all have fun

Serving in children’s ministry has got to be one of the most fun areas of your church in which to serve. They don’t get to throw slime on anyone in the church choir! People make their greatest connection to church usually in the area where they volunteer. The shared experiences, memories, and sense of community is paramount for people to enjoy serving with you. You’re a family, so celebrate birthdays, enjoy meals together, and pray for one another.



Check out Hillsong Kids BIG Children’s Ministry Curriculum at

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About the Author

David Wakerley is the Children's Pastor of Hillsong Church. Nathan McLean is the Children's Pastor of the Hills Campus and is the Leadership Development oversight for Hillsong Kids. Check out Hillsong Kids BIG Children's Ministry Curriculum at Follow us on twitter: @hillsongkids and facebook: