Turning Volunteers Into Leaders

Featured Articles / Volunteers //


Volunteers are the lifeblood of any kids’ ministry. You can survive without money, but you can’t survive without volunteers.


The key to keeping volunteers for the long haul is to turn them into leaders.


You may be saying, “I don’t have time to do that. I’m too busy ministering to the kids.” That’s my point exactly. You will need to let go of some of the things you are currently doing so you can spend more time developing your leaders. In fact, 80% of your time should be spent on your team and 20% on the kids.


Now, you’re thinking, “If I spend 80% of my time on my leaders, who’s going to give attention to the kids?”


Your leaders will.


If kidmin pastors would pour themselves into their leaders like they pour themselves into their kids, then they wouldn’t have any recruiting problems. The end result is a win-win-win situation.


  • The kids win, because they get ministry from several leaders.
  • The volunteers win, because they grow into leaders.
  • You win, because you have help to create a great kidmin program.


The first step in this process is to evaluate where you are right now in developing leaders and that begins by evaluating yourself.



Ask yourself some questions

  • Do you feel like nothing gets done if you don’t do it yourself?
  • Do you find yourself changing churches every two or three years?
  • Do you have a problem with narcissism?


The “narcissistic children’s pastor” needs to be the center of attention. He or she loves kids but they are unwilling to spread the love around. Many times they are talented and really good at what they do, but they either don’t know how to train someone else or they are unwilling to. If you find yourself changing churches every two or three years this may be why. The cure for the sin of narcissism is to start leading from the back of the room where no one can see you.


When you make the jump to leadership development, you get more joy out of seeing your leaders minister than the joy of ministering yourself.


Next, take some time to evaluate your program.

  • What happens if you go on vacation for two weeks?
  • Does everything fall apart?
  • How many leaders do you have?
  • How many leadership positions do you have?


The best way to create leadership positions is to start a new program or ministry. In kidmin, the most effective way to create multiple leadership positions is to start a small group ministry if you don’t have one.


My point is that if you want to turn volunteers into leaders, you need to have something for them to do other than check-in.


Not every volunteer wants to be a leader, so you need to take some time to identify people on your team or people who have leadership potential. You have to make a conscious effort to do this every Sunday.


Here are some suggestions for identifying potential leaders.

  • Look for people who can do more than what they are currently doing.
  • Look for people who have opinions and are always making suggestions.
  • Look for parents who have good kids. Good parents make great leaders.
  • Look for people who followed through in programs like VBS and kids’ camp.


Once you have created your job descriptions and identified your potential leaders, it’s time to get started, but you need to train leaders differently than you train followers.



5 Steps for Turning Adult Volunteers into Leaders


  1. See yourself as a resource to your leaders. When I shared my vision for the Super Church 2.0 Curriculum with my pastor, he looked at me and said, “One of my jobs as pastor is to be a resource to you to help you fulfill your vision.” I could not believe what I was hearing. I had never heard a pastor talk like that. Didn’t he hire me to help him?


Yes, your leaders are there to help you, but you are also there to help them.


  1. Listen more. Create environments where you take time to listen to your leaders. You can do this one-on-one or as a group. One way that I’ve done this is to meet with all my leaders at a local Starbucks for a brainstorming session. I listen to their ideas. When someone shares a good idea I put it into action.


The most motivating thing you can do for one of your leaders is to take one of their ideas and run with it.


  1. Teach less. If you want to lead leaders, then you will have to do more listening and less talking. If you put someone in charge of a meeting, never jump in the middle of it. You may be able to communicate better, but that doesn’t mean that you should. If they ask you if you want to add something say this, “You have covered everything nicely.” This reinforces their leadership and communicates to everyone else that you trust them.


It is empowering to a leader when you can sit in a meeting that they are leading and keep your mouth shut.


  1. Be slow to anger. There are times when your leaders are going to mess up. You will get angry with them at some point, but do not use your anger to punish them. Anger pushes people away. One angry outburst can destroy a relationship. Nobody wants to be around angry people.


Yes, your leaders need to be corrected from time to time; however, it’s best if you can train your leaders to correct themselves.


  1. Create a system of self-evaluation. It’s best if you train your leaders to critique themselves. I do this by having a meeting with my leaders after every weekend. I’m looking for them to critique themselves. I find that they are more likely to make changes if they think of it themselves. There is a built in accountability when my leaders say the words themselves.


In this meeting we ask three questions.

  • What are we doing right?
  • What are we doing wrong?
  • How can we do it better?


Without some kind of self-evaluation leaders will not grow.


If you follow the advice of the Apostle James you will be well on your way to turning volunteers into leaders.


“Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19).




















About the Author

Pastor, filmmaker, coach and comic book collector, Mark Harper has over 30 years of experience in the local church. He is the creator of the Super Church Curriculum series, which is used in over 5,000 churches worldwide. Mark and his wife Debra have two adult children, one grandchild and one Yorkie who thinks he's a german shepherd. www.transformkidmin.com