I think one of the biggest challenges anyone faces in ministry is recruiting (and keeping) volunteers. Particularly as a children’s director, it sometimes feels like pulling teeth to get church members to even consider stepping foot into the children’s department! I think there are several things we can do as preschool and elementary directors to remove people’s preconceived ideas about helping with children, and in turn show them how beneficial volunteering in the children’s ministry can be:
1) Get Things Organized
I cannot emphasize this enough! People do not want to serve or be in a place that is disorganized and chaotic. One of the first things I did when becoming the children’s director at my church, was to pretend I was a visitor and evaluate every area of the department—From what I saw and smelled in the rooms, to what I observed the leaders were doing and teaching. This can be a huge eye opener to how your children’s ministry truly appears to others. No one is going to want to serve in a room where it is crammed with things, smells, and appears disorganized! Get into your rooms, especially in preschool, and purge of old toys and blankets, rearrange furniture if necessary, and make sure the room looks appealing. Clean toys and spray cleaners that make the room not just look clean, but smell clean as well. Organize toys and the room so that it is clear to the volunteers where everything is and belongs. Volunteers will be happier and want to be in rooms that are clean and tidy!
2) Have A Plan
I have seen countless times where volunteers who want to serve, end up getting lost in the shuffle of that day. Keep a pen and notepad in hand on Sundays and Wednesdays so that you can immediately make a note of people interested in serving. When I’m in the middle of a Sunday morning, I’m not going to remember 3 hours later that Miss Susie wanted to help once a month in the Toddler Room—I will end up remembering a month later when I see Miss Susie again! Also, I keep an Excel sheet of my volunteers and when they serve. The majority of my volunteers serve once a month and I try to have them serve the same week each month. Just taking the time to schedule them in an orderly way will save you lots of time, rather than you trying to remember if the Browns served already this month. Your volunteers will also love it if you send them a schedule showing the dates of when they are scheduled to help.
3) Be Patient
My husband often tells me that, “Rome was not built in a day, and neither is your ministry.” I’m the kind of person that sees the whole picture of what needs to be done and wants it executed by the end of the week. This can cause constant frustration for any children’s director, especially when it comes to getting all the volunteers needed. I have learned it is best not to press people into serving. Last summer when I first came to this church, many people declined my request to serve in preschool. I felt frustrated and for a couple of months I didn’t have all the volunteers I needed. Instead of pushing people into serving, I tried my best to thank the current volunteers for the great job they were doing and continue to build my relationships with members at the church. Now after having been in my position for 8 months and striving to love my church family, I have seen over half the people who declined my request to serve last summer volunteer over the past couple of months!
4) Know Where to Look
- Preschool Parents: Most parents will gladly serve once a month in a preschool room. Parents usually realize that others are taking the time to watch their own children, and they don’t mind taking a week to do this same service for others.
- Monthly Volunteering: Having volunteers serve once a month isn’t the ideal situation, but people are more likely to commit to serving once a month. Once they get their feet wet and they see how much fun it is, they are apt to serving more. Several of my volunteers who served once a month on Sundays are now serving every week or serving on Wednesdays nights as well.
- Event Volunteers: There are several people in my church who don’t want to serve weekly in the children’s ministry, but they are all about special events we do. I keep their names on an event list so that when VBS or our Fall Festival roll around, I know that I have instant go-to volunteers that will enjoy serving at these events, as well as giving my regular volunteers a break!
5) Ask God Before You Ask Potential Volunteers
I know that God uses this specific area of recruiting volunteers to bring me to my knees in my particular ministry. Especially being at a smaller church, it can feel at times that there is just nobody to fill that space on Sunday morning. Knowing that God knows my request and needs always brings a peace of mind to my current circumstances.