Volunteers are vital to all Christian Education programs. Not many churches have the budget to pay for staff, so recruiting and retaining volunteers is an important part of children’s ministry. In our increasingly busy society it is getting hard to find volunteers. Once you have managed to recruit some you really want to keep them with you for as long as possible. The best way to do this is to look after your volunteers really well. Here are a few tips
Start new volunteers slowly – No one likes to feel they are in over their heads with a task. When you have a new volunteer take some time to provide them with all the information they need to fulfill their task. If they will be teaching walk them through the curriculum, so they understand the lesson flow and how to use any supplemental materials. Show them where to find supplies, and explain the process for getting supplies that need to be purchased. When I was organizing a Sunday school I liked to pair up with a new group leader for a few weeks. We would prepare and teach the sessions together until they felt confident about leading a group on their own.
Equip Them– Make sure your volunteers have everything they need to do the job. This is particularly important when it comes to supplies. No one should be expected to pay out of pocket for supplies, unless they have chosen to do so. I know that money is tight for a lot of churches, but if a community is serious about children’s ministry then there should be a commitment to provide what is needed. If your volunteers are new to Christian education and don’t have any previous teaching experience consider providing some basic training in child development, faith development, effective discipline and things like storytelling techniques or using your space. If they are having problems with any particular children, work with them to resolve the difficulties.
Express Appreciation OFTEN– Everyone likes to feel appreciated and valued. They want to know that what they are doing makes a difference. It takes so little time and effort to do this. If possible thank each of your volunteers every time they give of their time. When you notice positive outcomes flowing from their ministry let them know. Express your appreciation in front of the children. Let your volunteers know how important their ministry is and how much you appreciate them. If possible organize some more tangible expressions of appreciation throughout the year. Give them small gifts or treat them to an end of year BBQ.
Touch Base Regularly– It is important to keep in touch with your volunteers. A good time to do this is during the fellowship time after church. Sit down and chat over coffee. Ask how things are going, make sure they have everything they need, ask if they have any concerns, and see if there is anything you can do to make their task easier. If you don’t know them very well take some time to get to know them better. Who knows you could end up making a new friend. Over the years I’ve met some wonderful people through the Sunday school. Some of them have turned out to be lifelong friends.
Keep It Fun – Christian Education is hard work, but interacting with children can be fulfilling and fun. Foster creativity and humour. Model a positive attitude and address any negativity immediately. Encourage children and volunteers to have fun together. Your volunteers are more likely to stay if they enjoy what they are doing and find it fulfilling. Do whatever it takes to help them have an enjoyable experience.
What do you do to encourage and look after your volunteers? What would you add to this list? Join the conversation, so we can all benefit from your wisdom.