How to Support and Encourage the Volunteers That Build Your Program

Be encouraged when you dive into this article for direct tips that are easy to apply to your ministry.
5 min read

As children’s ministry leaders, we know it takes a very special person to serve in children’s ministry. I am continually amazed by the passion and joy that leaders get when they serve. It reminds me that it was God Himself who gave these leaders their desire to serve.

There are different kinds of gifts. But they are all given to believers by the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve. But they all come from the same Lord. There are different ways the Spirit works. But the same God is working in all these ways and in all people…You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it.

1 Corinthians 12:4-6, 27 NRSV

There is no doubt in my mind that the biggest reason we are able to see kids and families grow in faith is because of the amazing leaders we have in children’s ministry.

Pictured: Danielle’s son, Nathanael, and his buddy, Jennifer

Using God’s Gifts

When we give leaders the opportunity to serve, we’re giving them a chance to fulfill the calling that God has placed on their lives. They can then use the gifts He’s given them. One of our one-on-one buddies to a child with disabilities described serving in this way:

“This little man is the best part of my Sunday! Thank you for allowing me to be a part of his life. He is such a blessing! I adore his joyful, loving nature!”

When leaders are serving, they are the hands and feet of Christ.

Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 4:11 NRSV

As a result, we do our very best to recruit, onboard, train and equip our leaders. Then they can make an impact that lasts, hopefully, for eternity.

5 Steps for Onboarding Leaders

Over the years I have organized the leader onboarding process into five steps:

Complete Online Registration

When someone expresses interest in serving in children’s ministry, we send them to our website. They will find a form to fill out that asks basic questions about their life, faith, and desire to serve.

One-On-One with Ministry Leader

Once we receive that form, our team reaches out to schedule a one-on-one with the potential leader. During this time, ministry leaders begin by walking through the leader handbook. Then they can assess their desire and ability to serve, and connect them to a ministry area.

Submitted Background Check

Assuming they’ll be leading in ministry, after the one-on-one, the potential leader is asked to submit to a background check (if they’re over 18). Those under 18 are asked for references.

Scheduled for First Serve

Once they clear the background check, the potential leader is scheduled for their First Serve. They’re given a name badge and paired up with a veteran leader for their First Serve experience.

During this experience, we want them to meet parents and other leaders. It is a great time to get to know the kids they’ll be serving. We also encourage them to observe the leader and write down any questions they might have for their First Month Check-In.

First Month Check-In

After the first month of serving, the ministry leader checks in to see how it went, addresses any challenges, celebrates any successes and helps the leader decide if this is the right fit.

Just Do It

Celebrating leaders throughout the year goes a long way in letting them know we see them and love serving with them.

The best way I have found to train leaders is by getting them right into serving in ministry. I pair new leaders with veteran leaders and get them serving as soon as they’re through the onboarding process.

In our Disability Ministry, there might be details we go through with a leader about a specific child before they’re on their own. However, we’ve really found the best way for leaders to learn what they’re going to do is to just do it. We always have staff circulating to provide support, and new leaders are paired with veteran leaders until we’re confident in their ability to lead on their own.

Encouragement Builds Morale

Once we have our leaders in place, we do things periodically throughout the year to help build morale, share vision, and encourage them. Sharing something as simple as thank you cards when we’ve seen how God is working in them, or mailing handwritten birthday cards letting them know they’re loved.

Celebrating leaders throughout the year goes a long way in letting them know we see them and love serving with them.

Monthly, before Sunday morning ministry starts, we serve a light breakfast and give time for leaders to share celebrations from the past month. This is also a time of training depending on needs or an opportunity that presented itself the month before.

In our monthly email to leaders, we highlight one volunteer and share the ways we’ve seen them grow. We also share tips, a short training, and upcoming events and dates so everything they need to know is in one place.

Quarterly, we thank leaders for their service with purposeful events. In the fall, we have a leader kick-off event with food, fun, and a time for vision casting so they can see how what they’re doing strengthens the family of God and builds His kingdom.

In early December, we invite them and their families to a brunch in between services on a Sunday. Food is provided by the families they serve. They receive words of encouragement left on placemats by staff. One of my favorites is quotes from kids throughout the year are framed as centerpieces. We also give them a small ornament to hang on their tree as a yearly reminder of their impact on the lives of families.

Growth Through Service

There is no doubt in my mind that the biggest reason we are able to see kids and families grow in faith is because of the amazing leaders we have in children’s ministry. People show up week after week to use their God-given gifts to shepherd children as they learn about Jesus.

Without these selfless leaders, the church could not reach the very people God has called us to transform through the power of His Holy Spirit.

I challenge all of us to continue to ask God to reveal to us how to best use leaders in a way that glorifies God through the use of their gifts. May we all be encouraged to open up opportunities for the body of Christ to grow as we serve His people!

wonder ink

Wonder Ink

What if Sunday morning was just the starting point? Wonder Ink is a customizable digital curriculum and toolkit for creatively engaging kids and families in God’s Word. Wonder Ink sparks curiosity and guides children on a journey of faith through the wonder of God.
wonder ink

Wonder Ink

What if Sunday morning was just the starting point? Wonder Ink is a customizable digital curriculum and toolkit for creatively engaging kids and families in God’s Word. Wonder Ink sparks curiosity and guides children on a journey of faith through the wonder of God.
wonder ink

Wonder Ink

What if Sunday morning was just the starting point? Wonder Ink is a customizable digital curriculum and toolkit for creatively engaging kids and families in God’s Word. Wonder Ink sparks curiosity and guides children on a journey of faith through the wonder of God.
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  Updated on March 4, 2022

About the Author

Post Author
  • My eyes were opened to the world of disabilities in July 2009 with the birth of my beautiful, hilarious, passionate, sincere, and loving son, Nathanael. Before Nathanael, I knew about disabilities, that they existed, and I assumed life was harder, different, for ‘them’. But honestly, not much in my life was affected by disabilities, and unfortunately, I paid little attention. For the past eight years, I’ve been serving as the Director of Fusion, a ministry for families with kids with disabilities. I’m forever grateful for a Creator who gave me His precious Nathanael, who has taught me more than I could ever have imagined about inclusivity, mercy, and the greatness of our God.

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