On April 15, 2019, a devastating fire broke out in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The roof, spire, and upper walls were all damaged. Much of the remaining cathedral was blackened by smoke.
In all, the unexpected fire caused more than $1 billion of damage and started a renovation process that could last for years.
You probably remember seeing images of the fire on national news, and perhaps you wondered, “How are they going to rebuild Notre Dame?”
It seems like a daunting task, but many experts are working together, and funds are being raised because the people of France decided almost immediately that it was worth rebuilding.
In some ways, our ministries are like Notre Dame. Like a fire in the night, COVID came as an unexpected catastrophe that immediately and drastically altered the ministry we had poured ourselves into day after day. Those who stayed in ministry were left asking, “How will we rebuild our children’s ministry?”
If you’re reading this, then take heart because there is a community of leaders who love Jesus, love kids, and passionately believe that children’s ministry is worth rebuilding! You are a part of that community!
So, how will we build our children’s ministry? Volunteers are the lifeblood of children’s ministry, so it makes sense to begin with building and strengthen our volunteer teams.
Here are 4 ideas to reconstruct your team to be better than before and last longer than ever!
Building Your Volunteer Team
1. Recruit with Relationships to Build Relationships
A 2021 study from the Harvard Graduate School of Education found that more than a third of all Americans experience “serious loneliness.” This feeling of loneliness increased dramatically during COVID, and this has left many people craving relationships.
One of the ways to build your volunteer team is to recruit with relationships. Set up coffee or lunch with members of your church. Befriend them. Get to know them and their interests. Focus on meeting their need for friendship before you try to recruit them to meet your needs in ministry.
As you get to know them better, invite them to use their gifts, interests, or talents in ways that help the ministry. Let them know that you’d love for them to serve with you in ministry, but make sure you want their friendship more than anything—and make sure they know that.
Before 2020, most children’s ministry advisors would say to recruit with vision and let potential volunteers know the ministry need. The shift from that year has given us an opportunity to meet the needs of others by building relationships and then showing them how serving kids is a way to build even more relationships.
2. Provide More Training in More Ways When Building Your Volunteers
There is likely a strong core of volunteers who remained on your team through everything you faced. The perseverance of these volunteers shows how invested they are in making disciples of the next generation. It can remind you how much you need to invest in them.
The volunteers on your team need training now more than ever. Kids may be attending less often, so how can they build healthy relationships with the decreased time they have? Kids are missing valuable opportunities to learn Bible stories and engage in worship. How can these leaders be more creative in their presentation of God’s Word?
Families have radically changed—changed jobs, changed homes, changed schools. So how can we better equip parents for disciple-making in the home? What tools can we provide for them?
These are all questions your volunteers are asking—if not out loud at least in their heads. They would love for you to provide training on these and other topics. This is where we find at least one blessing from the shift in 2020.
The pandemic season taught us to be resourceful and creative in getting content out of our churches and into our communities. Churches that had no online presence quickly became experts on YouTube, Facebook, and Zoom. All of these are great tools for providing training to your volunteers!
Set up a closed Facebook group for volunteers to share advice, ask questions, and receive training tips from your ministry. Use YouTube to host training videos that volunteers can watch when it’s convenient for them. Host a training or prayer huddle on Zoom for your volunteer team to continue growing.
The pandemic taught us—and the people we lead—how to use technology to connect and to work. This technology is also a good solution to keep your team trained and equipped for the work of ministry.
3. Share Stories that Remind Leaders of Their Why
As you rebuild your volunteer team, remember to build back with the right vision and priorities. Before, most ministry leaders were over-communicating details and under-communicating stories. We were handing out a lot of the “What” of ministry, but our leaders need to be reminded of the “Why.”
If the mission of your ministry is to help kids know and grow in the truth of Jesus, then those who serve in the ministry need to hear stories of when and how this mission is being accomplished.
The stories don’t have to be dramatic. It can be as simple as a hallway conversation one child had with their parent to repeat what they learned in their class. Volunteers need to hear and celebrate that this child is growing in the truth of Jesus!
Set up a way to collect stories that reflect the mission of your ministry from volunteers. Share these stories publicly as often as you can. The Greek philosopher Plato once said, “What is honored in a country is cultivated there.” In other words, you cultivate what you celebrate.
If you want leaders to be invested in the mission of your ministry and be all-in for reaching the dreams you feel God has laid on your heart, then celebrate every little moment that shows the ministry is getting closer to that vision.
4. Build Your Volunteers by Showing Appreciation in Meaningful Ways During Meaningful Moments
When you have stronger relationships with your leaders, you can celebrate them in more meaningful ways at meaningful moments.
If you have fewer volunteers now, you should be able to appreciate them in more personal ways. A birthday gift on their porch, an anniversary card, or a meal when they’re sick—these are just some of the new ways to show appreciation through relationships.
If you have more volunteers now, you can still focus your appreciation efforts on meeting their needs and celebrating them. Since we know relationships are very needed, think relationally for your appreciation events.
Use your appreciation budget to host a meal or potluck where volunteers can connect with each other. Host a game night, craft night, or service project to get volunteers together for quality time.
The year 2020 forced us all to slow down and think more about the relationships that mattered to us. For months, those closest to us were the only people we got to spend time with, but we didn’t mind because we liked the intimacy we felt when we gathered.
It may not be the same as family, but you can create appreciation moments that nurture this type of relationship for your volunteer team. We always want to give them something they’ll want or something they’ll use … what’s more useful and wanted than a good friend!