Over the past few years in kids’ ministry, I’ve come to a somewhat humbling conclusion –
I am not the most important person on my #kidmin team.
I know what you’re probably thinking – did you ever think you were!? How arrogant is that?
While I never would have said that, I’m pretty sure the way I set up my kids’ ministry to run reflected that I thought that. I did everything – set-up, stations, up-front, behind-the-scenes – if it could be done, I did it. Volunteers, parents and kids came to me with nearly every concern – big or small. And I was okay with it.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve began to discover that while this may work for a while, it’s not the most sustainable, healthy or effective way to do kids’ ministry (or any ministry, I might argue). I have learned that for my ministry to run at 100%, I need other people to come alongside me – the wonderful, beautiful people we call volunteers.
Volunteers are, hands-down, the most important people on your #kidmin team.
Just think about it. Long after you’re gone from your church, many of them will still be there serving. The vision for ministering to the next generation has to rest with them. In many cases, they have connections to your church family, community and even the kids you serve far beyond what you will ever have.
Volunteers are essential to running a healthy, sustainable children’s ministry.
That is why over the past few seasons of kids’ ministry, I have been learning how to lead and love volunteers better. Trust me, I’ve always appreciated them, and I’ve always known I needed them. But I am learning how to do that more & more in this season.
Here are some of the lessons I’ve been learning.
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned about leading a kids’ ministry team is to do it well, you need to listen well. When my volunteers come to me with an idea, a suggestion, or even a complaint, I am learning the art of actually listening.
Every single volunteer in my ministry brings a different set of life experiences and a unique perspective to the table. Learning to listen to what they have to say – both in informal settings, like a chat after a program or over coffee, but in more planned settings – like regular meetings with time for feedback – has given them more ownership of what’s happening, and given us a lot of great ideas!
I know, easy right? Seriously – one of the greatest things I’ve been learning in my kids’ ministry is it is a beautiful thing to let go and let others lead. This year, during our Kids’ Xperience (VBS), I stepped back for a few minutes and thought – “If I was sick tomorrow, this thing could run without me.” It was a scary, but incredible thought!
Over the past few years, I’ve been learning to hand over various parts of our ministry – some bigger and some smaller – to different volunteers in our ministry. It is amazing! Seeing them take ownership, learn how to lead well, and get more deeply involved is a reminder that God really does equip His people to do His work.
Let them know how much they matter.
I don’t know about you, but my ministry literally would not be able to run without volunteers. If I’m the only one who shows up to our Wednesday night program, we would have to shut it down. Volunteers are making a huge difference everytime they show up.
And so, we need to tell them.
Let your volunteers know they are making a huge difference in the lives of kids. Praise them publicly and privately! Create a Facebook group for your volunteers and share encouraging stories and tidbits from your ministry. Write them cards and notes. Give them Christmas gifts! Get them coffee (the good stuff) at meetings and during VBS week. Tell everyone how amazing they are – because if they are anything like the people who volunteer in my ministry, they truly are amazing.
Pastors and kids’ ministry leaders, we have to remind ourselves that we are not the backbones of our ministry. We are not the most important person in the room. The team we build around us is what empowers us to have a thriving, healthy, growing ministry that will stand the test of time.
So, how are you leading and loving the volunteers in your ministry well? Do you realize how essential they are to your ministry? Pray about it, thank God for them, and then act to remind them – and the people in your church family and #kidmin – that they are the most important people on your team.