Now is the Time to Start Cultivating Next Year’s Volunteers
1. Keep the volunteers you already have through appreciation and training
Recruiting is an ongoing issue for children’s ministry leaders. But it is less stressful if you have a core of volunteers who return year after year. The best ways to ensure your volunteers keep coming back are through appreciation and training.
There are many ways to show appreciation to your volunteers. The most important thing is to do it! Here are some ideas for showing appreciation to your volunteers:
Send a thank you card – Write a personal note to each of your volunteers. If you have a lot of volunteers, consider spreading this task throughout the year. Think about each volunteer individually and write a specific appreciation note. Maybe something you noticed about their service and an area of their character that has made an impression on you. Mail these thank you cards to their home address. Knowing that you have taken the time to write a personal card and mail it to them will mean a lot to your volunteers.
Appreciation banquet – Plan a special evening just for your volunteers. It doesn’t have to be really expensive in order to be meaningful to your volunteers. The appreciation evening can be formal or informal. It can be a banquet or a potluck. But take the time to plan out the evening.
- Here is one idea: offer an appreciation evening where the kids in your children’s ministry prepare, serve, and clean up the meal and plan a program. If the kids are talented musically they may play an instrument or sing a song. Ask a couple of the kids to share why they appreciate their teachers. This appreciation evening idea shows that you are thankful for your volunteers and that they kids they serve appreciate them too!
Seasonal appreciation – you could send out seasonal appreciation gifts. These can be serious or humorous. Let your personality shine in the way you show appreciation to your volunteers!
- At Christmas you could ask some of the kids to decorate Styrofoam cups. Then add a specialty hot chocolate package and a small packet of mini-marshmallows. Simply wrap it in tissue paper and tie it with ribbon. Add a tag with a simple message “Thank you for serving.”
- For Valentines you could send valentines cards to your volunteers or package up some Hershey Kisses in a treat bag tied with a ribbon. One possible verse you could write on the tag would be Ephesians 3: 16-19 – “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
- For spring you could send your volunteers packets of flower seeds. In an attached note tell them that you are so thankful for them and their commitment to growing disciples of Jesus.
- Take them out for coffee – again, this may depend on how many volunteers you have. Take them out in groups or individually. Use this time to get to know them. Let them know that you appreciate what they do. Be specific if you can.
Give them a break – this appreciation idea is especially significant for those volunteers who have served faithfully over the years. Offer to take one of their teaching days so they can have the weekend off or find a sub who can teach one Sunday for them. This idea works for all scheduling options – year-long, or rotation schedules. Make sure your volunteer understands why you are giving them a break. Let them know that you are thankful for their faithful service and what to encourage and re-energize them by giving them a little teaching holiday.
Offer at least one training seminar each year. If you are not comfortable doing the training yourself, consider asking someone to come and help you. There are many different areas of training for children’s ministry volunteers. Whatever you choose, ensure that it is pertinent to your team.
2. Personally seek out new volunteers
Announcements from the pulpit are a good way to inform the congregation of your volunteer needs and to let them know how best to pray for you, but they are not the best way to find volunteers.
Approach possible volunteers personally. Let them know what your specific need is and why you thought of them. Make sure they understand what you are asking of them and the time commitment you require. Give them time to think and pray about being involved in children’s ministry. Encourage them to ask questions.
3. Ask God to raise up people to serve in needed areas and ask the congregation to pray with you
Spend time praying for the specific people you will need. Pray that they will feel a call to serve in children’s ministry, have a passion to see kids discipled, and a willingness to be a team player.
Ask the congregation to pray with you. Making your prayer needs known to the congregation reminds them that children’s ministry is a vital part of the church and that everyone can be involved through prayer.
Recruiting volunteers can be a daunting task. These tips will help make it a little less so.