Sometimes faithful, committed volunteers in children’s ministry need a break! I have known volunteers who have served in children’s ministry for 20 years. It would never occur to them to ask for a break! I have known volunteers who have served in children’s ministry for less than a year but who have been hit with major family or health issues. They may not know that they can ask for a break.
Volunteers will probably not ask you for a break. But there are some signs that will tell you that your volunteer needs a break. Keep your eyes open. Volunteers may start to exhibit one, more, or all of these signs.
That incredible patience has started to wan
Some volunteers have incredible patience with kids. That’s a gift! If you see that that patience has started to wan, it could be a sign that your volunteer is getting worn down and needs a break.
A volunteer starts showing up later and later
You have a volunteer who has been faithful at showing up early. They are ready to go. Lately you have noticed that they have started showing up later and later. It starts with showing up not as early and it may turn into showing up late. This is a sign that the volunteer needs a break.
A volunteer arrives less and less prepared
Lessons are not as well prepared as they have been; crafts or games are only partly prepared. If a volunteer, who has been well prepared in the past, starts to arrive less and less prepared, it could be a sign that they need a break.
Many children’s ministry volunteers have amazing creativity! It shows itself in how they decorate a classroom, create bulletin boards, design crafts and activities, the games they come up with, the way they tell stories, and how they get kids involved in the lesson. When a volunteer who has previously been creative starts to let their creativity waver, it could be a sign that they need a break.
The joy seems to be gone
There is joy in serving God using the gifts He has given us. There are situations, however, when that joy can disappear. One of those situations is when volunteers need a break.
Discipline practices change
This sign could exhibit itself in one of two ways. A particular volunteers discipline practices could become stricter. They may have been a steady disciplinarian or a fairly relaxed volunteer who doesn’t like to discipline kids. If their discipline practice becomes stricter, it could be a sign that they need a break.
A particular volunteers discipline practices could become more lax. In this case, the volunteer is known for their strict discipline in the classroom or they are a steady disciplinarian. If their discipline practice becomes more lax, it could be a sign that they need a break.
Good habits and practices start to fall away
Good habits and practices such as tidying up the classroom before they leave, arriving on time and being well prepared, communicating well with their teaching partner and the rest of the team. These are examples of good habits and practices. If these start to fall away, it could be a sign that they volunteer needs a break.
A volunteer starts grumbling or complaining
A volunteer may start grumbling about the length of the service or complaining about issues with a teaching partner. This kind of discontent could be a sign that they need a break.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
All of the above could be signs that your volunteer needs a break, but any of them could also mean that something else is going on.
There could be an issue on your volunteer team; a volunteer may be dealing with major family or health issues; a volunteer may not be suited to the role they are in.
If you notice a volunteer exhibiting one or more of the above signs, arrange to meet with them. As I said above, a volunteer will probably not tell you if something is wrong or if they need a break. So, show that you care, that you have noticed and would like to help.
Never assume you know what’s going on without talking with the volunteer.
Also, don’t make any decisions based on one instance of these signs. These are signs a volunteer needs a break, but you need to look for a pattern. A volunteer showing up late once isn’t necessarily a sign they need a break. But a volunteer who starts to show up later and later on a fairly consistent basis is showing a pattern of behavior that may be a sign they need a break.
A break could mean one Sunday off. It could also mean a month off, 3 months off, or a year off. This is why you need to meet with them. Find out exactly what’s going on with your volunteer; look at how long they have been volunteering; find out when they last had a break. Use this information to design a break for this particular volunteer.
Take good care of your volunteers! Watch for these signs and then meet personally with any volunteers who may need a break and find out how you can best help them.