Multisite Monday – 8 Do’s and Don’ts for Volunteer and Staff Kids

Part One

I’m a preacher’s kid. I grew up loving Jesus, but dreading church. I didn’t have a traumatic experience involving the steeple or pews. It just felt irrelevant, time consuming and boring. It wasn’t until early adulthood, I discovered church could be fun. At the age of 19, I took my first position as Children’s Director for a small startup church in East Tennessee. I made a commitment to create engaging environments in which kids would also have FUN, especially volunteer and staff kids.

Fast forward eight years, Frank and I relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina and began attending Elevation Church. We signed up to serve and selected our perspective areas. I chose eKidz Clubhouse. Clubhouse is an environment designed specifically for staff and volunteer kids. At Elevation, parents attend one worship experience and serve during another. As a result, volunteer and staff kids are at church for more than four hours. To ensure they didn’t get bored or serve as a distraction, Clubhouse was created.

Clubhouse is an area where kids can eat a snack, hang out with friends, watch movies, play boardgames, engage in video game tournaments, craft, and play with toys. When introduced, it was an instant success. Kids loved the low key environment and parents appreciated the energy and effort expended to care for their children while they were busy serving Jesus. Our strategy started with Clubhouse, but grew and expanded along with our volunteer base.

The name you select to identify your volunteer and staff kids area is insignificant. Having a defined strategy is key. To get you started, here are eight do’s to help you establish a plan that will have staff, volunteers, and their children falling in love with your church all over again.

DO

Offer them special privileges and opportunities.

  • Allow volunteer and staff kids the chance to serve in a volunteer role a year before their peers are eligible. Offer them small opportunities to lead in the small group in which they attend. Have them lead worship in large group. There’s nothing wrong with taking steps to set them apart from the rest. These are kids who will spend a good amount of time each week within the church walls. Do everything you can to make that time feel special.

Arrange to keep them fed.

  • Provide a warm breakfast and healthy snacks for those arriving early and lunch for those staying throughout the day. Parents will appreciate the assistance because it makes volunteering easier. Kids will appreciate you because, well…you’re giving them food. Kids love to eat!

Invest money to keep them entertained and engaged.

  • A new video game system or basketball goal, on the surface, may seem like a waste of money. I would argue it’s one of the best expenditures you could make. A new game or toy is fun and exciting. A visit from the ice cream truck during Clubhouse hour brings a smile. Happy kids make happy moms and dads. Happy parents equate to higher volunteer and staff retention. If you want to grow your church, invest in those that hold the hearts and the attention of your volunteers and staff, their children.

Consider how every event, activity and extended service will affect them.

  • For the past few years, Elevation has had a choir on stage at Christmas. As you know, the holiday season can be a stressful time in which parents stay busy and kids feel rushed from one activity to the next. Add in hours of choir rehearsal and extra Christmas worship experiences, and you’ve got a recipe for exhaustion and burnout. A couple years back, we made a conscious decision to keep Clubhouse kids busy with a variety of entertaining activities. We scheduled cookie decorating workshops, Christmas movie marathons, Santa visits and more. Being aware of your church calendar and having a plan will help you avoid the question, “How much longer?”

Prepare for them in advance.

  • Arriving on Saturday night or Sunday morning and setting out coloring books and Monopoly isn’t enough. Kids like surprises. They want to be wowed. Book a video game truck. Set up a carnival. Hire an illusionist. Purchase the latest kids blockbuster and schedule an epic movie day. Spend time each week creating a plan that will amaze. It doesn’t need to be expensive, just intentional.

Make them feel special.

  • If your ministry has a prize based reward system, create an extra incentive just for staff and volunteer kids. Make name tags or t-shirts that identify them as someone special. Send gifts on their birthday. Don’t make the mistake of lumping staff and volunteer kids together with the masses. They are the future leaders of your ministry. Treat them as such and watch as they grow into Godly men and women.

Make exceptions to the rules.

  • By nature, I’m a rule follower. I like things a certain way and I want all players in any venture I take to abide by the guidelines set forth at the start. However, there are certain cases in which the old saying, “rules were meant to be broken,” rings true. The way you treat volunteer and staff kids is a prime example. For most of the kids in your Clubhouse area, their parents’ decision to serve also requires a sacrifice on their part. Whether it’s an extra bag of Oreos during snack time, or a blind eye turned towards an electronic gadget, allowing volunteer and staff kids a little extra leeway can go a long way.

Treat them as family.

  • Everyone wants to be included, to have a place to belong. We all want someone to notice our absences and ask about our week. Kids are no different. Show you are thinking of them by sending unexpected gifts: a frisbee at the beginning of summer, a set of mechanical pencils at the start of the school year, a special ornament at Christmas. Make it a point to ask about their latest baseball or soccer game. Celebrate accomplishments together. Families laugh, argue, forgive, play practical jokes on one another, and stand by each other. Your goal is to create a culture that is both welcoming but exclusive, familiar but exciting, intentional but FUN!

In a Multisite Model, each campus or location may have a Clubhouse environment unique to itself. That’s okay. Play to the space you have. If you’re in a permanent high tech facility, 4K movie screens and the latest video game systems may be ideal. If you’re a non-permanent campus, but have access to a gymnasium, invest in sports and field day equipment. If you’re in a ballet studio with mirrors on every wall, schedule hip hop instructors during your Clubhouse hour and teach kids to dance. (Yes, I once did this.) Wherever you find yourself, in whatever situation, there is a solution that works. Get creative. Remember the goal. Make church FUN!

Join us again next Multisite Monday for Part Two of this post, in which we’ll focus on the 8 Don’ts for Volunteer and Staff Kids.

To check out additional Multisite Monday articles, click here.

Jessica Bealer

 

Sample Clubhouse Schedule:

8:00AM Parent Drop-off / Free Play / Morning Movie

8:30AM Breakfast

9:00AM Cleanup

9:15AM Kids transfer to class

9:30AM Clubhouse kids attend first experience

11:00AM Clubhouse volunteers pick up kids from classrooms and transfer them back to the Clubhouse area.

11:15AM Lunch

11:45AM Cleanup

12:00PM Free Play / Video games / Crafting / Art / Boardgames / OCCASIONAL SPECIAL ELEMENT

12:45PM Snack

1:15PM Parent Pick-up

*Note: Clubhouse is available for volunteer and staff kids, ages 3 through 5th grade.

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If you’re feeling the stress of juggling ministry, work, and life, then it’s time to reclaim your schedule. The Myth of Balance Workshop will help you create your own custom plan for managing your time and your ministry in a way that helps alleviate some of that burden, guilt, and stress. Visit MythofBalance.com for more details.

Join us today on the Orange Leaders page for a Facebook Live video! Frank will be telling us more about the FREE Myth of Balance Workshop Series, starting July 10. (Don’t come alone! Tag your friends who need to know. There could be a free giveaway involved.)

Multisite Monday: Clothespins and Twister

If you follow my husband or I on social media, you know we recently relocated our family of six from Charlotte, North Carolina to Atlanta, Georgia. After leading the family ministry of Elevation Church for the past five years, we felt God calling us to something new, a journey that would require us to move more than 250 miles.

Most of you have experienced the stress and strain of relocation at one point or another. If you happen to be like me, a Type A control freak with a touch of obsessive compulsive, you understand “moving” translates into ground work. What can I do now to prepare for successful tomorrows?

Ten days in and I can say it’s been relatively painless. Frank and I have moved several times in our 16 years of marriage and none of those were as smooth as this one. Without a doubt God was at work, but we’ve always relied on God to guide us to what’s next. So for the past few days, I’ve been asking myself why this particular move was easier than those in the past. Today I had a lightbulb moment. The answer…my experience with multisite. When preparing to launch a new location, I begin by asking myself and my team several key questions. These questions help as I sketch layouts, design rooms, prepare systems and purchase resources. As I prepared our family for an interstate move, I found myself asking these same questions. I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me.

How many rooms do we need? How many will we have?

Depending on your location, you may or may not have the ideal number of rooms you desire. You may have to combine age groups or make compromises based on your ministry values and priorities. Knowing what you have to work with is your starting point.

How will we ensure safety and standards in the allotted space?

Safety must always be a top consideration. If a classroom cannot be made safe or protected by your security team, it doesn’t make the cut. In a permanent multisite model, this means ensuring every room is thoroughly examined from as early as the blueprint stage. In a non-permanent model, the launching children’s director must see and measure each room before the first purchase order has been made. Excellence in the area of safety is the foundation in which you will build everything else.

What can parents and kids expect to see when they stand at the door of each classroom?

From wall and floor color palettes and furniture selections to age appropriate toys and supply needs, every detail matters. Are your rooms inviting? Are they bright and clean? Does it look like a fun zone or a school zone? It’s important to remember you’re trying to make a great first impression with kids and their parents.

What systems will we have in place to make drop-off and pick-up efficient and effective?

I talk about drop-off and pick-up procedures frequently. These two systems can make or break your ministry. Efficient drop-off systems take into account the quickness of your processes, while effectiveness allows for connectivity during each transition. When preparing to launch a location, its crucial to consider both.

How can we be prepared for anything and everything that may occur?

When a mom asks if you have an extra bottle because she left the one she prepared sitting on the kitchen counter, will you have one to offer? When a preschooler on the playground wets her dress because she was having too much fun for a bathroom break, will you have a change of clothes? When a boy in your 3rd grade small group shares that he woke up late and didn’t have a chance to eat breakfast, will you provide a healthy snack? What about rainy day activities? Vomit clean-up? Stainless steel wipes to keep water fountains sparkling clean? Extra vacuum cleaners for between service touch-ups? Gluten free and allergy considerate snack alternatives? Dissolving bottle labels to eliminate formula mix-ups? Wax paper sheets to protect the diaper changing pad cover? Dishwashing nets so bottle nipples and pacifiers stay in place and are sanitized thoroughly?

Maybe you’re thinking these items are excessive or a waste of money. I would contend that one or two fully engaged families will give more annually than all of these expenses combined. Families that feel well cared for will care for your ministry. Every detail matters. Every resource purchased creates an opportunity to serve those God has entrusted to you.

In a multisite model, it’s imperative to conduct a mock experience in every classroom or theater prior to launch. You need to know, in advance, your weak points, missing supplies and volunteer concerns. The only way to catch the smallest of details is to schedule a full run-through. Have volunteers check their children in and drop them off in their assigned rooms. Plan programming as you would during any normal weekend experience, and offer volunteers a way to communicate feedback and request additional supplies.

I’ve had the opportunity to launch the children’s ministry of 16 locations. My first launch for Elevation Church was a non-permanent campus in a local high school. We transformed classrooms into kid-friendly environments using pipe and drape to cover the walls and foam puzzle mats on the floor. During our scheduled run-through we noticed two major problems. In our baby and toddler rooms, curiosity had our young walkers tugging open the drape to peek behind the colorful makeshift walls. In our Clubhouse room (the area set aside for staff and volunteer kids) only a handful of children were interested in watching the featured movie or playing the video games provided. Most were bursting with energy and desired more interactive play. In the grand scheme of things, these two problems may seem inconsequential, but when safety is your #1 value and volunteers are the lifeblood of your ministry, finding viable solutions is a must.

Clothespins and Twister. One Walmart run and $20 later, we were set for launch Sunday. If you’re preparing for launch season, make sure to ask the right questions and schedule multiple run-throughs. Laying the ground work today will set you up for success tomorrow.

And if you’re moving, I wish you all the best. Remember…asking the right questions and laying the ground work is key to success in that venture as well.

I hope you’ll join me again next Multisite Monday as we discuss Clubhouse, an area designed to keep staff and volunteer kids loving church.

For additional Multisite Monday articles, click here.

Jessica Bealer

Multisite Monday – 3 Reasons I Prefer Non-Permanent Locations

In my tenure, I’ve launched the children’s ministry of 19 multisite locations, 13 of which were non-permanent. Each one holds a special place in my heart. Every launch was an adventure, a learning experience in which I’m grateful for. However, if I’m being honest, those non-permanent launches are just a bit sweeter. I make no excuses. I simply prefer non-permanent locations to permanent ones. Here’s why.

COST

In most circumstances, the expense to launch a non-permanent location is well below that of their permanent counterpart. At Elevation, the cost to launch a non-permanent campus is around 10% of the expense of constructing a new building or retrofitting an existing one. Imagine what’s possible with that kind of savings.

What this means for your ministry

  • You can reallocate funds to staffing or other resources.
  • You can launch additional locations with the money you save.
  • You can try “test run” campuses, in which you determine interest in a certain geographic location or with a particular demographic.

VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCE

Volunteers that choose to stand with you through a non-permanent launch season experience camaraderie and fulfillment unknown to volunteers serving at a permanent location. The work is hard, but the payoff is indescribable.

What this means for your ministry

  • You will never have to question your volunteers’ commitment or loyalty. If someone is willing to arrive early to set-up and stay late to tear-down, you can be assured he or she understands the vision and is committed to see it come to fruition.
  • Your volunteers will experience a greater sense of unity because it takes teamwork and harmony to make a non-permanent location happen each and every week.
  • Certain team members will grow to love the set-up and tear-down process. They’ll become fluid in all things pipe and drape and puzzle flooring. These “experts” will most likely be the first to sign up and lead the charge for your next non-permanent launch.

PARENT EXPERIENCE

When parents pull into the parking lot of a permanent church facility, they are expecting to be impressed. They want your building to be state of the art with a high end design. They expect classrooms to be beautiful and systems to be flawless. It’s often difficult to meet their unspoken demands. The exact opposite is true for non-permanent locations. Parents don’t know what to expect. They hope it’s clean and safe. That’s the minimum, but anything beyond that is often considered a bonus. Now imagine if you could create an excellent environment in a non-permanent setting. Not only would you meet parents’ expectations, but you would exceed them.

What this means for your ministry

  • When you exceed expectations, parents will make allowances they might not otherwise be comfortable with. Essentially, they grant you grace for the occasional mishap or mistake, and they overlook the school trophy case sitting just outside your classroom.
  • When they encounter unexpected excellence, parents will brag on your ministry to friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors. Positive publicity is always a plus.
  •  When parents notice the effort you’ve expended to create a great experience for their child, in an imperfect environment, they feel the need to contribute, and are more willing to sign up to serve.

If you’ve been considering a non-permanent launch, I challenge you to do the research, have a plan, and take a leap. In our small transient world of technology, where a company like Uber, with no storefront, is a global success, Amazon is the world’s leading retailer, and food trucks are all the rage, the legitimacy of the local church is no longer defined by walls or a steeple. If you’re committed to a multisite strategy, don’t discount the effectiveness or efficiency of the non-permanent model. It just might be the solution you’ve been looking for to advance God’s Kingdom and grow your church.

Note: Just like with anything else, every season must eventually come to an end. As much as I love non-permanent locations, I also believe there comes a time when the next logical step is to either shut down the non-permanent location because it isn’t seeing the level of success you anticipated, or it’s time to transition to a permanent location because it’s established a track record of growth. That timeframe is usually around the three year mark.

I hope you’ll join me again next Multisite Monday as we discuss Clubhouse, programming that ensures volunteer and staff kids at every location LOVE coming to church.

For additional Multisite Monday articles, click here.

Jessica

Multisite Monday – Make Church EASY. Remove These 5 Obstacles.

“We’re already running late, by the time we park at the back of the lot and get the kids checked in, we’ll miss most of worship.”

“I forgot to pack the baby bag last night. Even if I start now, we’ll never make it in time.”

“It’s raining and I can never keep the kids dry and get them in the building.”

“By the time we arrive, the kids will miss half the lesson.”

“I’m a single parent, and I’m embarrassed when I struggle to get my kids in by myself. I feel like everyone is looking at me.”

“I accidentally slept late and there is no way I can get my little ones changed and out the door in time to make it.”

“We don’t have time to eat breakfast and make it to church.”

“The good seats are always taken by the time I check my kids in and make it to the auditorium.”

and last but not least…

“We accidentally slept in, so we’re running late. My kids aren’t dressed. It’s raining and I can’t find the umbrella. I forgot to pack the baby bag last night, and now the dog is loose!”

I’m not sure how we can help with the family pet, but WE CAN AND SHOULD REMOVE all other obstacles.

Unchurched families (specifically parents) are unfamiliar with a Sunday routine that prioritizes your ministry. To be clear…they don’t know HOW to do church. Inconsequential delays often feel like insurmountable obstacles. Romans 10:14 says, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” In order for the Word of God to make an impact, one must first encounter it. Two thousand years ago, the problem facing the early church was a limited number of evangelists. In today’s society, there are a million things vying for the time and attention of every family that walks through your doors each weekend. In other words, your ministry has major competition.

If you want to connect with and make an impact on the families of today, you must intentionally remove as many hurdles as you can. Make it EASY for families to come to church. Here are 5 areas in which you can remove barriers and more adequately meet the needs of those coming through your doors.

1 – Family Parking / Assistance

Getting kids out of the car and into the church building can feel like a battle. There are a hundred things that need to be carried inside: bags, coats, car seats, strollers, toys, snacks, bottles, sippy cups, pacifiers, even favorite stuffed animals. Their kids are cranky or may be struggling with separation anxiety. Moving vehicles and tiny, unpredictable feet in close proximity to each other create another level of stress. In addition, families tend to run late, and this equates to a backlot parking space as far from the church doors as possible. But what if you could simplify the parking problem?

Solution: Designate a Family Parking area close to the church building and give families door hangers marked as such. Instruct them to place the hanger on the rearview mirror of their car. As they pull into the lot, have parking volunteers show them where to park and assist them as they unpack their car, wrangle their children and make their way into the building.

2 – Reserved Seating

One of the biggest deterrents for parents is not knowing whether they will get a decent seat or any seat at all during optimal worship times.

Solution: Since we know it takes moms and dads longer to find their seat (because of child check-in and drop-off), designate a “good” seating section just for them. As parents are checking their children in, have a kids’ volunteer hand them a special pog, marker or ticket that lets them know you’ve saved them a seat. This will take the stress out of the drop-off process. They won’t feel rushed or frustrated when they end up sitting at the back of the room or in your overflow area.

3 – Umbrella Brigade

If you’re anything like me, you cringe when the forecast predicts rain or snow on Saturday night or Sunday morning. You know your numbers are going to be lower than usual. But what if you could ensure a dry, safe way for families to get from the parking lot to the door?

Solution: Send an email to all families two days prior. Reassure them you are prepared for inclement weather, and you’re ready to serve their family. Assign additional volunteers to your parking team. Shovel sidewalks and sprinkle salt for snow. Arm your team with ministry branded umbrellas and ponchos. Have umbrella bags and hand warmers readily available. The next time the weather forecast looks dreary, consider it an opportunity to shine. Unexpected excellence is impressive and impactful.

4 – Start Times

If parents believe they are running too late…they won’t come. Church may already feel like a hassle, but if it feels pointless as well, you’ve lost the battle completely.

Solution: Don’t open doors too early, no more than 20 minutes before a worship service is scheduled to begin. If parents think they or their child is at a disadvantage, they won’t make the effort. Offer ice-breaker activities to early arrivers, but don’t start teaching until late comers have a chance to get checked-in. Hold the main auditorium doors until five minutes after kids classrooms have opened. This allows parents to check-in their children and still obtain optimal seating.

5 – Stocked Supplies

Parents forget…everything. We’ve all done it. At some point you’ve walked out of the house without something of significance. If a parent feels the need to turn around and go back home, it’s likely they’ll not turn back and try again. However, if you’re prepared for any and all needs that may arise, the trek back home may be avoided.

Solution: Stock everything from bibs, pacifiers, bottles, sippy cups and diapers, to extra clothes and underwear for every stage of development. Keep Lunchables, fresh fruit, and cheese sticks in a mini fridge, along with extra snacks in the cabinets that take into account allergies and dietary restrictions. Consider stocking odd things like sunscreen, screwdrivers, extra batteries or wrapped presents. You never know when a carseat might need a screw tightened, or a child’s favorite toy just ran out of juice. Give often and freely. Never ask or expect parents to return anything. Instead, consider it a good investment into fertile soil. When you say, “We can help with that! No worries.” or “No breakfast this morning? We’ve got you covered.” you convey preparedness and excellence.

In a multisite model, this can only happen if you’ve set clear expectations and created volunteer coaching strategies to support your teams. A recommended supply list should be offered to kids directors. Parking hangers, umbrellas, and reserved seating tickets should be designed and distributed centrally. Vision must be cast before changes are made, and the “win” must be clearly defined.

When everything else has gone wrong, church should be a safe place for kids and parents. Moms and dads should feel as if they can come as they are: messed up, scattered, stressed out, frustrated, on edge, tired, beaten down and forgetful. When you intentionally plan for any and all circumstances, you give parents the freedom to relax, set aside distractions, to-do lists and responsibilities and simply respond to the message of Jesus Christ. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Romans 10:14

If you want your ministry to grow, make church easy. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. Remove all obstacles and offer parents a safety net. Your goal is to help them forgo the daily grind and simply receive God’s Word.

I hope you’ll join me again next Multisite Monday, as I share why I prefer non-permanent facilities to permanent ones.

For additional multisite articles, click here.

Jessica Bealer

Cut It Out! Finding the Best in Less

As seen on Orangeleaders.com

As a child, TGIF was a big part of my family’s weekly routine. At 8 p.m. every Friday night, we would huddle in front of our 19-inch TV to watch the Tanner and Winslow families navigate life. Steve Urkel would whine, “Did I do that?” and Jesse would make us all smile with his, “Have Mercy!” The biggest laughs always came when Joey would say his catch phrase, “Cut it out.” It was his way of saying stop, you’re embarrassing me . . . but don’t really stop.

It’s interesting how preparing for this blog post about pruning programs for ministry led me to a childhood memory. When the to-do list seems insurmountable and there aren’t enough volunteers to make it all happen, most of us would say we are open to the idea of scaling back programming. We’re open to it . . . until it’s time to actually make the required changes. Cutting back in ministry is extremely difficult because people have come to expect what we offer. Families have fallen in love with pieces of our ministry. Volunteers have grown to enjoy the routine they’ve established. Most of the time, change doesn’t feel like opportunity, it feels like sacrifice.

Read the rest by clicking here…