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

Multisite Monday – The Magical Lanyard

So technically there’s nothing magical about the VIP lanyard that eKidz gives to every first-time guest during that initial check-in process, but what happens as a result is nothing short of a Diagon Alley or Hogwarts phenomenon.

It was designed for children, ages 3 and up, and serves four distinct purposes.

1 – The lanyard is a 4″ by 4″ square card printed with the VIP branding and secured by black plastic lacing. It’s bulky enough to grab the attention of staff and volunteers. It lets everyone know this particular child is a first-time guest and thus given extra attention, high fives, and dozens of warm greetings. It’s enough to make even the shiest of kids feel welcome and accepted.

2 – Kids are encouraged to take their lanyard and head to the information area to receive their First-Time Guest Gift, a custom slap bracelet branded with the eKidz logo. If kids head to the information area, parents will also. It’s a great strategy to engage with a first-time family, answer questions, and obtain feedback.

3 – Kids are encouraged to bring the lanyard back the next time they visit to receive their Second-Time Guest Gift, a custom glow-in-the-dark eKidz t-shirt. You may be thinking, “Aren’t you bribing them to come back?” Yes, that’s exactly the point. We want kids to come back and if a secondary prize achieves that mission, I’m okay with it.

4 – In large group, a kid wearing the VIP lanyard is automatically given bonus points for the game. Those points are “just enough” to give his or her team the edge over all other competitors to ensure a win. Yes…we rig the game. Remember, the goal is to create the best possible experience so kids will want to come back. In a kid’s mind, is there anything better than winning? Here’s where the magic happens. Regularly attending kids know that to win the game, they need a first-time guest on their team. That means as soon as a lanyard wearing child walks in the door, every kid in the room wants him or her on their team. Instant camaraderie. Immediate acceptance and belonging.

I LOVE an intentional first-time guest strategy, and my favorite part of the VIP process in eKidz at Elevation is the lanyard. In a multsite model, it’s important to synch your systems so that each guest at every location has the same experience and receives the same gifts.

Whatever your first-time guest process, it should serve to achieve the following.

  • It needs to make your guests feel special, as if you were waiting on them and are now celebrating their arrival.
  • It should have perceived value so there is incentive to return.
  • It needs to simplify the check-in process for subsequent visits.
  • It must, ultimately, help to establish a connection between their family and your ministry.

I hope you’ll join me again next Multisite Monday as we talk about family parking, umbrellas, and start times.

Jess Bealer

For additional Multisite Monday articles, click here.

Multisite Monday – YOU get a t-shirt, and YOU get a t-shirt, and YOU get a t-shirt…

I believe language has the ability to destroy or unite. Your words can either undermine or advance your ministry. A strong set of values can give you a lens by which you measure each system, initiative, or strategy.

In eKidz, we tried to keep them simple and concise. Here they are, in order of importance.

We Will Make It Safe.

We Will Share Jesus With Passion.

We Will Bring The Fun.

We Will Connect The Family.

You may be thinking, “Safety comes before Jesus?” Yes, it does. Parents must feel comfortable with your environment before they are willing to entrust you with their child. Safety comes first…always. At Elevation, one of the ways we strived to give parents peace of mind was through the implementation of a t-shirt policy. Every kids volunteer at every location is required to wear a blue eKidz t-shirt while serving. It’s ingrained into the volunteer culture.

Of course, there were objections. With the introduction of any new strategy, there will be some level of resistance. However, if you have defined values and a common language, it’s much easier to create unity among your teams.

Here are four common objections you will encounter with a new t-shirt policy, as well as possible responses you might use to clarify the vision.

Objection: “I don’t want to wear the same thing to church every week.”

Your Response: “I understand. The t-shirt offers parents peace of mind. It says we trust you, as a volunteer, and it relays that you are operating on behalf of the church. Maybe you could bring another shirt to change into once your volunteer role is complete?”

Objection: “My shirt is faded, stained, too small…”

Your Response: “I’m so sorry! If you’ll tell me your size, I’ll go get you another one or I’ll ship it to your home this week. The t-shirt helps new parents easily identify kids volunteers, and we always want to simplify things for our first time guests.”

Objection: “I forgot it at home. I’ll remember next time.”

Your Response: “Ok, that’s no big deal. I keep a stash of spare t-shirts. If you’ll just bring it back to me at the end of the day, I’ll wash it and have it ready for the next volunteer who needs it.”

Objection: “It’s just so bland.

Your Response: “I understand. You are more than welcome to customize it. You can bedazzle it or accessorize it, or even wear a cardigan over it. We just want families to be able to easily identify the volunteers that will be caring and ministering to their children.”

Be prepared. If you’re planning to make this shift, I would encourage you to cast vision on the front end. Prepare your teams weeks or even months in advance. Allow them to suggest color options or even design. Clarify your reasoning and get your leaders onboard and able to communicate the why behind the shift. Remember to use your ministry’s unique language to create unity throughout the process. If you haven’t yet created a set of values, that’s your starting point. Bring your staff and key leaders together. Determine what’s most important. Then develop a common language that clearly expresses those intentions.

For multisite, a t-shirt policy can be an easy way to unify your campus strategy and prioritize safety. It’s also a source of comfort for parents when they attend a location that isn’t within their normal routine. It feels familiar and soothes anxiety. It’s a small touch that can make a big difference in a multisite model.

Have I convinced you yet? If so, you’re going to need talking points.

What’s the benefit?

  • It helps your safety or security team identify who should and shouldn’t be in your kids area.
  • It reassures parents the person they are entrusting with their child is a legitimate volunteer acting on behalf of and within the authority of the church.
  • It conveys excellence.
  • It surpasses parents’ expectations.
  • It’s a familiar comfort to the children you minister to.

If your church or ministry has implemented a kids volunteer t-shirt policy or you are in the process of doing so, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below.

I hope you’ll come back to FamilyMinistry.Church every Monday as we continue to unpack multisite ministry.

Jess Bealer

Helping Small Group Leaders Connect

Part of Multisite Monday

Over the years, I’ve taken more than my fair share of budgetary questions, “How should we allocate our funds? Who oversees the budget? How strict should we be about overages?” The question I receive most? “I have a little money left over for the year, what should I do with it?”

My answer is always the same, “SPEND IT ON SMALL GROUPS!”

My mom and dad taught that where you spend your time and money is reflective of your priorities. If small groups are important, then we must devote time, money, and energy to see them succeed.

Parents bring their kids and students to church for different reasons: discipleship, babysitting, guilt, supplemental parenting, boredom, or even curiosity. Kids and students come to church for two reasons, to have fun and hang out with friends. Once we understand the needs and expectations of those we serve, we can begin to strategize. The role of a small group leader is complex. Simplifying the goals allows for clarity. Here are the three objectives of a small group leader:

  1. To CONNECT with mom or dad through meaningful conversations
  2. To ENGAGE with a kid or student in a fun and exciting way
  3. To FACILIATE relationships both as a mentor and with kids’ or students’ peers

Overtime in a multisite model, the quality of small group execution can start to vary from location to location. It’s easy to get frustrated and lay the responsibility square on the shoulders of the campus director. However, excellence starts with a healthy centralized strategy. There are certain elements that must be present or communicated to ensure small group leaders are set up for success. Let’s examine those essentials and consider how to create centralized strategies to ensure their implementation in a multisite model.

 

Coaching

Coaching is not training. Training happens once a quarter in a multi-purpose room with rows of chairs and snacks. Only about 40% of your volunteer-base show up, and most of the time, it’s the 40% that don’t need training. I’m not a huge advocate of training, because it’s rarely as effective as I hope it will be. Coaching, on the other hand, has proven to be a valuable tool. Coaching is hands-on, in the moment guidance. Pair your more experienced team members with those that need assistance and watch magic happen. Put a rotation schedule in place so every small group leader feels supported and encouraged by the coach.

Tip for Multisite Implementation: Coaching starts with a centralized strategy, but often begins with a single location test run. I would advise you to implement this idea at one of your healthiest locations. Select small group leaders who lead the way and communicate well with their teammates. Set clear expectations and transition them to a coaching role. Coaches should split their time between on-boarding new volunteers and evaluating and supporting current small group leaders.

 

Options

If you’ve ever led a small group for kids or students you know things rarely go as planned. Activities don’t always connect. A question that seems benign on the surface may bring unexpected tears. The new kid says something highly inappropriate and a gigglefest ensues. These unexpected twists and turns will lead to honest and impactful conversations. God rarely does what we expect. He works in mysterious ways. We can acknowledge that by offering options to group leaders. For example: “If this doesn’t work, go back to the game.” or “If a conversation is going well, don’t feel rushed to get on with the lesson plan.” Giving small group leaders margin with curriculum transitions allows the group to grow organically.

Tip for Multisite Implementation: Once you’ve established a coaching model this technique can be demonstrated through hands-on training. In the meantime, clarify your expectations through central curriculum emails.

 

Notes and Nuggets

Have you ever read a lesson plan and imagined its execution in your mind. You probably began to think about what you would do and not do, how you would divide kids or students into teams or how you would celebrate a correct answer. Experience leads to expertise. You know how to make it happen, but don’t assume every small group leader operates as you do. It’s important, as you put your lesson plan together, to provide helpful execution tips along the way. These little nuggets of informational gold set your leaders up for success and teach them how to begin to think as you do. I would also encourage you to leave space on your lesson plan, whether below each activity or in the margin, for notes. The goal is for small group leaders to fully engage with the kids and students he or she is leading. Giving leaders space to work out details encourages them to take ownership and spend additional time in preparation. It won’t be long before they too are executing run-throughs in their mind.

Tip for Multisite Implementation: At the beginning of every activity provide helpful advice for execution. Tips like, “This activity works well when kids or students are sitting on their knees” or “Have your group stand in a circle before placing the blindfold on” can help with flow, limit distraction, and save time. This will promote excellence and consistency across all locations.

 

Nourishment

Great small group leaders create a welcoming and exciting atmosphere for the kids or students in their groups. They facilitate friendship and fun. They can discipline with a smile, and make everyone feel as if they belong. If you read that statement and thought, “I just want mine to show up and know the lesson plan,” maybe the issue isn’t commitment, but rather health. Healthy small groups are lead by healthy small group leaders. When was the last time you checked on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health of your team? The roll of the small group leader is the most important, and you must treat it as such. Handle those volunteers with great care. Meet with them regularly to assess their well-being. Provide leadership development books, devotionals, and prayer journals, and make sure those individuals are sitting under the preached word every week. A spiritually starved leader feels inadequate and unable to do that which has been asked of them. Inadequacy leads to departure. Not only will those individuals produce less than stellar environments, but it’s likely they won’t be around for very much longer. No one enjoys feeling like a failure. You can avoid that by prioritizing the health of your small group leaders and providing a steady stream of nourishment to your teams.

Tip for Multisite Implementation: Make room in your central curriculum budget to purchase a leadership book or prayer journal for every small group leader 2-4 times a year.

 

Examples

Whatever curriculum you choose to use, it’s important to make it easy to read and understand. If instructions aren’t clear, execution will be less than mediocre. Consider providing step-by-step instructions for each activity or conversation, as well as diagrams or pictures of the resources he or she will use. You can even provide example statements for them to say at the beginning of each activity. When you take the guesswork out of lesson prep, you ensure consistency and build unity among your teams.

Tip for Multisite Implementation: When preparing small group supplies centrally or on the campus level, offer clear visuals to group leaders by including a completed sample of each craft or activity.

 

Conversation Starters

Kids and students don’t walk in the doors of your church ready to learn about Jesus. Wouldn’t that be amazing? They come hoping to have fun and see friends. If they walk straight into a Bible study upon arrival, you’ve already failed to meet their expectations. Whatever your curriculum selection, it’s important to provide small group leaders with conversation starters. The foundation of a healthy small group is trust. Trust takes time, but starts with authentic conversation. Set your small group leaders up for success by offering a “Would you rather…” or “The grossest thing I’ve ever seen is…” fill in the blank.

Tip for Multisite Implementation: If conversation starters are not included in the curriculum you select, make sure to provide 3-5 questions or discussion topics in your central curriculum email to help break the ice.

 

Timeliness

It takes time to prepare a lesson that will both engage and connect. Honor a small group leader’s commitment by providing the lesson plan to him or her in a timely manner. Passion is smothered by lack of preparation. If you don’t “get around” to emailing out the lesson plan until later in the week, you shouldn’t be surprised when leaders shows up and read from the script. You haven’t made it a priority, so why should they. A 5-7 day preparation window allows leaders to read over it, consider what they will say, memorize key parts, and apply Biblical truths in their own lives. A healthy small group environment starts with excellent preparation, and that starts days in advance.

Tip for Multisite Implementation: Have the team or individual that oversees curriculum centrally write the lesson plan email each week. This email should be sent to campus directors no later than Tuesday. Leave a few fill-in-the-blank options for campus directors to personalize. This will ensure curriculum emails are clear, consistent, and sent in a timely.

Coaching

Options

Notes and Nuggets

Nourishment

Examples

Conversation Starters

Timeliness

The point of a small group is to connect with kids, students, and parents and make an impact. Without a connection, influence is lost. Without influence, it’s only a matter of time before your ministry loses priority and is superseded by a million other alternatives.

In a multisite model, it may seem impossible to centralize personal connection. However, strong systems and clear expectations allow for success at the campus level. Ask yourself the following questions as you begin to evaluate your strategy.

How are we growing our kid and student small group leaders as a church? What’s our strategy?

Have we communicated that a connection is more important than a schedule? 

Do we provide margin for group leaders to personalize their lesson?

Are lesson plan instructions clear and easy to understand?

Do we offer execution tips for those harder-to-understand activities?

Are we setting small group leaders up for success with conversation starters and icebreakers?

Is the lesson plan provided to the small group leader with ample preparation time?

I hope you will join me again for Multisite Monday here at FamilyMinistry.Church.

Jess Bealer

Think Differently About Appreciating Volunteers

Part of Multisite Monday

 

A few years back I wrote an article entitled, Death To Volunteer Banquets. A little blunt? For sure. Truthful? Absolutely. The point of the article was to explain how a once a year dinner designed to cast vision and give direction but branded as volunteer appreciation does little to propel your ministry forward.

Volunteer care and appreciation can only be accomplished through strategic means. It can’t be reactive. It must be proactive. In a multisite model, it’s even easier for volunteers to fall through the cracks. Reduce burnout, isolation, and dissatisfaction by systematically creating routines that enable you to personally appreciate each and every one of your team members. Let’s take a closer look at how to do just that.

 

VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION must be PERSONAL.

Volunteer banquets treat everyone the same. They equalize the volunteer who puts in ten hours at the church office in addition to his or her full time job, with the volunteer who rarely shows up even when you call and offer reminders. Not everyone enjoys getting dressed up or eating in front of other people, and not everyone has another night to give you. What was meant to honor their sacrifice becomes another burden they must bear. Instead, I would encourage you to try a different approach. Think back to some of your all-time favorite presents. I can almost guarantee what set those gifts apart from the rest was how special and unique they were to you. Someone noticed something about you, a problem you dealt with, a preference you had, or an experience that made you feel cherished and loved. I’m not advocating for everyone on your team to get a surprise trip to his or her preferred vacation destination, but I’m sure you see the point. If you truly desire to honor those you lead, you must KNOW enough about them to appreciate them in a way that is special and unique. It must be personal.

Example: A fellow children’s director I know honors graduating seniors with a collegiate mug or water bottle filled with their favorite snack or candy. She matches the mugs to the college or university each will attend in the fall. By recognizing the season he or she is entering the director shows appreciation and support.

Tip: When volunteers sign up to serve in your ministry, have them fill out a favorites form. Ask them to list everything from their favorite restaurant and Starbucks drink to their favorite dessert or hobby. When the time comes to show appreciation, you’ll have ideas of how to uniquely honor them as individuals.

 

VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION must be ROUTINE.

Saying thank you and offering words of encouragement should come as natural to you as breathing. When you witness someone act in a big picture kind of way or notice a volunteer sacrifice time and energy to move your ministry forward offer in-the-moment praise and IMMEDIATELY make a note in your phone or planner to follow up with a word or gift of appreciation at a later time. I once heard a pastor say, “Gratitude is never silent.” Your words and actions should scream gratefulness.

Example: Before the hustle and bustle of child check-in begins, I set aside 15 minutes to walk around and say hello to each member of my team. I offer compliments on everything from a perfectly set up room to a fresh haircut. Knowing my volunteers and making them feel valued and loved is as much my responsibility as ensuring we have enough veggie straws in the cabinets.

Tip: Have a secret stash of spontaneous gifts you can grab to show on-the-spot appreciation to volunteers when you notice them acting in a way that deserves immediate recognition. Keep a variety of candy, gift cards, lotions, albums, books, or even church t-shirts on hand.

 

VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION must be SYSTEMIZED

A life in ministry is busy. The work is never done, and for many of us, we indulge in procrastination far too often. I’ve come to realize if something matters to me, I must carve out a new pattern in my life to help establish habits that are healthy and productive. Volunteer appreciation should be no different. Create systems that force the behavior. Schedule time on your calendar to send thank you notes each week. Make it a habit to swing by Starbucks or Krispy Kreme every Sunday morning and pick up sweet treats for different teams of volunteers. Divide your volunteer appreciation budget into a monthly amount and set reminders to spend that money regularly. If you don’t have money set aside in your church budget to honor volunteers, advocate for it. When you systemize your volunteer appreciation it won’t be long before the practice becomes a pattern.

Example: During the holiday season, Elevation honors volunteers by honoring their children. Each year they create a Christmas clubhouse promising seasonal treats and activities to help kids enjoy the long hours spent at church each Christmas.

Tip: Create a card writing station and encourage leaders to utilize it to show appreciation to their teams. Provide beautiful stationary, colorful gel pins, stickers, confetti, and $5 gift cards. Then ask every leader to write two cards to volunteers they caught going above and beyond. Make it easy by only requiring them to write the volunteers’ names on the envelope. You can always go back and add the stamp and address later.

 

Let’s be honest, all volunteers are not created equal. Some are incredible. They move your ministry forward and you wonder what you would do without them. Others show up and get the job done and while you’re thankful for their service, they may not shine like those showstopper vols you cling to so tightly. Then there are those who you may or may not see during their scheduled service time. They arrive late, rarely smile, and occasionally spout something that has everyone around them rolling their eyes. Their contribution is little more than a ratio met. These types of volunteers are few and far between. They exist, but are definitely in the minority. Over the years, I’ve discovered that almost everyone serving in ministry signed up with altruistic intentions. No matter their “type,” at some point they just wanted to make a difference in the life of a child or student. They wanted families to feel welcome and empowered, and they wanted the personal fulfillment that comes with serving. But ministry is messy. Toddlers throw tantrums. Parents get offended. Supplies go missing. Systems change and then change again. Before you know it, a volunteer is throwing his or her hands in the air and walking out the door, or in most cases, disappearing to never be heard from again.

There are a million different reasons why a volunteer vanishes, but I’ve found more often than not, it’s because they’ve fallen off our radar. For too long in ministry, we’ve relied on a slap on the back or a kind word to keep volunteers energized and moving forward. That’s a great start, but ultimately it’s not enough. Your volunteer base may be the key to execution for your ministry, but it’s crucial to remember these are individuals with interests, concerns, and needs, and one of their greatest needs is to be valued by you, their leader.

In a multisite model, systemizing your volunteer appreciation is essential if you want to build team camaraderie and increase longevity. Whatever system you create must be transferable from one location to another. Systemizing volunteer appreciation doesn’t have to be complex to be complete. Effectiveness is most often found in personal touches and meaningful relationships.

Join me again next Multisite Monday as I talk about First Time Guest follow-up and care.

 

Jess Bealer