What Message Is Your Atmosphere Sending?

A Part of Multisite Monday

Whether you are contemplating a multisite strategy or already have ten locations, it’s important to consider what the atmosphere you are creating says about you. I think of atmosphere as the hardest working or (in some cases) the most underperforming volunteer you have. It’s either creating momentum or diminishing your effectiveness.

Atmosphere is the first and last thing parents notice as they are entering or exiting your facility. It sends a message, intended or not, about what’s important to you. Let me explain.

There was a season when launching the children’s ministry for Elevation Gaston in which we had not identified a campus kids director. Since I was launching the campus anyway, I stepped into that role for a few weeks. I will never forget standing near the door one morning, as families were exiting, and hearing, “Man, that toddler room stinks. They really need to change those kids’ diapers.” I had an irrational desire to chase down that dad and explain how each child’s diaper is changed at least once during every worship experience. That was probably the reason why the room stunk so badly to begin with, but because of a slight oversight on my part, we were judged as uncaring, inattentive, and unsanitary. You better believe the next week we implemented an air freshening system. We installed a scent machine just outside the baby and toddler rooms and assigned a volunteer to spray Febreze before, during, and following each worship experience. We also moved the changing table away from the door area and purchased a scent reducing diaper pale.

The smell of your rooms and hallways may seem inconsequential, but whether you like it or not, EVERY minute detail of EVERY aspect of EVERY area of your ministry will be noticed, considered, and judged by a parent. The question is will your atmosphere make a lasting impression or be found wanting? As you are reading this article, there may be aspects of your ministry that pop into your head. That’s great! The more aware you are of the shortfalls, the easier they are to rectify. If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are a few steps to get you thinking at the right level.

START by listing adjectives you would like for parents to associate with your ministry. Here are some examples. You can create your own list.

Clean              Safe                 Effective

Bright             Fun                 Peaceful

Loving             Organized      Friendly

Efficient          Welcoming     Modern

THEN evaluate your current atmosphere. Identify the areas in which your current environments contradict one or more of the words you wrote down.

FINALLY, write out a few sentences that help to clarify atmospheric goals for your team and make an actionable plan to align your reality with your vision.

Here’s an example:

Each room should be neat, clean, and smell nice. There should be minimum furniture, but contain the necessary components to adequately care for the children or students we serve. The rooms should have a modern, minimalistic feel. Every area should be fresh and bright.

Once the vision is clear, the teams you lead can help you establish and maintain those minimum standards. Here are two examples, one permanent and one non-permanent, of what can happen when you clarify the vision and make a specific charge to your volunteers.

 

 

Still need help getting started? Ask yourself these questions as you begin to evaluate your atmosphere.

Can first time guests clearly identify kid or student check-in upon entering the building?

Is my directional signage clear and current?

Are my rooms neat and clutter free?

How do my rooms and hallways smell before, during, and after the worship service?

Is there age appropriate music in the hallways or classrooms during drop-off and pick-up?

Do I have a designated volunteer at each classroom or theater to greet families and assist during pick-up?

Do my volunteers convey fluster and frustration or energy and enthusiasm?

Am I conveying excellence with my commitment to detail?

Are my rooms sterilized? Do I have hand sanitizer at every door and check-in station? Are the rooms vacuumed and cleaned prior to and between each worship service?

Is my wellness policy easily understood and posted in a noticeable way?

Are my rooms well stocked with needed snacks, supplies, and teaching resources?

Is there security (paid or volunteer) present and easily visible?

Every week parents entrust us with their most valuable treasure, their child. There is nothing they wouldn’t do for them, no limit to their love. Keeping that in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise they have high expectations of us. The fact remains, no matter how amazing the worship music, how relevant the sermon, or how friendly the volunteers, if a parent feels their child was unsafe, uncared for, or unengaged, they won’t be back. Your atmosphere sets the stage for successful interactions with parents. It leaves a lasting impression that can create hesitation or construct confidence.

For additional Multisite Monday articles, click HERE.

Jessica Bealer

 

15 FRESH Volunteer Appreciation Ideas

Part of Multisite Monday

My new book, Don’t Quit, releases on September 8th. Coauthored with Gina McClain, it is written in such a way to offer insight on a variety of ministry topics, as well as inspire leaders to never raise the white flag of surrender. In our original pitch to the publisher, we shared our passion and commitment to see ministry leaders equipped, empowered, and strengthened to run the marathon race that is ministry. In several chapters we directly address volunteer systems and strategies. Volunteers are the lifeblood of ministry. The stronger your teams, the greater the impact.

If you plan to be in ministry for any length of time, you need support. While healthy familial relationships are important, that’s not what I’m referring to. You need passionate, dedicated individuals who are committed to seeing God move in and through your ministry.  In one of the chapters I share a formula to help volunteers last longer:

Clarity + Empowerment + Appreciation = Longevity.

Today I want to focus on the appreciation variable of that equation. Effective appreciation is shown on an individual basis. It celebrates, encourages, and publicly acknowledges excellence. Below you will find 15 volunteer appreciation ideas to help you care for the teams of volunteers and leaders who’ve been placed in your charge.

PRACTICALLY FREE

  • Use Siri to make the most of your drive time. Record voice messages and send to unsuspecting volunteers. Don’t ask anything of them. Check in, say a quick prayer and thank them for what they do. Be as specific as possible with your gratitude.
  • Mark off thirty minutes in your calendar each week to write cards, send emails and make calls. Don’t allow this small amount of time to be eaten up with administrative meetings or unscheduled standing conversations.
  • During your volunteer meeting or rally choose one person to honor each week. Tell his or her story, how he or she connected with the church and how he or she is making a difference in the lives of kids and families. Remember to choose only deserving volunteers to honor. Never point to someone who is lacking drive or commitment and say, “Be like them.”
  • Every other Saturday evening plan to bake a batch of cookies, brownies or muffins. Wrap them up, attach a note and bring to one or two volunteers for no other reason than you were thinking of them.
  • In your weekly curriculum email or volunteer newsletter, choose one volunteer to highlight each week. Tell about his or her family, hobbies, career, and passions. Provide a picture or two so volunteers from other teams can identify him or her and say hello.

ON THE CHEAP

  • Want to draw attention to a select few volunteers. Rent or purchase a small helium tank. Write notes of thanks and place them inside balloons. Use helium to inflate the balloons and tie them onto cars in the parking lot. Not only will it draw the intrigue and attention of attenders, but your volunteers’ last interaction with your ministry for the day will be one of gratitude and appreciation.
  • Create a ‘favorites form’ in which volunteers can share their preferred candy, restaurant, coffee order, color, hobby, etc. Keep these forms on file to use as needed. Not only will you be ready to show appreciation when the time is right, but you’ll also know exactly what to purchase to make a lasting impression. Appreciating your volunteers begins with knowing your volunteers. This is a great step in the right direction.
  • Set up a card-making center where volunteers can write thank-you notes to one another when they want to express gratitude. Provide $5 gift cards, candy, glitter pens and stickers. Ask area leaders to write two cards and team managers to write one card every week. Have these leaders write the first and last name of the person they are appreciating on the front. You can add the mailing address on Monday or Tuesday and drop them off at the post office. The number of appreciation cards you send each week will quadruple with very little added work for you. In addition, your volunteers will treasure the opportunity to highlight the efforts of their peers.
  • Have a variety of gifts purchased, wrapped and waiting to be given out at just the right moment. The best time to show appreciation is as soon as possible. When you notice a volunteer patiently comforting a crying child or scrubbing down a bathroom sink, grab a previously wrapped gift and attach a note. Don’t wait to say, “Thank you!” (Examples include a nice lotion set, a book on leadership, a pair of earrings, a car wash gift certificate, a travel coffee mug, a journal, or a gift card to a local eatery.)
  • Honor your team members by gifting them a special t-shirt on their one or two year volunteer anniversary. Consistency and commitment should be celebrated and publicly recognized.

FEELING GENEROUS

  • Have a particular team that consistently hits a home run? Schedule for their cars to be washed and detailed while they serve. Have them lined up, sparkling and ready to go when they head home.
  • Want to splurge on volunteers who have selflessly signed up to serve during Easter or Christmas experiences? Create a mobile coffee or hot chocolate cart and hire a barista to serve custom made hot drinks between experiences.
  • Have college students serving for the summer and want to thank them for stepping up when rosters are thin and regularly scheduled volunteers are traveling? Order travel mugs from the schools or colleges they will be returning to in the fall and fill them with their favorite candy or snack food. This will show your gratitude and reinforce the behavior for summers to come.
  • Want to welcome new sign-ups and help build community among teams? Book an ice-cream truck for the day and encourage leaders to bring their teams to share an icee and get to know their new teammates.
  • Want to show gratitude and increase relational equity with those special few leaders who go above and beyond to help your ministry make a greater impact? Schedule a cooking class and enjoy a hands on approach to dinner. Have fun, enjoy the process but don’t talk about ministry issues. Relational equity is rooted in friendship.

In a multisite model, volunteer appreciation must be systemized. Let me be clear…it has to be BUDGETED! A multisite model is complex and multilayered. If your church doesn’t set aside money to honor, encourage, and show gratitude for those who invest time and energy into your ministry, those individuals will be neglected. Neglect leads to dissatisfaction, which leads to disengagement and resignation. If you want to keep your ministry healthy, adjust your schedule and budget to accommodate for the care and encouragement of those who help you succeed each and every week.

(Tip: When deciding how much money to set aside in your budget for volunteer appreciation, first decide on the initiatives you want to pursue. Estimate the total cost of those initiatives and then divide that amount on a per capita basis in accordance with the number of volunteers you have at each campus. This will give you a per volunteer amount and allow you to estimate how much a single campus or location will need to adequately care for its volunteer base.)

I hope you find these ideas helpful and I hope you’ll consider purchasing Don’t Quit on September 8th.

For additional multisite articles, click HERE.

Jess Bealer

Ministry Leaders: Need More VOLUNTEERS?

Part of Multisite Monday


While on staff at Elevation, one of my responsibilities was to field and respond to church inquiries regarding family ministry. The question asked most frequently? “How do I recruit more volunteers?” It doesn’t come as a surprise. Even at Elevation, where we had more than 2,500 volunteers in children’s ministry across sixteen locations, we always needed an extra pair of hands.

As much as you fantasize about a full volunteer roster, you need more than warm bodies that help you meet a state recommended ratio. But where do you start? How do you begin to staff your ministry with people who are as committed and passionate as you?

Your impact will be determined by the health of your volunteers, the attractiveness of your ministry and the vision cast by you and your leaders. In a multisite model, the effectiveness of your volunteer care and recruitment strategy will either stimulate or restrict church growth.

Last week I had the opportunity to speak on this very topic on the Kids Ministry Collective podcast. I hope you’ll take the time to check it out. Click HERE to listen to the podcast now.

For additional FamilyMinistry.Church articles on volunteerism, click HERE.

Jess Bealer

Is a 5AM start time too early? No!

A Part of Multisite Monday

I know what you’re thinking. 5:00AM is too early for anything! In most circumstances, I would wholeheartedly agree. However, in a non-permanent multisite model, there is rarely a “too early” for set up. Things never go as planned. A section of pipe and drape has disappeared (or maybe the whole cart), the computer dongle that connects the laptop to the projector has walked off again, the baby gate hardware is bent, the four volunteers scheduled to set up your preschool room called in sick fifteen minutes ago, and why are there oil-like stains on all the rugs? Like I said…things never go as planned. At an Elevation non-permanent location we often asked our volunteers to arrive as early as 5:00AM to begin load-in.

Yes, these people were aliens from another planet that just happened to fall in love with our church. Just kidding. These were wonderful people who believed in the vision of our ministry and had a clear understanding of the role they were asked to play.

Often times in ministry we have to make the BIG ASK of team members, something that is crucial to the ongoing success of our ministry, but feels ridiculously taxing, something like a 5:00AM start time.

Through the years I’ve learned that although these BIG ASKS usually do require some sacrifice on the part of the team member, they are often as rewarding as they are burdensome. On many occasions, I’ve heard my husband coach ministry leaders through these tough conversations. He’ll often explain, “Don’t say no for them. You’re robbing them of a blessing.” Think about how you came to be in ministry? It’s probably because someone at some point asked you to do something that stretched you. You rose to the challenge, were given even more responsibility, and the rest is history.

Have I convinced you yet? If so, it’s time to start preparing. If you’re going to ask volunteers to step up, you must create a serving experience that is both efficient and rewarding. If you’re going to ask someone to arrive at 5:00AM, there better be music and coffee. Check out the start time and morning schedule for volunteers at a non-permanent Elevation Church location.

Sunday Morning

4:30AM: Box trucks carrying set-up equipment and supplies are picked up by a designated individual from a storage facility.

5:00AM: Box trucks arrive at the school or non-permanent location. Initial load-in process begins.

  • Music is playing.
  • Coffee is delivered.
  • The members of this team are in competition to beat their previous load-in time.
  • Breakfast is served to this team immediately following the completion of the initial load in.

6:00AM: Volunteers from all teams arrive to begin setup of various areas.

  • Music is playing in the hallways.
  • Coffee is available for all volunteers.
  • Supplies requested the previous week are delivered to perspective areas.

7:30AM: Breakfast is served in eHQ (Empowerment Headquarters) for all set-up volunteers.

  • Hot, homemade food is offered along with gourmet coffee and a variety of teas.
  • Volunteers are encouraged to sit as teams and catch up with one another.
  • Tables are decorated and scattered with tiny notes of encouragement.

8:00AM: An all-volunteer rally begins in eHQ (lead by campus staff).

  • Specific volunteers are recognized and honored for their sacrifice and contribution.
  • A story of life change, specific to the campus, is shared to remind volunteers of the impact they are having.
  • A short five minute devotional thought is shared.
  • All volunteers pray together.

8:30AM: Volunteers are dismissed to their perspective areas to meet as a team and discuss any special considerations for the day.

  • Volunteers are encouraged to connect, share and pray together.

9:10AM: Volunteers are in place to welcome and serve those attending.

At Elevation we ask all volunteers to serve during one experience and attend during another. During the first six weeks of launch all volunteers are asked to be present and accounted for at all times (an all-in mindset). At week seven, we assign half of our area volunteers to set-up and half to tear-down. Those that serve during the 9:30AM worship experience also serve on the set-up team. They serve, then head into the main auditorium to attend the 11:30AM worship experience. Those that attend during the 9:30AM worship experience will serve at 11:30AM and assist in tear-down. All volunteers are asked to be on campus by 8:00AM for breakfast and the all-volunteer rally.

There is no perfect schedule. Arrival times are always being tweaked and updated. Your goal should not be to ask less of your teams. The goal is to make the most of their serve time and create community among your volunteer base. When considering start times, set-up, tear-down and volunteer systems, it’s important to remember the benefits should outweigh the sacrifices. Focus on making your volunteer experience as rewarding as possible. Happy teams last. Fulfilled volunteers produce excellence.

Don’t be afraid to make the BIG ASK of your volunteers. 5:00AM isn’t too early if you’re prepared to make the experience an enjoyable one. Volunteers will enthusiastically accept a challenge when they feel called to something significant. Keep the vision clear, honor the sacrifice and make the experience fun!

For additional Multisite Monday articles, click here.

Jess Bealer

Help! I Need Somebody!

A Part of Multisite Monday

Have you ever looked at your ministry and been completely stumped? Have you ever had an insane urgency to sing an ode to the Beatles and break out with, “Help! I Need Somebody!” You’re not alone. We’ve all found ourselves at that crucial crossroads.

For the past 17 years, I’ve had the privilege to minister to children and families. At the age of 19, I took my first children’s director position. I was wide-eyed and passionate with big dreams. I can honestly say God has guided my path and allowed me to pursue greater opportunities than I could have possibly imagined. The past six years saw me leading the children’s ministry of one of the largest and fastest growing churches in America. It was an incredible journey.

About six months ago, my husband and I made a major transition in our life. We went on staff with Orange and began helping churches all over the globe better minister to kids, students and families. I also began consulting and coaching with leaders and ministries from around the country.

Whether you need a one time comprehensive evaluation or are interested in establishing on ongoing coaching relationship, I believe I can HELP.

My areas of expertise extend to children’s ministry multisite and launching, volunteer recruitment, coaching and appreciation, preschool and elementary age programming, systems, standards, atmosphere, staff culture, and time management and personal health.

Despite the demand of writing, speaking and managing the craziness of a six-person household, I have elected to open three additional consulting slots as we head into fall.

As summer quickly comes to a close and your church begins preparing for a SGS (strategic growth season), it’s always nice to have a new set of eyes and fresh ideas. I would love to partner with you and your team as we set the stage for God to move in miraculous ways!

If you’re interested in learning more, leave a comment below. 

Jessica Bealer

For additional Multisite Monday articles, click here.

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

Part Two

A couple weeks back I shared 8 Do’s for Volunteer and Staff Kids. Before we jump into today’s content, here’s a brief recap…

Growing up, my parents were the ultimate church volunteers. My mom was a Sunday School teacher, my dad the Sunday School Director and Associate Pastor. When I was a teenager, he announced his call to preach. As much as I loved Jesus, I came to resent the church building itself. I endured long hours inside those brick walls, bored and wishing to be anywhere else. Yet, at 19 years old, I felt God’s call on my life. It was very specific. He wanted to use my own experience to fuel my passion and make church FUN for kids. Over my 17 years in children’s ministry, I’ve strived to create environments that engage and attract children, especially staff and volunteer kids. Today’s post is Part 2 of 8 Do’s and Don’ts for Volunteer and Staff Kids. It will focus on those things that should be avoided in order to connect and minister to the families you see most often. I would encourage you to start with Part 1.

Up until December 2016, and for the past six years, my husband and I had led the family ministry at Elevation in Charlotte, North Carolina, a fast-growing church of 16 locations and nearly 30,0000 attendees. One of the areas in which we found success was called 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. Clubhouse ensures they don’t get bored or serve as a distraction.

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. Kids love the low key environment and parents appreciate the energy and effort expended to care for their children while they are busy serving Jesus.

Having a defined strategy is key. Here are 8 things to avoid when establishing a plan to better engage and minister to staff and volunteer kids.

DON’T

DON’T expect them to be exemplary pupils.

  • Kids are kids. While I strongly believe regular church attendance helps young minds develop a more defined and Biblically based sense of morality, it’s important to remember even great kids have bad days, weeks, and years. Believe me, my funny and sweet 11 year-old, Isaac, was not so pleasant when he was three. If I’m being honest, he was a terror. I wanted to apologize every time I dropped him off. If you’re creating a Clubhouse type environment and expecting the kids in attendance to behave like angels that treasure the space, put away games, and listen the first time an adult speaks, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Clubhouse at Elevation is loud, somewhat chaotic, busy, and FUN! When children feel safe to be who God made them, they’ll start to anticipate that freedom. They’ll begin to look forward to the long hours at church.

DON’T punish them or make them an example because they are “tough enough” to handle it.

  • The kids in your ministry will act out, especially in an environment in which their energy is allowed and encouraged. As with anything in life, a bad choice can result in unfortunate consequences. I’m not suggesting you should let volunteer and staff kids run wild, but make an effort to understand the stress and strain each child endures in order for you ministry to thrive and always err on the side of grace.

DON’T assume their parents are informed about what’s happening in your ministry.

  • The most uninformed parents in your congregation are typically those on staff or serving in a volunteer role. Why? They’re too close to the action. Volunteer and staff parents assume because they spend so much time within the church walls they are “in the know.” These moms and dads rarely read handouts or emails, and they never pay attention to details because they know who to call when they need a reminder. As a ministry leader, it’s incredibly frustrating, but it’s also a reality. Find ways to keep volunteer and staff parents informed. Station a volunteer at Clubhouse pick-up to relay details through face-to-face conversation. Mail handouts directly to their homes with a personalized note. Create disposable take-home bags parents can grab with all the information they need for the week. Make it a point to keep them informed and watch as they begin to understand, support, and appreciate your ministry in a whole new way.

DON’T forget about attention span.

  • Have you ever been in a car with a kid? Whether the trip is 10 hours or 10 minutes, as soon as your foot hits the gas those legendary words fall from their lips, “How much longer?” God gave us these precious, adorable, mini people with boundless energy and zero attention span. If you truly want to help kids love church, you have to keep their minds and bodies occupied. Having staff and volunteer kids repeat your Sunday morning programming multiple times will eventually create problems. When little minds and hands wander, they cause distraction and create mischief. In your Clubhouse environment, keep a steady pace of activities planned. When parents arrive to pick-up, you want their kids asking, “Can’t I stay just a little longer?”

DON’T treat them as you would all other regularly attending children.

  • Staff and volunteer kids will, on average, spend 300% more time at church than a sporadically attending child. If you strategically use this time to invest in them, you’ll find these children will be your most effective marketing tool. They’ll understand the heart of your house and the systems of your ministry and will one day be your most passionate volunteers.

DON’T allow programming constraints to limit what you can do.

  • Just because your main worship service is programmed for 60 minutes and held inside the brick walls of the church building, does not mean your Clubhouse environment should operate within those same constraints. Schedule a game truck. Turn your parking lot into a waterpark. Plan a Easter Egg hunt with mega prizes for your staff and volunteer kids during the Easter Clubhouse experience. Order Happy Meals and milkshakes from McDonald’s and sit on the playground or sidewalk for lunch. Find ways to make your Clubhouse experience feel not normal.

DON’T assume they love church.

  • I shared how, as a child, I loved Jesus but hated the church building. I was often bored and couldn’t relate to the teachings. I’m sure your church is committed to creating fun, relevant environments but every child may not initially view your ministry in a positive light. That’s okay. Treat them kindly. Ask questions. Find out what his or her interests are and make adjustments that will strategically appeal to individual interests.

DON’T babysit them.

  • We all love to be needed, to feel important, to believe that our opinion matters. Kids are no different. If anything, they are seeking validation and acceptance more than anyone else. When you schedule a volunteer and ask them to do little more than pass out gummy snacks, turn on a movie, and check tags at pick-up, kids have no motivation to be more than a number in a ratio. Instead, find adults who will take a vested interest in them as individuals. Make sure your volunteer and staff kids feel important and valued. The lengths to which kids will go to fulfill the expectations you’ve set will surprise you. Challenge them to assume leadership positions among peers. Offer incentives for scripture memorization, and find opportunities for them to take the reigns when possible and be the hands and feet of Jesus.

A successful Clubhouse environment is one of intentionality. Your strategy should be to engage kids, facilitate friendships, and bring laughter, as well as connect families on a more personal level.

In a Multisite Model, bring campus children’s director’s and Clubhouse leaders together frequently to brainstorm ideas and determine what is and is not working. Sharing supplies and strategy can save you time and money in the long run. The secret to success is not a secret at all, it’s collaboration.

If you haven’t already read Part 1, I would encourage you to go back and read the first half of this post. 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.