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.
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.
Sample Clubhouse Schedule:
8:00AM Parent Drop-off / Free Play / Morning Movie
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.
12:00PM Free Play / Video games / Crafting / Art / Boardgames / OCCASIONAL SPECIAL ELEMENT
1:15PM Parent Pick-up
*Note: Clubhouse is available for volunteer and staff kids, ages 3 through 5th grade.