Attracting & Retaining Volunteers (#CPC15 Conference Notes / Resources)

Attracting and Retaining Volunteers : If there is one universal truth in children’s ministry, it’s that there are never enough volunteers. This breakout will show you how to attract great volunteers, develop leaders, and increase retention.

Volunteers are seeds; not manna from heaven. I’ve yet to see volunteers come from the sky but I’ve seen plenty come from sowing.

4 Steps to Attracting Volunteers:

  • Get your staff on board
  • Create raving fans among your current volunteers
  • Help people see themselves volunteering in your children’s ministry
  • Walk with confidence in your calling

3 Keys to Retaining Volunteers:

  • Care for your volunteers (previous session)
  • Remind volunteers about the big picture
  • Give your volunteers ownership

 

Ways to know if you are raising up / recruiting great volunteers in your ministry:

  1. people are getting recruited to other areas
  2. their names are being brought up all of the time (in a good way)
  3. your leaders are identifying other leaders

 

Resources / Related Posts

eKidz in A Flash

Staff Kids = Exceptions

Empowering Your Volunteer Team

Featured on Orange Leaders

Ants. Everywhere. I looked around the classroom and could feel the sting of tears forming. It was going to be a hectic morning.

I had known for weeks today would be challenging and had done everything in my power to set up my teams for success. It was a long holiday weekend, which meant many volunteers were at the beach or in the mountains with their families. (But we were covered; I had called in reinforcements in the form of staff spouses.) Our church building, which was often rented out by other well-meaning organizations, had been filled with tiny ballerinas and tappers less than 24 hours prior, and they had definitely left their mark. Glitter was everywhere. (But again, no big deal. I had hired a cleaning service and brought my own vacuum from home for a final touch-up.)

However, when I unlocked that room (the one room that hadn’t been touched by sparkles and tutus) and saw the trails of hardworking fire ants streaming across every flat surface, my heart sank. “Oh no!” I whispered. The volunteer standing at my back gasped and mumbled quietly, “I noticed them last week just outside the door. I mentioned it to another staff member. I guess they forgot.”

The Problem You Don’t See Coming

Have you ever been so flustered, so angry that you could feel your face heating? That’s exactly what I experienced in the moment. We could have remedied the problem anytime in the last seven days. There was nontoxic ant spray beneath the sink in that very room. How did we find ourselves in this situation? The volunteer’s next words effectively deflated my frustration. “I’m sorry. You’re just so particular and I was afraid I’d step on someone’s toes if I took matters into my own hands. Would you have wanted me to spray or tell you so you could spray?”

Immediately, I realized my failure. We would fall short of the expectations of the families we served because I had neglected to empower team members to identify viable solutions and make critical decisions. I had micromanaged my ministry to the point of malfunction. I had built a shifting foundation. My need for control had robbed my team members of their confidence and limited their capacity. The irony in the situation was how much I trusted my team. I had recruited incredible people with a varied set of skills and aptitude. They were fully capable of executing with excellence, but my fear of making mistakes and being labeled inadequate was stifling our success. Click here to read more.

5 Ways To Make It EASY To Attend Your Church

A Part of Multisite Monday

“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.

For additional multisite articles, click here.

Jessica Bealer

Should you Implement A T-Shirt Policy?

Part of Multisite Monday

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. To check out additional Multisite Monday articles, click HERE.

Jessica Bealer

7 Keys To Impactful Connections

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?

To check out additional Multisite Monday articles, click HERE.

Jessica Bealer

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