One common struggle in Children’s Ministry is to grow the Sunday School Team. Tina Houser provides some suggestions for doing this in her book Building Children’s Ministry: A Practical Guide. In one sense, everyone in the church can be a part of children’s ministry regardless of the gifts, skills, time and energy they can give. We need people to pray for this ministry, the teachers and the families we serve. We need people to donate craft items. We need people to encourage us and to help lift us up when the going gets tough. On the other hand, growing a ministry team requires wisdom and prayer. Houser writes an important caution: “Don’t act out of desperation. A healthy church matches people with a ministry that God has called them to and it’s just as important in children’s ministry as anywhere else in the church” (pg. 74). Another important task in children’s ministry is to support the team that God has given you to lead.
Know what you are looking for
Before you begin (or continue) to recruit Sunday School team members, take a moment to prayerfully consider what you are looking for in such people. What qualities would bless your children’s ministry? What strengths do you need for this position and to complement the strengths that you already have? What gifts would be ideal for this type of ministry?
Houser writes a few qualities that you may want to consider (pg. 75) – “If they have these qualities, you can train them for the rest!”:
- They have expressed a personal faith in Jesus and are committed to their own spiritual growth
- They have a heart for children. These are the people who respond with a tear or goose bumps, butterflies, and tingly sensations when you tell them about a precious comment a child made.
- They see children as individuals, and understand that kids aren’t made with a cookie cutter or given the same personalities, desires, and preferences
- They show a willingness to step out of their own comfort zones to learn new things in order to reach a child.
- They feel an urgency and express a sense of importance in leading children to a personal relationship with their heavenly Father through Jesus.
What do you expect of them?
Potential volunteers will want to know what you expect of them. The more you are able to answer this question, the less surprised your team will be. Houser offers a few questions to help you think through the expectations of this commitment (pg. 77):
- How much time is involved each week?
- Is there an ending to this commitment or a time of re-commitment (e.g. in a year)>
- How much preparation is anticipated?
- Will there be a training period?
- Will they be expected to train others?
- Is there a budget for additional items or are they responsible for covering the costs themselves? Who will purchase these supplies?
- What happens if something comes up and they get sick? Who do they inform? Who will find a substitute teacher?
Keep your eyes and ears open for people who may join your team
Ask your team to do the same. Some people may approach you to be part of children’s ministry. However, often people need to be affirmed before they will step up to volunteer and therefore you will most likely need to approach people. Start by developing a relationship with them – without asking for anything. Get to know them, their gifts, and their passion. If you feel they might be a good fit, ask to take them out for coffee or lunch if your budget allows. Ask them questions about their life as well as their involvement in the church – what are they excited about? Are they involved in the church already? If you feel led at this point, share your vision for Children’s ministry, the need for staff and ask the potential team member to prayerfully consider it.
Keeping your volunteers
Houser identifies several reasons why volunteers get frustrated in a particular ministry (pg. 86-87):
- I felt abandoned once I took on the responsibility
- It felt like a life sentence. There was no end or break.
- I never had the supplies I needed. It was frustrating and a financial burden to buy everything for my class
- I felt like a fish out of water. One week I was sitting in an adult class, the next week I was teaching five year olds. There was no training.
- I never knew what was expected of me.
- It would’ve been nice to get a little encouragement once in awhile.
Houser argues that we need to include these concerns in our plan of action in hopes to prevent them as much as possible. Perhaps your children’s ministry budget could include an amount for sending teachers to workshops or conferences. CECE offers an annual children’s ministry conference on the first weekend of November. Perhaps you need to free up your time on a Sunday morning so that you are able to float around to the different classrooms to know both the successes and challenges each teacher is facing and can provide constructive and encouraging feedback.
Houser claims that part of our role as Children’s Ministry Director is to help keep up the momentum. She offers several suggestions for encouraging teachers (pg. 87):
- write notes to the teachers that speak of specific things that you’ve noticed them doing.
- Display pictures of your teachers in action
- Ask teachers to email you with the good things that are happening in their class to share with the team
- while the teacher is present, point out to others something unique and creative they are doing in their class
- leave a small gift and a card to let them know you appreciate at them. This doesn’t have to be anything extraordinary – a chocolate bar could do the trick. The important thing is that you are letting them know that you appreciate their energy, time, and love poured into the children.