As promised (thanks to those who have nudged for this): part 2 of my thoughts on working with, and retaining, volunteers.
6. Be a team leader with humour and without intensity: Pressure and seriousness doesn't motivate many people whereas lots of laughter endues a sense of team. Pastors need to be able to laugh with their volunteer teams and have social times together.
7. Place a huge value on prayer:
(a)praying together: our teams now meet to pray together every sunday before we open up the Bible with children. We really want to invite God into our thoughts and plans for the morning.
(b) not holding children back in prayer: let them go! I've found that volunteers love this as its unpredictable, exciting and slightly dangerous (the Executive pastor almost lost his head today when some over-enthusiastic children laid hands on him a little too hard as he bent low in a kneeling posture - but hey - its fun! It's not boring!)
(c) praying with volunteers themselves - if prayer is a value of mine then I want to have my vols pray for me and with me and I for them. If we are sharing life together then we want to pray for one another in life's joys and stresses.
As I said earlier, I am not perfect and I feel I could spend a day and evening a week meeting up with each volunteer in turn to do so - but I can't - so I want to build a team who will each in turn do that for one another.
8.vulnerability - a leader who never shows a vulnerable side may not be able to sustain a sense of team. I'm not going to say any more about this as it will become too personal! Suffice to say I believe it strongly to be true. Be real and don't make out you're something you're not.
9. Give time off to your teams. Children's ministry is one of the most thankless tasks in church life. People rarely say thank you and, even within your staff team, people just assume it happens - until the day it doesn't and it all goes wrong. I noted with interest on a staff member's blog at Gateway Community Church (Austin, Texas) that a survey done amongst the staff team revealed that the ministry that would be most missed if it just didn't happen on a given Sunday was kids ministry (prolly 'cos of the noise that would ensue)
So I have a term-time team and a summer/Easter team and we have a lot of fun with some different activities happening in the holidays but we still a full kids programme. It gets to me when people say summer is the quiet time in church life. It's not for me as my regular team are away and our church gets loads of summer visitors, plus I run an outreach club!
I really love my teams. They contain some of the most committed, dedicated people in our church. They know what it is to work behind the scenes with no applause.
If you are willing to serve even two weeks (that's less than three hours in total), you really know how to serve! :-)
10. Next, training. To retain teams, we need to train, we need to envision. It needs to be practical but it also needs to be biblical/theological - not just training on how to handle hyperactivity/nosepicking/challenging behaviour - but how to teach the Trinity, how to bring children on in their faith, how to model ways of praying like Jesus did and for the things that Jesus did (illness. bondage. unity.)that bring children on in their experience of faith.
Train your team in new things and you will excite them. And they will want to stay around. Ignore this, leave them with the same old, same old in terms of teaching material and expectations from you and they will get bored.
11. Share testimony with your team. Tell them stories about how the things you (corporately) are doing which are bringing whole families into the Kingdom of God. Get children to speak out loud how Jesus has helped them/healed them/reached someone in their family. These things bring a sense of excitement into proceedings - "wow! God is moving in this ministry I am part of!"
12. Finally, bring a missional mandate to what you do. Nearly every Christian I know wants others to know Jesus. The pastor/ministry leader to the team of childrens' volunteers, should teach and train on our missional purpose and its proven effects. Read and digest Lausanne Occasional Paper 47 on reaching children in the world today - remind your team we work with THE most unreached people group in the world. They are found EVERYWHERE! What a privilege! I have found this to be absolutely in compelling a team to stay together and work together plus we partner with other arms of our church family to present a "joined up" approach to this.
So, CAP (Christians Against Poverty) notify me of any new families visiting to church. I talk to my age-specific leaders and CAP befrienders' the Centre Manager, myself and my volunteers work very hard at providing the warmest welcome to new families, gifts of Bibles and Bible reading notes to children, support at home etc.
We do this incredibly sensitively according to the advice and request given by the CAP Centre Manager - she is an incredible pastor to her clients and I work closely with her to extend the same warmth and welcome to the whole family. But I share the info that I am permitted to with the children's leaders as I NEVER see them as babysitters but as agents of the love of Jesus to children who in turn show that to their parents.
It's exciting, it IS awesome and it is invigorating to be around.