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Recruiting for Successful Ministry

Rick Chromey

Look for volunteers of all occupations. Volunteers aren't all alike. Some have been trained to teach, many have not. Some enjoy working personally with children, others welcome indirect children's ministry. A few can organize while others support. You may find an excellent volunteer who's a retired construction worker, a housewife who home-schools her children, a middle-aged single adult who's had little contact with kids, a father with five children, a janitor, or the CEO of a large company. Remember that age makes no difference. Some of the best children's workers are teenagers and older adults.

But should some people be avoided?

Les Christie, in his excellent book Unsung Heroes, suggests three types of volunteers to avoid. First, avoid adults who want to recapture their childhood. Kids need an adult, not another kid, to lead them. Second, avoid adults who are content to merely chaperone. Volunteers are children's workers. They're not sponsors or even coaches. Children's ministry is hard work. Finally, Christie encourages the avoidance of adults who view their role as that of preachers. To work with children is to be more than a dispenser of moral advice. Sometimes children just need a hand to hold or a friend to play ball with. While our role is to teach children about Jesus, children should see Jesus in us as well.

Evaluate personal interests and gifts. As you recruit, match people to positions. Organized adults can easily plan day trips, develop a curriculum, or design a children's program. Adults who enjoy writing can create a children's or parent's newsletter or can type up a recruitment letter. Drama enthusiasts can start a children's puppet ministry, provide dramas for children's worship, or develop a clown ministry. Musical adults can lead children's worship or choirs.

Sometimes you may need photographers, cooks, drivers, painters, publicists, seamstresses, typists, carpenters, fund-raisers, missionaries, and teachers. Rather than recruit a few to wear many hats, recruit several people -- with various gifts and interests -- to wear a few hats each. It's easier to enlist someone for a 15-minute job than for a 15-hour tour of duty.

Recognize, reward, and restore your workers. Successful recruitment incorporates affirmation of volunteers. Jot a note to every volunteer each month to express appreciation for each person's sacrifice and contribution in leading kids. Give workers time off. Keep a list of substitutes who will fill in every once in a while for a teacher who needs a week off.

Rewarding your volunteers can be great fun. January is a great month to designate as Children's Ministry Month. Create an annual celebration and spotlight your children's teachers, helpers, and workers. In a special worship service, present each worker with a flower or plaque. Host an appreciation dinner prepared and served by the children and parents. Feature workers in your church newsletter, weekly announcements, and bulletin boards.

Affirmation doesn't have to cost a lot of money. One small church in Colorado purchased a basket for each of its children's workers and invited the kids -- during a morning worship service -- to fill their teachers' baskets with fruit and to say thank you. The children of another small congregation serenaded their teachers with thank you songs set to the music of Christmas carols. To the tune of "Jingle Bells," they sang, "Thanks to you, thanks to you, for all the things you do."

Children's workers who quit generally do so because they feel used or tired. Affirming your teachers will restore their confidence and stamina and will improve their teaching. Also, public affirmations draw attention to your children's ministry and subsequently attract potential workers. Everyone wants to be on a winning team!

Create success early. When we toss volunteers into situations beyond their ability, they'll likely become discouraged. And they'll probably say no when they're asked to renew their commitment.

On the other hand, volunteers who experience early success will enjoy their work and will be likely to stay. Start workers out on small, fun projects. Allow them to experience a small success such as going along on a trip to the zoo. Then begin to challenge them with larger jobs.

Schedule a training time for new teachers before they begin teaching. Then have new teachers team-teach for a few weeks with the outgoing teachers. Finally, have the new recruits teach the lessons under the observation of the outgoing teachers. With proper training, the new teacher is more likely to experience success early.

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