Two veteran children's ministers sound off on the pros and
cons of rotating volunteers
Rotation: The Solution for Today's
by Selma Johnson
If someone had told me decades ago I'd be pro-rotation in
children's ministry, I would've said, "Never!" Having been a
children's pastor for more than 30 years in small churches and in
megachurches, I know all the arguments for having the same team
members serving in children's programs. Those reasons were great
for the '60s, '70s, and maybe even the early '80s.
Those were years when more traditional families went to church.
Volunteers had more time to prepare, there weren't as many
"every-other-weekend" parents, and children were more accustomed to
traditional church structures. Families made certain their kids
were in Sunday school every week. Not as many grandparents, aunts,
and uncles were raising children, and not as many jobs required
weekend work. Small and large group children's ministry models
weren't even thought of yet.
Despite all that, I wish rotation had evolved early on in
children's ministry-what a difference it could've made in how those
children, who are now adults, view church.
This is the 21st century. New ministry techniques are in place
all over the world, and they're working amazingly well. Kids learn
much more visually, beginning in their preschool years. Adults are
no longer the central focus in the classroom. Through my
experiences in the church, I've become a huge proponent of a
rotation system for volunteers in children's ministry-here's my
list of reasons.
• Today's church has a huge population of kids who come twice a
month or less due to changing family dynamics. Kids are used to
change and have adapted to it as a way of life.
• Busy volunteers are more willing to step up and to commit in a
rotation system that meets their scheduling needs.
• Over time, our ministry's concept of "teachers" has transformed
into the concept of team leadership. We've experienced better
cooperation among volunteers and leaders in various departments
using this concept.
• Our rotation system lets volunteers use their specific gifts for
music, games, creativity, resources, and more, without pushing them
into positions where they're less equipped or comfortable.
• More men are willing to step up and get involved because they
can use their specific gifts.
• Kids are more excited and eager to attend because team members
are fresh and eager to be with them.
• Kids change classes and teachers earlier and earlier in school.
They're accustomed to seeing different faces in school
classrooms-why not at church?
• Due to employment situations, a lot of our team members could
only serve every other week or once a month. A question we had to
ask ourselves was, do we penalize a good volunteer by being so
rigid and saying, "We can't use you because you can't be here every
week"? The answer, obviously, is no.
• Volunteers can negotiate days among themselves if something
comes up or they can't serve during the time they've been
• Team members who've served forever and aren't willing to change
to meet children's needs find it's easier to step aside and let
teams and rotation take place. This has actually happened at our
church without hard feelings. So many times people who've served
for years develop the attitude, "This is my classroom"-and when new
people join they feel unwanted and leave. With rotation this
doesn't happen. Everyone works together. No one develops the "It's
my room and you better not disturb it" attitude-we're all working
toward the same goal.
• Rotation is an excellent solution for churches with multiple
service schedules. Saturday and Monday nights and multiple
services on Sunday require a fluid schedule.
• Our children's ministry began a volunteer rotation schedule, and
we've tripled our volunteer base.
• We've increased our volunteer base with people who are eager to
be there with kids and are doing a superb job teaching children
about Jesus. As a church, that's what we want.
• Adults are happy, children are happy, and I'm not stressing to
find subs every weekend.
I'm sold on rotating volunteers, and I have no desire to go back
to the "old way." I no longer dread services, worrying over who'll
show up-or not show up-or who'll have a sad face and wish they
Selma Johnson has served more than 36 years as a women's and
children's minister and is now associate pastor to families, women,
and children at Church at the Epicenter in Burnet,