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Revolving Door or Revolutionary Solution?

Selma Johnson

Two veteran children's ministers sound off on the pros and cons of rotating volunteers

Rotation: The Solution for Today's Ministry
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 assigned.
• 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 weren't there.

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, Texas.

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