Your guide to alternative
service opportunities for volunteers who don't fit the
Samantha is a young, single mom who began attending your church two
years ago. Her children love coming to church, but she feels guilty
dropping them off each week when she can't pitch in to serve. She's
an elementary teacher who'd fit perfectly on your weekend teaching
team. But when you ask her to help out, she explains she works at a
second job Sunday mornings.
Alan and Madeline serve in their son's 4-year-old class each
Sunday, but you've noticed that Alan mostly sits and watches. When
you ask him how the class is going, you sense he doesn't have his
heart in it. You dig a little deeper and discover that Alan's not
exactly comfortable working directly with young children. He sees
this as a good way to serve with his wife--and serving together is
important to him. But it sounds as though you might lose this
volunteer couple at the end of the year if you don't do
When we recruit for children's ministry, it's easy to think in
terms of midweek, weekend services, church office help--or any time
your church doors are open. But what about those volunteers who
want to serve but can't fit that framework? How do you harness
Samantha's gift of teaching--on her schedule? Where can Alan find a
niche while joining his wife on her spiritual journey? What about
the many potential volunteers in your church who aren't teachers?
Or those who don't want to miss the worship service but see the
value in serving in children's ministry? Whether they have
scheduling conflicts or interest issues, many potential volunteers
out there just don't fit the typical volunteer mold. How can you
harness these after-hours volunteers?
Meet Your After-Hours Volunteers
After-hours volunteers are just as passionate and vital as your
other volunteers, but they differ in some key ways.
• They may have competing responsibilities.
Different work shifts, kids' sports practices or games, and PTA or
HOA meetings may stop volunteers from serving during your
ministry's "regular" hours. To incorporate these volunteers, you
have to refresh your thinking from typical service opportunities
that require a person's physical presence during set hours, to
unique times and places for these volunteers to serve, such as
serving after 5 or on a flexible schedule.
• They may feel timid around children. Even
potential volunteers who have time and show up at church faithfully
every week may not feel comfortable leading music with kids or
teaching. Either they don't feel gifted to serve in the children's
ministry "box" or they just need to take small steps in
volunteering. These volunteers often thrive when you find
opportunities for them behind the scenes, such as encouraging
teachers, updating your Web site, or gathering supplies during
their lunch break.
• They may have alternate or unreliable schedules.
A manager at a local retail store or a pediatric nurse who works on
call during your regular service times won't be able to commit to a
typical volunteer role. But often these volunteers can step in on
the spur of the moment and help in ways that offer great relief to
you and other team members. For instance, you know you can call on
the pediatric nurse during your midweek program to purchase more
snacks when your attendance unexpectedly doubles one night.
• They may be out-of-towners. Many people travel
for work and are out of town frequently. They might be out of town
during your normal programs, or they just might be unwilling to
commit to more time away from their families after returning from a
trip. Many of these people would love to find ways to stay
connected to their home church while on the road. Perhaps one of
these volunteers would be perfect to be responsible for putting
together your weekly email newsletter and sending it out.
• They may not be up for lengthy commitments.
Don't begrudge people who openly admit they're commitment shy; at
least they're honest! And they're easier to work with than a person
who unexpectedly backs out on you midway through the year. Many
people find the idea of committing to a full year of service
daunting. But they're often happy to commit to shorter terms, such
as three or six months, or to assist with one-time events or
You likely have many potential volunteers with situations like
these. So how do you match them with the right roles?