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Turn Around This Ministry

Dale Hudson and Ray Tollison

Follow this new children's ministry leader as he tackles a serious need to double his volunteer team.

We can all relate to volunteer shortages -- for many children's ministers, limited people-power is the greatest challenge they face.

In this second installment of our two-part series, you'll meet Ray Tollison, a new children's minister at a large church in Colorado. Ray, whose ministry serves more than 200 children weekly, has a major problem: He's seriously short of volunteers.

Children's Ministry Magazine paired Ray with Dale Hudson, a 17-year veteran children's director, speaker, and writer in Las Vegas, Nevada. Over five weeks, Dale and Ray worked together to grow Ray's volunteer base. Read on to learn what happened.

Week 1

Dale's Notebook:

No matter the size of the ministry or church, we all face the same challenge: We need more volunteers. Ray's in a large church, but that doesn't mean he has new volunteers banging on the door every week wanting to get into the children's ministry. 

Ray shared the exciting things happening in his ministry, areas where he needs more volunteers, and specific steps he's taking to enlist people. 

We talked about how the overall church culture plays into building a great team of volunteers. When the pastor and executive leadership believe strongly in children's ministry and make it a high priority, the payoffs are huge when you need people to serve.

We also agreed that the squeaky wheel gets oiled. As children's ministry leaders, we must also be the champions of children's ministry. I encouraged Ray to share examples and current information with his leaders that demonstrate the importance of a strong children's ministry.

Ray's Notebook:

The first day I heard from Dale was perfect. I'd just learned I was going to be several volunteers short on Saturday night. Since we usually only have eight or nine volunteers, that can make things crazy.

Our goal is to have kids form groups of five or six, but that never happens. Our leaders sometimes end up with 15 to 20 kids per group. Not only do I worry that the kids aren't getting anything in groups this size, it frustrates the leaders because it's difficult to keep control. You're really only teaching to a few kids and the rest are just hanging out.

My goal is to recruit 25 new volunteers -- that would double my current number of volunteers. We're having a children's ministry open house next week, so with Dale's help, we're going to combine our volunteer drive with that.

Week 2

Dale's Notebook:

Ray's open house is coming up this weekend. I'm excited for him and his team. They're inviting the entire church and it'll be great exposure. 

I told Ray how our team made a dream list of volunteers. We created a flowchart mapping out every single position we'd want if we had an unlimited number of volunteers. We then began to pray and work toward seeing those positions filled. We still have openings, but we've filled more than 200 positions in the past year and a half. It all began by mapping our vision, working toward it, and bathing it in prayer.

Ray's Notebook:

Dale suggested using "entry points" -- opportunities for people to join without the weekly commitment -- to get people involved. 

Dale sent me a list of volunteer ministry descriptions. I've taken those, tweaked them, and added them to our list -- room assistant, game director, and on-deck staff, for example. On-deck staff includes people who are "on call" and come in as needed.

We also discussed ensuring leadership is behind the event and that we have plenty of "advertising." So I made support from leaders a topic at our church staff meeting. Our leaders were really excited and committed to being present in the children's area before, after, and between services. We also put together a short video advertising the open house.

Dale and I talked about using balloons as a visual representation of our need. We're going to have red and blue balloons -- red for the volunteers we have and blue for those we need. So as we talk about recruiting volunteers in big church, people see just how many volunteers we need. We'll replace a blue balloon with a red balloon when someone signs up.

Week 3

Dale's Notebook:

It was exciting to hear the open house went well. Ray's team definitely raised awareness and enlisted several new volunteers. The easy entry points helped them pick up new volunteers because they offer ministry on a smaller scale with less time commitment. Many people are intimidated because they feel they can't teach a lesson or lead a song. But easy entry points such as greeting, helping with crafts, or running a soundboard get people in the door. God often raises them up to do things they never thought they could do.

Ray's Notebook:

Our open house went well this weekend -- we had seven new volunteers sign on. Over the week we had three more people volunteer for a total of 10. Next weekend we'll be a little more "in your face."

Dale and I talked about ways to get volunteers, especially parents, to take ownership in the ministry. We set up a Parent Opportunity area by our check-out station. All the positions are "entry points" -- nothing requiring more than 20 minutes a month.

The balloons were a great visual. Several people asked if we really needed that many more people. But they still didn't sign up.

Some great news: We also created volunteer opportunities for kids (Prayer Team, Shout Team, and Greeters) and a total of 180 kids signed up!

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