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You Wanna Volunteer? Take a Number!

How do you show appreciation to your staff and volunteers?

I publish the "Salt & Light Spotlight" in our quarterly children's ministry newsletter showing a key volunteer who's doing something effective but unnoticed during their weekly life. Sometimes I know that an individual volunteer is hurting, so that person is highlighted in our newsletter. We have an appreciation banquet once a year. Twice a year we have a leadership retreat where I take my team over a Friday night to Lake Geneva to build a sense of team, have fun, and strategize the future of our ministry. I have empowered (that is budgeted money for) my directors to take their volunteers out to lunch if they need it. I would rather encourage a leader with a lunch than buy a new puppet!

What do you say to a volunteer who comes to you and says, "Okay, you've trained me, taken me out to lunch. I've been 'pastoring' for a few years, but now I want to move on. I don't feel like I'm being fed, and I need to stop teaching and attend a Sunday school class or worship with my orphaned spouse"?

Wow! That's my job as their pastor to help keep them fed! I have to come alongside them to help get them back on track. I may let them go and replace them with someone who has completed Phase 1, or I may try to get them into a small group. Whatever it is, I have to listen to them and shepherd them back to good health. Once a month we have Leader Fellowship where we talk turkey. I don't call them teacher training meetings, but that's what they are. Everyone gets informed as to what we're doing, we all get to fellowship, eat some good food, and spend time in prayer for our kids.

I once had a seminary professor tell me, "You cannot impart what you do not possess!" How do you sharpen your saw to stay effective?

I attend the first service on Sunday with my family. I have a personal growth plan with goals and objectives. I read a lot of John Maxwell. In fact, I'm currently going through his tape series, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. I spend time with my kids and my family. I take my days off. I also spend time with my pastor and try to connect with whatever energizes him. I don't ever want to let my ministry turn into a hobby where I have to go to the next trade show for the next trick!

Who are your toughest people to recruit?

People with a lot of educational expertise, believe it or not. Many times they can't understand the heart aspects of a ministry to kids. Also I've had trouble recruiting men into the ministry when all they see is women in visible ministry positions. Two things have helped me here. Men want to see organization-something that'll be easy for them to become a part of-not fix. Men also want to see significance-they want a cool ministry that has very tangible results. Another group that's tough to recruit are people who've been going to church way too long or who've already done their time when they had kids.

What's your toughest position to fill?

Our preteen ministry is a very unique age group. We don't want to be contemporary; we want to be relevant. Also our early childhood division is a tough area to recruit in. It's hard to get people who know how to connect with these two age groups. Finally, our special needs children are tough to recruit for. Typically their parents aren't a good source of ministry leadership because they want a break from their daily tasks of training them.

Have you ever turned anyone down?

Oh, yes, regularly! Out of a class of 20, three or five will not make the cut.


They're people with lots of hurts. They're people who have past church experiences that've burned them out. They're church hopping and want a new thing. Or they're the type of people who say indirectly, "I can't be loved by adults; kids will love me!" Our screening process detects all sorts of motives; and a person's motives are a big part of the evaluation when we place our leaders.

Have you ever had to "fire" a leader?

Yes, though not very often. Usually the reason is that there's something going on at home that they need to focus on. They're getting a divorce, or maybe they're just spending too much time at church to avoid their responsibilities at home. They have an inappropriate relationship with their spouse, or they have some life habits that are contrary to the standards set in Scripture.

What recruiting advice would you give someone who's just starting out in ministry?

Understand the difference between recruiting and calling. There are people called to be with kids; that's a summons from God. Be open to that calling in people; don't just go after warm bodies. Also start communicating your passion and vision to the whole body. Finally, put together a Parent Resource Guide immediately so the congregation knows what you're about.


Lenny La Guardia has developed a typical working plan for a good week that builds and adds to the previous day. His staff tries to follow this to balance good shepherding with good administration.

Monday: Process Day Administration and evaluation of Sunday

Tuesday: People Day Recruiting, contact- ing, meeting

Wednesday: Program Day What can we do to do it better? Implementing changes to program

Thursday: Parental Day What messages do we want to communicate to the congregation?

Friday: Pastoral Day Meeting the needs of the people

To contact Lenny La Guardia, write him at First Assembly of God, 5950 Spring Creek Road, Rockford, IL 61114. Call (815) 877-8000, Ext. 211, or email him at cm

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