Author: Sara Conley

Volunteer Week – Developing Leaders

So, this week we’ve chatted about a number of volunteer topics: Assessing our volunteer culture Recruiting new volunteers through expos and cold calls Providing an orientation process for new volunteers Training volunteers Now it’s time to examine the leadership structure within a ministry. WHY HAVE LEADERS? You cannot do this job alone. Why? Because you are limited. You have weaknesses. If you don’t believe me ask your spouse…or your teenager. With a team of leaders you have a team of increased time to pour in the ministry. You have more hands and feet to do the work. And you have the collective strengths and talents of many people. You will be more effective if you develop leaders. THE PATH TO LEADERSHIP Here are a few things to consider: 1. Rome was not built in a day. 2. God rewards those who are faithful with a little with more responsibilities. Why are these two points important? Continue reading. Sit down with a piece of paper or a whiteboard and map out your dream structure for your children’s ministry. What is your vision? What are your steps to accomplish that vision? What people do you need to make that vision happen? If you had an endless supply of amazing volunteers, what roles would you put in place to bring about your vision? Draw nice little organizational charts of your dream structure....

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Volunteer Week – Training Volunteers

A couple years ago, Kenny and I and our colleagues experimented with training volunteers. We did a big expo and recruited nearly 100 new workers in January. At the end of February, we held a seminar-style training on Saturday morning. Why did we choose seminar-style training? We wanted to give our volunteers the chance to dive a little deeper into topics that really interested or concerned them. Also, we were a multi-site church and we wanted our volunteers to see and feel the energy of the entire team assembled at once. We hoped this might encourage those who felt isolated in their work. SCHEDULE Our schedule looked something like this: 8:45 a.m. – 9:15 a.m. – Continental Breakfast and Roundtable Discussions 9:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. – Large Group Assembly 10:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. – Workshop 1 11:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. – Workshop 2 11:45 a.m. – 12:00 a.m. – Closing Assembly THE DETAILS For the ROUNDTABLE BREAKFAST we posted signs on the tables based on ministry areas, encouraging volunteers to meet others who worked in their areas. We set index cards on each table with icebreaker discussion questions specific to each area – “How long have you served?”, “What’s the funniest story yet from your experiences?” and “How do you deal with <fill in the blank> scenarios?” We wanted to accomplish these activities in our LARGE...

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Volunteer Week – Welcoming New Volunteers

One day I called to check on a volunteer. He’d agreed to volunteer, but according to the ministry director, he’d never showed up. Our call went something like this: Me: “Hi. Can I speak to Mr. Jones?” Him: “No Mr. Jones lives here. Only a Mr. Johnson lives here.” Me: “I’m sorry. Is this <insert phone number here>?” Him: “Yep.” Me: “Well, perhaps I have the wrong name. Do you attend <insert church name here>?” Him: “Yep.” Me: “Hmm…have you volunteered in our kid’s ministry?” Him: “Yep. I signed up a couple months ago and worked every week for about a month. But no one ever spoke to me, and I wasn’t really sure what I was supposed to be doing, so I stopped working about 2 weeks ago.” WHAT???!!!!! We actually had a volunteer sign up and show up for duty for a whole month AND NO ONE EVER SPOKE TO HIM?! AND WE HAD HIS WRONG NAME ON FILE?! Are you kidding me?! Needless to say that particular ministry director did not last long. (No. It wasn’t Kenny.) So ladies and gentlemen, let me ask you: “What is your volunteers’ experience?” Remember how our mamas used to tell us to mind our manners? (At least mine did, but I grew up in Alabama and that’s what mamas teach there.) Manners go a LONG way to transforming a...

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Volunteer Week – Cold Calling New Recruits

Cold calls. Do those two words make the blood run cold in your veins? Don’t be scared! After all, you wrangle large classrooms of energetic children week after week. If you can do that, you can take on the challenge of a few cold calls. I found in my volunteer recruiting experience that a friendly phone call to parents worked wonders for my volunteer rosters. Here are a few things to consider: WHO TO CALL? How does your church record children’s ministry attendance? If you’re lucky enough to work at a church with a robust database, chances are you have pretty good records of what families are regularly attending. Each quarter, I would run reports of all my kids who’d attended regularly over the past quarter. (You need to define for your church what “regularly” means.) I’d remove any families from the list if I knew the parents were already volunteering in some capacity in the church. Hopefully you can do this in an automated manner if your church keeps records of these things. The remaining parents were my call list and over the course of a couple weeks, I would have a calling campaign. It was a numbers game. The more people I called, the more I would recruit, because a few would say no and a few would not be home and a few would have bad...

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Volunteer Week – Examine Your Volunteer Culture

What kind of culture does your ministry have? Did you create that culture on purpose? Did you get there by accident? Did you get there by poor decisions? The Bible talks often of the church being a body. Have you ever considered the human body? The pieces and parts work together. One is not more important than another. All have purpose and meaning. Is this how your ministry functions? If not, how do you turn the tide? Examine your culture. Here are a few questions to consider: Does your ministry have a stated purpose? Do volunteers know where the ministry is going? If you stop and ask any volunteer, do they know what the common goal is? Does your ministry have a clear structure? Do volunteers know where to go to ask questions? Are leaders adequately trained to behave with wisdom and discernment? Do leaders have your back when you are and are not present? Do volunteers have clearly defined roles? Do they know what is expected of them? Simple things like written job descriptions can create healthy boundaries. Is your ministry friendly? Do new volunteers immediately feel welcomed? Or do they have to fight to prove themselves before they are accepted? Do you create opportunities for volunteers to interact outside of serving? Are volunteers held accountable for their actions? Do you check in with volunteers who no-show or...

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Volunteer Week – Attitude Check

In the summer of 1998, I’d been dating Kenny for nearly a year. He convinced me to work at a kid’s day camp with him in Germantown, Maryland all summer. We had a little drill there that has served me well as a life lesson. When we’d see our kids’ energy dragging, the camp director would yell: “ATTITUDE CHECK!” The kids would snap to and shout back, “PRAISE THE LORD!” Cheesy? Yes. But it worked! Immediately the energy of the camp was once again buoyant and happy. Sometimes, I think we in children’s ministry need an attitude check, particularly regarding our volunteers. Misery likes company.  Here are a few common sob stories I hear children’s ministers griping about: 1. “I can’t get enough volunteers.” 2. “I can’t keep the volunteers I get.” 3. “I don’t understand why my volunteers aren’t as invested as I am.” 4. “Why do my volunteers cancel last minute? Or no-show?” Okay friends, it’s time a for a little “ATTITUDE CHECK!” I’m going to say something you may not like. Your volunteers play a little game called “Follow the Leader”. They will go where you lead them. If you think they suck, maybe it’s because you suck at leading them. Ouch. Here’s the good news. Attitudes can improve. Leaders can be trained. Ways can be changed. Check back this week. We’ll examine some simple changes...

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Volunteer Expo (Part Two)

Here is “part two” of the blog post from yesterday. 5. BE ORGANIZED. Think through the details of your event and plan accordingly. We recruited for three ministries at our recent expo. Each ministry was assigned a color. Banners, balloons and booth paperwork in these colors quickly visually distinguished the ministries from each other. Each booth was equipped with sign up cards, trifolds listing job descriptions for volunteer positions, pens and clipboards. The children’s ministry booth also had applications and background checks available for every recruit to fill out on the spot. 6. PLAN FOLLOW UP. As a recruiter, I hate to see people fall through the cracks. By Sunday night following the Expo all the data entry of our prospective volunteers was complete. The staff could start follow up first thing Monday morning. I personally find that this method for follow up is very effective: 1. A follow up phone call within a couple days following the Expo to confirm the volunteer’s interest and scheduling preferences. 2. A formal or on-the-job training within a few weeks of the Expo to equip the new volunteer. 3. A personal welcome the first day of service. Introduce your new volunteer to their coworkers. Help them get settled that first day. 4. Occasional phone calls to check in on the new volunteer over the first few months of service. Give them a...

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Volunteer Expo (Part One)

Hi Friends! My sweet hubby Kenny invited me to chat with you about a subject I love dearly – volunteer recruiting. My, oh my. Children’s ministry is a hungry beast when it comes to volunteer recruiting huh? Ever feel like you’re nonstop asking for volunteers? I’ve been there. Today, we’ll specifically chat about Volunteer Expos. Recently at Gateway Community Church I was hired as a contract employee to plan a volunteer expo. Our goal was 150 total new volunteers for three ministries in the church. Guess how many people signed up? 350! Can you believe it?! We had more sign up than we hoped for! Wow! This was not my first Expo. I’ll share with you a few things I’ve learned. Here are my tips to a successful volunteer expo: 1. COORDINATE WITH “BIG CHURCH”. Sometimes in children’s ministry we become little islands. THIS IS NOT HEALTHY PEOPLE! We are the body of Christ. Your arm would do you no good if it was not attached to your body. Don’t willy-nilly plan an expo. Talk to your pastor or the creative team who plans sermons. Plan your expo around a sermon or series of sermons about volunteering and serving. Let the pastor pump vision into people through his words from the stage. Incorporate the expo message into the sermon for the day. Plan a fun skit to share your...

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