While I was on vacation, I got an email from another church asking me the following questions:
1.Â Do you expect or require parents to volunteer?
2. If so when do you start expecting them (when they become members?
after attending 3 months?)
3.Â How is it working for you?
I’m going to post my answer tomorrow. Before I do, I’d like to hear what you think. Have you had success with serving requirements?
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We don’t require parents to volunteer, but we are working on some processes that educate parents more about the FM strategy and the roles that adults play in their kids development. It’s my hope that will encourage parents to serve. We want people to find fulfillment in their service not see it serving as an obligation. When serving breeds fulfillment as a leader you can focus on shepherding and retaining volunteers rather then always recruiting. I wish that I could say we are there, however, we are working on changing the culture to reflect this attitude.
.-= Pat Rowland´s last blog ..Celebrating Dads for 100 Years =-.
I’m struggling with this, which led me to your website. There is no such thing as “required to volunteer” – “required to work” would be the proper phrase. Parents need a break, some only find that break on Sundays while their child is in the hands of the children’s ministry. The only reason, other than eternal life for our babies, many of us go through the HUGE hassle of getting small children ready (Enormous frustrating hassle which normally causes us to darn-near loose our religion on what is supposed to be the day of rest) is to get a break ourselves. A single hour focused on filling our own cup—for us, our cup isn’t being filled by wiping the boogers off of the faces of other peoples children. I’m being asked to volunteer under the pretense that “kids ministry cant go on with out your help”. We work all week to provide a wholesome tithe and now we are being asked to work the one break I get. It honestly makes me want to not attend church…or find a new one until they proved the same ultimatum. Why? Why?
Let me explain my current church situation. We are a new and very small church. We have a minimum number of volunteers helping in the kids department..which means those same volunteers are helping every single week. Every week those same people are wiping the snot off of a kid that isn’t theirs. And trust me, no matter how big your passion for working with kids is, that’s never appealing, haha! None of the people helping even have children. None of them get to attend a service on Sunday mornings. At a meeting when I mentioned that we may need to set up a schedule involving the parents helping once a month I got grumbles and “we need a break”. And that is upsetting, because 1. It would only be once a month. 2. The volunteers that are teaching and loving on your kids every single week don’t deserve a break too? How are their cups being filled? 3. As a church, we are all called to serve. As a small church, we may have to make sacrifices in order to get where we need to be. I don’t know about your church situation, but if they are saying that they “can’t go on without your help” then it would seem that they don’t have enough staff and truly need some help. I can understand being frustrated if it was a long term commitment. I also understand that not everyone who has children enjoys working with other kids. But in my case, the “required” volunteer time would be temporary. We are doing everything we can to get more volunteers who WANT to be in with the kids, for the sake of the volunteers and the kids. Just some thoughts from my point of view…because trust me, we as volunteers are very frustrated too. If your church doesn’t actually need the help from parents, I would set up a meeting with church staff to discuss that.
I’m probably way late replying to your comment, but you seemed to really want an answer so I figured I’d try. I am a children’s pastor at a medium sized church, and we have considered making it mandatory for parents to serve, but decided against it. First, allow me to explain my reasons for wanting to mandate serving for parents. Out of the 50 children or so that we have, only about 10 parents serve, the rest of our volunteers are not parents. The rest of the parents feel much like you do. Right now, our volunteers are on a 4 week rotation, and because people have to miss service we are always short handed. If a volunteer cannot serve, someone typically has to serve 2, sometimes 3 times in one month. We usually have 1 volunteer in every class who serves more often than anyone else. Because of volunteer shortage, I can count on one hand how many times I have been to service since Easter. Secondly, we see a huge payoff when it comes to parental involvement, basically, if you see it as something important enough to invest your time in, your child will see the importance as well. Last, we think our kids and youth are the most important people in the church, with that being said it would be nice to have enough volunteers so that the people who love teaching our kids aren’t getting burnt out.
The reason that we inevitably decided against requiring parents to serve is that I didn’t want people who didn’t see the value in our children’s ministry. Kids ministry is a huge commitment because we’re sometimes the first people to really teach a child about Jesus and how much he loves them. I don’t think you can do that when you have a team full of people who really don’t want to be there.
My advice would be that if you like the church, you should give kids ministry a shot. If you hate it, I’m sure they would move you and let you serve elsewhere.
Good move! Serving is a privilege and I would never want someone who didn’t feel called to be there to serve in my children’s ministry. It’s too important.
Being a mother of small kids in this society is isolating and can be very demoralizing. Moms get the message that their only place is with kids, that they are otherwise not relevant. That’s why they resent it. Ask them to volunteer elsewhere. Ask non-parents to volunteer in children’s. Or pay for a Sunday school teacher.
I would venture to say that a whole lot of folks feel the way that Nicole does. As a father of five I can appreciate the need, or desire to get the hour or two of separation Sunday mornings. I’ve considered this question many many times and I always return to the same thing…somebody is serving those kids, somebody is pouring into those kids each and every Sunday morning. Now who is that “somebody”, and is it their sole responsibility to sow into the children of those who enjoy the Sunday morning escape from their children?… A long time ago (I was single and in my late 20’s) I was at church for a Wednesday evening service and I was scheduled to serve in Children’s Ministry. Now this particular evening I was particularly disenchanted with the fact that I had to serve in Children’s as I REALLY wanted to be in “Main Service” with the adults. As we had pre-service prayer, I quietly pouted to myself as I paced around trying to seek God…in the midst of my intimate rant I very clearly sensed the Lord speak over my heart words that have never left me… “If I was there tonight I would be serving the children”. Needless to say that was a game changer for me. The reality is that it takes a village and the village in “the village” statement isn’t reserved for those who don’t have children in CM that morning. Our tithe does not buy our freedom from serving in our “undesirable” ministries of the church, nor does having children that run us ragged all week permanently excuse us from serving in CM. I firmly believe that all parents that check their children into CM should regularly serve in CM…I don’t mean every Sunday or every other…but perhaps once a month or at least bimonthly. “Somebody” has to serve those kids, and from time to time that “somebody” should be parents of the kids being served.
I don’t think this would go over well at all at Gateway. I think you serve because you are called to it and God gives you the gifts and strengths to move forward in it.
I don’t want parents who don’t really have a passion or dedication to serving kids in there because they were told they have to.
I think if this happened, you would see a drop in children coming to church. One would stay home with the kids and the other would come to hear the message.
.-= karin´s last blog ..I exalt Thee =-.
I know this reply is from many years ago, but here is another take on this side.
Not requiring parents to come help…1 ministry leader, 38 kids, no volunteers to help.
This eventually leads to 1 ministry leader no longer being able to serve because their cup is no longer being filled. Parents who see the leader as a babysitter they don’t have to immediately pay and absolutely no appreciation for what the ministry is trying to do for their child. I believe there is no great answer to this constant dilemma. Yes, we should fill our ministry with people who desire to be there, but when you ministry is beginning to be filled with new believers and those who desire to not serve but be served…you put a lot of responsibility on leaders who also need to be filled and rarely are. This is why we have youth and children’s leaders who live in their ministry for 2 years. TOUGH spot for sure.
The draft should be reserved for negative and high risk situations like fighting in a war.
Pressing people into service is a poor excuse for having a compelling culture.
.-= Larry Shallenberger´s last blog ..Difficult Babies Thrive If Placed In Correct Care!!!! =-.
We encourage it, but it’s not required. If you’re not called to work with children (youth, music, insert ministry here), you probably shouldn’t be there. However, there’s definitely a difference between being lazy and really not being called. It doesn’t take much to work in most nurseries – a willingness to cuddle/play with a baby and sometimes change a diaper However, I’ve seen a lot of people who won’t volunteer to help out there because they don’t want to miss something or they’ve done their time. Sad that we don’t see this as a ministry to others as well and it’s so easily overlooked. To me, a growing/active children’s ministry is a good sign that your church is doing well.
i would actively be discouraging parents from swerving in our kids ministry. this is because some people find it very hard to differentiate between being a parent and being a leader to their children. In our ministry we currently have 2 leaders who have siblings in our program, and this is proving to be difficult as the leaders believe they need to be the parents while the children are in our care and also believe leaders rules don’t apply to them when they are leading their siblings.
in my opinion, you need to limit the amount of difficulties that you face when running a ministry and because many parents can’t take themselves out of the parenting role, it makes it hard as a ministry leader to run an effective ministry.
.-= crossydj´s last blog ..crossydj: @peteammerman that sounds mint. i hope they show the barcelona game on ESPN in New Zealand! =-.
excellent point, Larry.
.-= karin´s last blog ..I exalt Thee =-.
We actually did require it a very long time ago at our church, but it made it difficult for parents to serve in other areas of ministry that they were passionate about when they HAD to serve in Children’s Ministry.
I think sometimes Sunday mornings might be the only time some parents get a chance to pursue their passion and sometimes they just need a break from their little ones and that is OK.
I think it is important however to find a way to partner with parents and work as a team.
.-= Helen´s last blog ..Weekend Recap =-.
Its funny you should ask this question. My msg this past weekend was on serving. I told the kids of my own evolution from self serving to serving God. When my 2nd son was born I was a new Christian. The church I attended said, “If you’re gonna have a baby in nursery, then u should also volunteer in the nursery.” I didnt like this at all…it made me uneasy. Not because I didnt like kids, but because it meant commitment. BUT, I did it…and ya know what..it wasnt that bad. Then the next church I went to I automatically got involved with the preschool ministry. Then we moved again (army) and I volunteered in the elementary ministry. During this “evolution” my relationship grew in the Lord and, before I knew it, my husband and I became childrens Pastors. We have been childrens pastors now for 3yrs and we absolutely LOVE it. Who knows, if that church hadnt “made” me volunteer, I might not be where I am today. I know its a touchy situation, but I agree with Peter…”There is a difference in being lazy and not being called.”
I’m with the “No, thanks!” crowd. I don’t want people serving our children who don’t want to be there. We only have these kids in “God’s House” for an hour and I want that hour to reflect as much of His love and excitement as possible. But I’m all for having such a blast that people want to serve. The latest volunteers I have had join came because their kids love it.
And you don’t want to tie people into a children’s position that keeps them from finding what they really do love and prevents them from serving there. We encourage everyone to serve somewhere, but we let them decide when and where.
It’s hard enough to lead volunteers that want to be there I can’t imagine trying to lead people that don’t want to serve and are forced to. I’ve had someone on our team bring this up recently and I just haven’t seen a successful growing church model. I’ve seen it done at many “us four no more” churches but yet to see it at a outreach minded church. I’m always open to hearing new ways and ideas so if there is a working model I’d love to hear it.
We never volunteered when our kids were in KQ because we were up to our eyeballs in production. It should be taken into account that some parents volunteer (and feel called to volunteer) elsewhere.
I spent several years working in child care centers, and I can tell you with great certainty that I am not called to work with kids. I’ll love on babies one on one, no problem, but I’m not taking on a roomful of someone else’s kids willingly anytime soon: been there, done that. I happily use my spiritual gifts and abilities elsewhere within Gateway, and I have a great admiration for those who are called to spend time with Gateway’s kids.
I feel pretty strongly that it shouldn’t be a requirement that parents volunteer their time. A happy volunteer makes for happy kids and a great kids’ program. You might have to recruit, but everyone is better off that way.
.-= Lisa@put-it-on-the-list´s last blog ..What a Cool Birthday Gift! =-.
Thanks for all the good comments people! Peter, I like where you were going with the idea of “being called” to something. If only people who were called to children’s ministry volunteered in children’s ministry, we’d never have enough people. I’m just going to be honest here… might be a little jaded. When someone won’t volunteer for children’s ministry becasue they don’t feel called to it (and they’re usually not doing anything else either), it makes me want to kick them in the face. Just kidding, I can only think of one or two people I’ve ever wanted to kick in the face. It does reveal to me a certain level of immaturity (not always, but often). See, I don’t feel called to serve in a homeless ministry, but there are times when I need to serve the homeless because there is a need. Neither do I feel called to hospitality ministry, but sometimes I’ve gotta step up and get the job done. Either for a one time thing or for a season.
Yes, there are people who should not be serving with our kids, but there are a whole bunch of people who can serve our kids and should that aren’t called but they do it because there is a need.
Serving is best when you find your sweet spot, but sometimes we have to step up and serve where there is a need.
Know what I mean?
.-= Kenny´s last blog ..Requiring parents to volunteer =-.
We currently only get parents to help in the pre-school area. There are some that are really keen to do their part, but they tend to be the ones that are really involved in serving in other areas of the church and I really don’t want to give them too much.
Also over summer (Christmas time on our side of the world!) when all the university students are away we run a different program and get parents involved there.
For some kids having parents in kids ministry really cramps their style – they’re different kids when their parents are around, esp for the pre teens, so I don’t put a huge push on it.
.-= Sarah Thompson´s last blog ..KidsRock 09 1+1 =-.
Why would you want anyone who wither doesn’t like children or is not passionate about working ith chilren to be in your Children’s Ministry? I prefer to spend extra time asking my Father to supply te workers needed for this part of His field and then discover where that person’s passion is before they become a part of the team. Don’t get me wrong. We need LOTS of volunteers to do what we do but I still prefer passonate people!
Years as a leader we requested that parents serve once a month with about a 50% positive results. Now I get that you ENGAGE parents in the learning process. Yes I would still state ” welcome to the team” to parents when their kids attend regularly. Have seen SO many times where the positive light of service comes on in SO many parents.
They become a part of the process as they learn they are the primary spiritual leaders of their kids. Parents want to succeed- and they (90% of the time) if welcmed warmly and allowed to know what to do as they serve- its VERY rewarding. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of their kids lives like that? Too many serving areas- even not in rooms with kids- too not engage parents. I highly recommend vision casting the “partnering with parents” concept. Parents frankly don’t know where the sweet spot even is unless they sometimes are given the opp to serve. Love it. Love volunteers! We can’t exist without them! PArternship goes a lot further than just leaving your kids in a ministry.
I agree completely.
1. Vision Casting (leadership and church culture issue)
2. Partnering with Parents (leadership, culture and process for discipleship)
3. We are not the spiritual leaders, parents are! (leadership and church culture)
We are raising up spiritual champions–and I don’t mean the kids. We need to train up our parents so they can train up their kids. When we take on the responsibility of raising up “other-people’s-kids”spiritually, it can develop in us division when we want to cultivate unity, it can develop burn-out when we desire inspiration and fulfillment, it can stir up the flesh when we want to be led by the spirit.
We, as Pastors and ministers, are called to equip the body, not do everything for them. If we are spoon-feeding our parents, we are doing them a dis-service. Do I think we need to require a parent to serve in KidMin when they play the drums in worship every-other-week? Absolutely not! However, if we are communicating, as the leaders of our church, to our church-family, that serving is a part of our walk with the Lord, in response to our love-relationship with Him, we are on our way to fulfilling what God has called us to do–every joint supplies!
Don’t require parents to volunteer.
1. Parents hate it.
2. People shouldn’t be forced to serve outside of their giftings.
3. You want volunteers who love kids and are called to that ministry.
We don’t make anyone serve at our church. And I can’t tell you how many times we have had people come and say to us. I don’t have to serve in the children’s ministry or preschool?? There is no rule or schedule?? In my opinion it’s old school and not very effective because people feel like they are being forced to do something and when you are forced to do something it automatically makes the thing you are being made to do not enjoyable.
Ok, I am trying not to sound embittered by the excuses.
Hmm But, I think we would be sitting in a very loud, child infested BIG church if only those passionate (as you say) about being active in their child’s church welfare, volunteered.
It is interesting all the hrs parents will put into their child’s extra curricular activities. But, when a church asks for active involvement in this, people actually get mad.
I am sorry, but this is beyond me.
This makes me sad. This sounds so judgmental even if you didn’t intend it to be. This kind of attitude also makes parents run from congregations with people boasting this sentiment.
I understand parents not wanting to serve in the nursery because they need a break…I’m a parent…I totally get that. However, without asking parents to serve in the nursery once every 4-6 weeks, you run the risk of having no nursery at all. This leaves the parents fussing with kiddos in the middle of a service and ending up leaving frustrated. It is EXTREMELY hard to staff volunteers for a church nursery. I actually pastor a church with my husband and had to take the reigns 3 years ago because we had no one to do it. I could easily say I’ve paid my dues…my boys are teenagers. However, I know there are parents that attend our church who need to experience a God encounter on Sundays so if it means I sit in the nursery with their kids each week because we have no one else to do it, so be it. Many of these comments have mentioned not wanting volunteers who aren’t passionate about serving children. In my opinion, how can you be a parent and not be passionate about serving children? Not just children, but how can you not be passionate about serving other parents? No, we’re not all called to be in that ministry full time…I speak from first hand experience…but volunteering once every several weeks allows you to not only help fill a void, but also give another parent the opportunity to experience a church service without their children. I’ve learned through many years of ministry that people who experience certain things in life can relate to and minister to others who are going through the same thing. A non parental volunteer cannot understand how hard a stay at home mom works and needs to sit in a worship service taking in the beautiful presence of her Heavenly Father like another stay at home mom can. You can serve that mother and her child by taking a nursery shift so she can have that experience. You in turn will receive the same gift when it is her Sunday to serve in the nursery loving on your kiddo. It takes a village and I feel we as parents have to step up and lead the way in hopes of recruiting more volunteers. This is only my opinion and I in no way mean it to sound like this is the right way, or that churches who do not ask parents to volunteer are doing it the wrong way. It’s just a different lense I have to remind myself to look through to better understand both sides. So I would like to ask…for those who feel it’s not ok to ask parents to serve in the nursery occasionally, do you just close it all together on the Sundays you don’t have volunteers? Do you feel it’s ok that one person misses out on church services themselves to serve in there each week just so parents don’t have to? Constructive ideas are greatly appreciated 🙂
If a parent does not want to be activily involved.
Let them walk.
I think you should require parents to serve ONE time in ONE area to see and appreciate what other do on a weekly basis. This way you may get some to commit and the ones you don’t want serving will not serve again.
First, anyone who is not apart of a church shouldn’t be expected to volunteer. Period. Not until someone has put their faith in Christ should they serve in the church.
Next, The Church is for serving others in a fellowship of accountable Christians. People don’t like the idea of “working” at Church, but the fact is the Church is not here for the people in it; It’s for the ones who aren’t. Yes the Church is a place to worship and find comfort in Christ with fellow believers, but the Primary Purpose is not self-oriented. So instead of just injecting opinion into the matter let’s look at what the scripture says about service:
1 Peter 5:2
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseersâ€”not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve. -1 Peter 5:2
Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men. -Ephesians 6:7
For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. -Romans 16:18
Thank you all for your comments and advice. It is greatly appreciated…I am definetly going to take into consideration all of the advice posted here. Thanks again, ME`
I was wondering if you could perhaps tell me what the final outcome was on your decison. My wife is the Volunteer Coordinator for our Mega Church. Our church is really struggling to meet the demands of the amount of children who are being brought in! (blessing) On the flip-side, volunteers are needed to be there for these pre-schoolers. I can understand to a point some of the posts about upsetting parents with mandatory serving time, as well as some of the comments about being actively involved in other ministries in the church. GREAT! However, the fact remains that the amount of children who are coming is increasing, while the amount of volunteers to assist are not. BTW for some of those wondering, I volunteer to help with the children, in ADDITION to volunteering in another ministry within the children’s ministry. Do I always enjoy it, absolutely not. But I”m serving the Lord and our church, and I”m more than willing to step outside my comfort zone if it’s pleasing to our savior.
I think you’ll here a consensus here. Where some churches close rooms (most do not), most do everything in their power to make sure that not a single child is turned away. Do whatever it takes. Develop contingency plans. Get the Sr. Pastor on board. Recruit more volunteers. However, do what must be done so that all kids can come to church. There is always a solution… It may be a lot of hard work and may require trying new things and thinking outside the box… But it can be done. Again… I’ll emphasize, your pastor may play a part in helping either through communication to the church or creating a culture for volunteers. I don’t know if that helps at all.
I am implementing a teacher to student ratio. Once that ratio is met students will not be allowed in the area.We often have one volunteer and several students/babies which is not safe.
Just a question…I totally get the “working in your strengths” argument, for not wanting to volunteer in the children’s ministry. However, If we are asking people who have had kids to help volunteer in the nursery or a toddler area…(not an area that is dealing with lessons and deep teachings to preschool-elementary kids) ….and their argument is that “they are not passionate” ….why did they have kids in the first place?
I don’t think its that simple. Hey, I’m on your side. I think the best place in the world to serve is in the Children’s Ministry… but that’s also me. I also know some incredible parents that just aren’t passionate about serving in the children’s ministry. They like their kids a lot… but its just not the same with other kids.
If it’s an excuse to not serve, then that’s a lame excuse. However, if they use that excuse and join a serving team somewhere else in the church, then that works for me. If the temperature for volunteering rises in the church… then the children’s ministry will get enough volunteers. It won’t matter if some are signing up for guest services and others are signing up for the arts team… if the value is serving… your kidmin will get enough. Fight to raise the temperature for volunteering church wide and everyone wins.
I just wanted to offer this opinion – take it with a grain of salt. A person who has not yet had children, especially a woman, will be very energetic and predisposed to fawn upon infants, even not having any herself. A parent, on the other hand, is sleep deprived and burned out (if they have young children). What is being asked for of those parents is to ignore or abdicate responsibility to their own child (or detract from it) to watch children while other parents worship, or socialize. Why are these parents not passionate enough about their own children to not watch their children themselves? Why did they have kids in the first place?
The bigger issue is that good parents put A LOT into raising their kids. They work at it every day, every waking moment. Not all parents do this. Behavioral issues develop in children who do not have all of their developmental needs met. These children become more difficult for others to incorporate constructively. It is not a pleasant experience to be the caretaker trying to incorporate a child with this background. Anyway, I am talking about preschoolers. I despise teaching preschoolers. I think when people say they are not “passionate” they are euphemistically saying – you could not pay me to watch those hellions.
But I agree it’s perplexing about the infants and toddlers. Then again I personally love children that young, and unformed, although few will really attach to a caretaker because they will be so traumatized that their parents are gone (especially if they breastfeed).
Anyway, just a thought.
I have never been the girl who liked kids. When all my friends oohed and aahed over babies, I didn’t get it. And if I’m being very honest, a big reason I have never liked most kids is because their parents don’t discipline them and they’re a trial to be around. My husband and I chose to have children because we wanted OUR kids and we trained OUR kids to behave how we believed was appropriate. We used the nursery when our children were babies. The church we attended with our first child required that you volunteer if your child used the services (note that we were not members but this was still a requirement as we were regular attendees) which I dreaded every. single. time. but did because I understood the logic that there would not be enough volunteers otherwise. Our children are no longer in nursery and I do not volunteer in nursery. I genuinely do not like being with little kids and feel I’ve served my time in church nursery when my own kids were using those services. I volunteer in other ministries within the church and am very thankful for the opportunity to serve in those capacities. My church growing up didn’t have nursery workers. There was a nursery and you took your own child out if there was a need. If parents want to have a ‘break’ during church, they should man up and volunteer on a rotation and can stop doing it when their kids no longer use that service and the next generation of parents should step up. I’ll also share that I find it incredibly irritating that this is so often foisted on women but not on men.
While I agree we should never force anyone to do a work of service for God at anytime but when parents are not involved in every aspect of their Children spiritual development how do we expect the child to grow in the Lord as outlined in Deuteronomy 6:7.
God gave children to the parents and hold them as the primary ones responsible for them at home, community and while at church. While God gives many of us (parents & volunteers) the spiritual gift of working with children in ministry, I do not see it as a replacement of the parents for opening up God’s spiritual word on Sunday’s. I see it as a side by side helper to the parent in the spiritual development of children.
This topic is seem to be turning out just like what is being played out in everyday society where the parents are relying on childcare centers and other after school programs to rear their children while they do other so called important work out in society for worldly benefits instead of them being home as the child’s primary caregiver and life teacher.
My primary ministry calling from God is to be my children teacher and pastor and not to worry about other secondary ministries to serve in or to worry if I’m comfortable in the environment because in the end God will judge me on what I did with what He gave to me.
Ahhhh, I think I see a slight flaw you argument – but you assume that the best parenting is when a parent is involved in every aspect of their children’s spiritual development. A parent cannot be 100% 24/7. That’s why you find a church that aligns with your convictions and puts spiritual influencers in the children’s and student ministries. Because I have learned that this is true – two voices are better than one. I’m so grateful that my kids have multiple adults and teenagers who love them and are spiritually building into them. I’m with my kids every day – my kids need to grow up that it’s not just my words or my interpretation. This is also true – when kids become teenagers, they’re going to want to hear what other adults have to say. It’s not that they don’t believe you as a parent – but they’re hardwired to doubt and question. It’s what leads to stronger faith. A wise parent ensures that there is a multitude of other voices that can help communicate truth to my kids during this season of life.
So, all that being said. Requiring parents to serve won’t fix your volunteer program and I don’t think it will make your parents better spiritual influencers. I don’t need every parent to serve – but I do want every parent to consider it, when it works well for them. I believe that when I create a compelling culture that makes people want to serve – I won’t need to require people to do anything.
Thank you for articulating this so well!
I have directed our church nursery (0-3yrs) for the last 18 years (12 of those years as ‘lay’ staff). The subject of ‘how to recruit more people to love on the babes’ is never far from my prayers and is frequently discussed in staff meetings. I appreciate the many perspectives in the above comments. There were years our 2 children (now 19 and 20) attended 4 services a week because I worked each service. It is by God’s grace and mercy that there were so many other adults willing to pour into my kids as I was serving the littles. We NEEDED other adults willing to share their spiritual wisdom and giftings with our kids as we were raising them. Thankfully we did not burn them out, as now young adults, they have both accepted internships within our church.
In the end, each church fellowship will thrive when there is an understanding of the importance of EVERY part of the body- 1 Cor. 12. So the prayers and discussion on how best to encourage each member of the ‘Body’ to pour out and use those giftings will be ever present.
Again, thank you all for sharing.
I am a parent/pastor (husband and I both are) and I serve at least once a month in Children’s ministry. I do not think parents should be required to, but as a parent and a pastor I would like to know what my child is learning (because at the end of the day he is mine and my husband’s responsibility) his spiritual growth for now is up to us and how he is acting for other adults. I am not a parent who is naive to believe that my child is good all the time…I KNOW BETTER!!! I understand I cannot be there 100% of the time, but I do want in on it. I feel it is my responsibility to check in on him; find out what he is learning, does he understand? Is he participating? I’m there, but not always and I love our children’s pastors. They are fabulous and we have great teen leaders being brought up to serve, but I want to be a part so I am. Besides I was doing children’s church long before he was adopted and long before I was ordained.
Being that I also work in children’s ministry once a month, I gotta say it is far too difficult for the limited volunteers to get a break and get to sit in on a service from time to time. They will dry up too! Their spirit needs to be fed just as much as the parents. So should parents be told they have to? No, but they should take it upon themselves to serve. Children’s ministry should not be viewed as a place to get away from your kids for an hour. That is what bedtime/nap time is for. Besides, there are so many reasons to serve. First, it is a form of tithing on your time. Second, you need to know what is going on in the back of the church with all the children. Third, do you not want to contribute to the kingdom of God; stop being picky about where you serve, because everyone is called to serve (no matter where it is!) God says that kids are blessings, why would you not want to invest some of your time in what God calls a blessing? Plus, they are the future of the body of Christ! I definitely want to be a part of the spiritual foundation they learn!
I’m sure my comment will make everyone on here irate. And I’m sorry if it does, but, I really feel this needs to be said: no parent that has young children of their own is ever going to love your child and be a substitute for you – even for an hour – and so it is intrinsically a subpar arrangement. Here are my experiences, just, a different experience for you to consider.
Before I had my own children I absolutely adored children – but, still, as now, mostly 0-18 month olds. In my late 20s I think I even had “baby fever” where I thought it was wonderful to have any opportunity to be around infants and children in that child range. Volunteering in the toddler room was HEARTBREAKING. 50% of the kids were OK with Mom and Dad leaving, but 50% were NOT. Some would cry for probably 15 minutes or more – and some even 45 minutes despite every effort made by myself and the other staff. Why? Because the volunteer there is a stranger to them – it’s not their Mom (or Dad) – and even if that volunteer does love your child and want the best for them, in some cases, they cannot do anything to help your child – and your child is enduring horrible pain while you go and sing inspirational songs and recharge. I deeply pity these children. I was told by the other volunteers that I shouldn’t be so shaken by a child crying because “they all do” – and then when the parents came back they would lie about the child crying or sugar coat it and minimize it because ultimately, even when told the truth, the parent’s behavior would not change because it was supported by a church that was intolerant to the noise created by children (which actually probably would not be that noisy if left on a mother’s boob). I have nothing to benefit by telling you all this – and I know many churches have a culture where a child is abandoned in many more ways than just this hour – being placed in another room, being routinely left in daycare, etc. etc. What registered with me were heartbroken sobs – and I eventually quit volunteering because it felt like supporting the abuse.
I have my own children now, and I contest the statement that a parent can’t be 100% of what a young child (especially 0-2) needs. The needs of a young child can 100% be taken care of by 1 Mom or a Dad with a bottle and loving arms. They’re really simple, and wonderful at that age. Just consider if you’ve ever felt abandoned by God in your time of pain – calling out – imagine how that would feel, because to your child at that age, you’re kind of like that.
Anyway, getting off my pulpit now. Everyone has the right to do whatever they choose.
I also wanted to share my current frustration. I quit my job to be with my children, and yes, I never leave them. No, not even to go to the bathroom. We cosleep. I haven’t independently gone out anywhere for the past 4 years. Anyway, maybe that’s just how God built me, as it didn’t feel like a sacrifice. What does feel like a sacrifice though, is watching (some) other people’s kids.
I joined a homeschool coop where I pay for my children to attend classes. Usually I’m in the classes with them, or watching from the door (paranoid about leaving my children alone, especially after the nursery experiences, even though the oldest is now 4). Anyway, though I pay to put my kids in classes, I found out ex post facto that I also have to “serve” the home school coop (which is Christian) in some way. This is fine and I even asked as much when I first started – if there were anything I could help with (like taking out the trash, etc. – stuff other people do). I was told nothing but then later I was asked to watch the preschool freetime. I should preface this with the fact that my own son’s 3 year old stage was a nightmare, and I am deeply glad it is over. I could barely work with him through that (praise God it resolved) – and literally, you couldn’t pay me to watch other people’s 3 year olds.
Unfortunately, when I tried to back out of watching the preschool freeplay (which somehow turned into my weekly task), I was very much guilted by being told that every other Mom does something for the co-op, and when asked if there weren’t something else I could do I was told all the other spots were filled. Apparently Mom after Mom went through this role and NOBODY wanted to watch 11 3-5 year olds during freeplay. While I felt terrible for the children during the 0-18 month nursery I once supervised, I felt terrible for myself in this situation. I know it’s not Christian, but it’s horrible. All the kids are jammed into a small room with not sufficient toys and just me as an adult. 3 of the kids are extremely selfish. They grab toys out of the others’ hands, and hit without shame. Their Mom is apparently a strict disciplinarian and they behave around her and then spill out their frustrations later during free play.
I am the only person that doesn’t get paid for their time, as I am not “teaching” them – but honestly, even if I raised a fuss about this, it wouldn’t matter. It would be worse if they paid me. There is no amount of money that would equate sitting there with 3 unformed minds screaming and raising you know what. And my own child is witnessing this. And I can’t spank them as their parents’ do. The rest of the children are fine. I try to comfort the ones that the other ones terrorize. But it is not an ideal situation. You should never trap someone in a volunteer situation. Especially not another parent that is simultaneously trying to watch their own kids. I’m sorry, I vented over and over about this today and it still doesn’t help – I still feel very used. The other Mom goes to a “board” meeting during that time and conveniently leaves me with super hyper sugared kids. If my children didn’t love the coop, and if they weren’t learning things in their classes, and if this weren’t their only means of socialization I wouldn’t be caught dead watching children in this age range. Would you seriously want someone with this type of sentiment watching your kids?
The other Moms seem to know how I feel and express sympathy for me getting stuck with “that job”. So it’s odd- they know their kid is in a subpar environment with someone who really doesn’t want to be there, but they hate being with their own kids so much it seems that they still put them in there with me. I’m really trying to do better with this – bringing in more toys so fights don’t erupt (the room is not really adequately staffed with toys) – and trying to somehow figure out how to deal with the aggression but it wears on me for hours afterwards. I just want to take my own kids out to the playground. But if I quit this role either we get kicked out of the coop or I will be socially ostracized which is the same thing. Did I mention the last half of the class is lunch, so I have to try to get 11 kids peaceably eating around the table?
I used to be an engineer – not a teacher. I am not a super patient person, and have only grown in patience with my own children because of the deep investment I have in them. I find it hard to feel this investment for kids that behave with no empathy (because 8 out of the 11 are normal, and easy to care for and sympathize with, but 3 are like sociopaths). I know I’m supposed to learn something in all of this but, I just treasure the fact that it’s only 1 day a week. Knowing how I feel about this class reinforces my desire to never leave my children with any teacher until they are adult like – because even if they are wonderfully behaved – a teacher that has even 1 or 2 bad apples in the class will be burnt out and bitter. Unless she magically loves that age range. I could never be bitter over watching 0-2 year olds. I just find them adorable. 3 year olds are horrid. I’m sorry but they are.
I really would encourage people to watch their own children until 4 years old. You might find someone that loves 3 year olds but even then children need such constant attention – who better to give it than a mother or father? I just don’t understand this society. A class that is structured to teach them something is one thing but “free play” or “daycare” or “nursery” – I honestly feel these things are just the symptoms of a very sick society.
I’m so sorry to hear that you are going through this. I am so proud of you for being so intentional with caring for your little ones. I’m right there with you.
If you do not require parents to help and do not get volunteers, what then is the answer? I volunteered to take on the nursery 6 years ago because we had no one at the time. I do not have a child in the nursery, I do not feel called to children’s ministry nor am I passionate about it. There was just a need that I filled. Through those six years, I and my teenage son have covered most of the Sundays. We have continually asked for volunteers and also for a new leader but it has fallen on deaf ears. When we finally did get help and they could not serve on their designated Sunday we had to cover. Recently we have had a growth spurt in the nursery so we have a lot more children to deal with each week. We do not want to just babysit, we want to interact with the children and prepare them for when they move on to children’s church. In addition to volunteering in the nursery, I am the church secretary, I assist with the women’s ministry, I help my husband with the men’s ministry, and I help with every meal served at the church. So, what do you do? Someone has to do it, right?