As a Children’s Ministry leader, it’s very easy to focus on the obvious and possibly miss something even more important. Let me explain. Most of us were called or recruited to work with kids because we love kids or have a special ability/connection with kids. So to focus our efforts into developing relationships with kids and investing in their spiritual growth is the obvious choice. However, I’d argue that it’s not the most important thing you can do with your time. The more time I can invest in other people who can invest in kids will bring a much greater return on my investment. Nine times out of ten, I’d encourage leaders to put their best hours toward developing leaders and volunteers.
This is a real challenge though. Most leaders I talk to really struggle with time management. It’s impossible to get everything done that needs to be done in a week. Most kidmin leaders spend the bulk of their time on the urgent things that have to be done before the weekend and if they have any time left over, they’ll take a volunteer to lunch or coffee. It’s a catch 22 situation because if a leader will prioritize the development of volunteers and leaders, they’ll build a team of people who will help them attack the urgent things screaming to be done.
EVERY SINGLE STAFF MEMBER NEEDS TO ALLOCATE MORE TIME TO DEVELOPING VOLUNTEERS!
This quality is indispensable and you can’t afford to just have one person who is really good at this. Everyone needs to grow this area. The staff member I’d like to highlight is actually one of my favorite stories because she’s not only really good at it, but she’s a product of someone who did it really well for her.
Katie Olsen served as my Elementary Director at Gateway for the past two years. She’s an incredible developer who prioritizes time with volunteers, but this wasn’t something I had to teach her – it’s what she knows. Katie came to Gateway over six years ago and it was then that she was trying to get her life back together. She was finishing up college and was your typical college student. Katie had made new commitments to Jesus and was beginning to make better choices in following Christ. It was at this time that my current Early Childhood Director met her at a women’s retreat. Katie was in a space where she was just open to whatever God had for her and when my EC Director invited her to serve in Preschool, Kaite said yes! The next four years would be life-changing for Katie. She didn’t just serve, but Sarah, my EC Director discipled her. Sara was constantly leading groups of women who served in her area, helping them grow in their faith and abilities as leaders. A few years later, Katie was a coach for 5 year old volunteers and leading a small group of women who served in preschool. A few years later, when a position opened up on my staff, Katie was an obvious choice and I’m so grateful that she said yes!
Having this quality really isn’t just for your staff. It’s a mentality that needs to be modeled for your leaders and volunteers as well. Every leader should always have someone they’re developing. Maybe its one of their volunteers or even a teenager who shows up to serve every single week. One of our primary responsibilities is to replace ourselves, handing both responsibility and authority to those coming behind us. It’s the secret to growth and developing a healthy volunteer team and when everyone is developing someone, your team will always be growing.
When hiring, look for developers. They’ll do more to expand your leadership and volunteer base than anything else. Help your staff make time for lunches, coffees and hang outs with volunteers. Help them see this “non-urgent” task as a priority that leads to growth and development. Once this is the cultural norm for your team, you’ll have the healthiest and most “bought in” volunteer team you’ve ever had.
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