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:


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 phone numbers. The rest would say “yes”!


A few days before I would have a cold call campaign, I would email the parents I planned to call. I’d share vision of upcoming things in children’s minsitry and some of the key volunteer roles I hoped to fill. I’d give parents a friendly heads-up that I would be calling. They could begin to consider if they’d like to help in children’s ministry.

A few people would actually just reply to the email, and I would have new volunteers without the phone call.


Before making a phone call to the family, I’d review their record in the database. How recently had they attended? Were they members of the church? Did they have a baby younger than six months? All of these things factored into whether I called them.

How many kids did they have? What ages? What events did their kids attend? This information familiarized me with the family before the call.


My calls would go something like this:

Me: “Hi! I’m Sara Conley calling from the kids ministry at our church. How’s it going?”

Them: “Pretty good.”

Me: “Well listen, I’m calling you today, because we are expanding our volunteer team in the kid’s ministry and I wanted to personally invite you to be a part of it. Would you be interested in that?”

Are you ready for a shocker? Often, with the friendly personal invitation I just described, the family would say yes to me. In this scenario, I’d go on to arrange applications, background checks, training, and scheduling in the phone call.

Here are a few common reasons why they might say no:


Them:  “You know, we really can’t make a commitment like that right now. We are too busy.”

Me: “Oh yes, I understand. Listen, sometimes we need parents to fill in as subs. It’s not a regular commitment. It’s more of a last minute call if one of our regular workers cancels. Would you be interested in helping in that way?”

Again, another shocker. A great majority of people who couldn’t commit were willing to help as subs. And as I treated them right as subs – friendly, not calling every weekend, but respecting their time and calling occasionally – oftentimes, as their schedule lightened, they would join the regular schedule.


Sometimes, families would not agree to help because they were in difficult personal times. I’m not really sure why, but complete strangers would pour their hearts out to me in these cold calls. I think they felt they could trust me since I was calling from church. And truly, I was willing to listen as empathetically as I could.

Listen with your heart in these cold calls. Even if these families are saying no to volunteering, they may be opening their lives to you. This may be your window into what is going on in the homes of kids in your ministries. Pray for these parents on the phone. Follow up on them. Find help for them.

If you genuinely care for these parents, they will remember. As they find light and hope in their lives again, they may seek you out and become a loyal member of your team. I’ve seen it happen.