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.”


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 ministry. Here are a few ways manners and simple kindness could make the difference for your ministry:


Unless you’re lucky enough to recruit a children’s ministry veteran, there is a really good chance your new volunteers are…well…NEW!

You remember how you felt your first day of high school at a new school? Or your first day on the job in your first real adult grown up job? Or how you felt the first time you went to dinner to meet your girlfriend’s parents? AWKWARD!

That is how your new volunteer feels. They feel new and awkward.

Have a heart! Help them out!

Here are a few simple ways to do this:

1. Call them before their first day of service. Introduce yourself. Ask them some questions. Find out their interests. Try to match them up with jobs that fit their interests. Find out who they already know. Try to pair them up with people they know.

2. I’m probably stating the obvious here – for safety reasons, have a process for new volunteers. Include applications, background checks and reference calls. Make sure these people are safe to be with your kids.

3. Take away the fear factor. Children’s ministry doesn’t have to feel like a fraternity hazing process! Have an orientation training. In today’s world, this could be a video and a bulleted list you email to them. Have some frequently asked questions and answers. Let them know what to expect, when to show up, what to wear, etc.

4. On their first day of volunteering, have someone show them around, or if you have the time, personally do it. Introduce them to other volunteers in their classroom.

5. Follow up on them. Call to see how their first day went. Check in a month later to see how it’s going.

First impressions are vital to your ministry’s success. What first impression does your ministry give new volunteers? A simple “Hello and how do you do?” friendly welcome to new volunteers may go a long way towards retaining your volunteers for the long term.