When the leaders lead in Israel, when the people volunteer, praise the Lord. Judges 5:2 (HCSB)
“Let the little children come to Me. Don’t stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you: whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Mark 10:14-15 (HCSB)
Volunteers are a crucial part of the children’s ministry. No matter your church’s rotation schedule – once a year, twice a year, quarterly, or once a month for six months, you’ll make a call for volunteers to teach classes. In my experience, coordinators are the key to the recruitment process. Their faith and spirit can inspire quick responses, or no response from the congregation.
Consider some great “coordinators” in the bible: David inspired people to join him in the wilderness when he was hiding from Saul. Nehemiah inspired men of Israel to join him in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Daniel inspired Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to join him in eating only vegetables during their training. (Not to mention that they were effective leaders on their own.) Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James and John and they left their nets immediately to follow him. Paul kept in touch with churches, elders and individuals all over the Mediterranean area and he called many of them “fellow workers” in the gospel.
Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith. Heb 13:7
Children’s ministry leaders should speak the word of God and should have lives that display great faith in God. Considering the biblical examples, I would like to suggest a different title for coordinators - perhaps “servant” or “inspirer.” The word “coordinator” suggests an administrative leadership, but the best coordinators are actually shepherds for the teachers serving with them and, by extension, the children in their classes.
My husband and I have coordinated the children’s ministry for over ten years in three different churches. It seems common in churches that recruiting volunteers to teach is a challenge. However, after serving one rotation in a church we generally do not have trouble getting volunteers for future sessions. We even had one session where we were almost FULL before we made our first announcement to the church!
There is no formula for recruiting teachers, and no checklist for the perfect ministry, but here are some ideas and thoughts that my husband and I try focus on when we are leading a session of the children’s ministry.
BEFORE the session begins:
- Pray for supportive and excited teachers before you start recruiting.
- Be excited every time you talk about the children’s ministry – whether it’s a personal discussion or a congregational announcement. (If you are not sincerely excited, then perhaps it’s time for serious bible study about your motivations for leading in the children’s ministry.)
- Ask specific people to serve with you – create a support group for yourself within the session.
- Have a theme or central thought for the term that you can share during announcements – we have done a camp theme, a “summer of fun”, a holiday season of serving…anything goes!
- HAVE FUN!
- Remember your first love (Revelation 2:4) – faithful labor is great, sacrifice is admirable, but LOVE is the greatest motivation for yourself and others. Love God, love the children, love the teachers. (1Cor 13:13)
- Pray for the teachers weekly, if not daily. Be aware of their needs. They are in your ministry for a short time and you are their shepherd.
- Emphasize communion – every teacher NEEDS to be there each week. Ensure that your teachers have a deep, thoughtful communion time each week – whether you are leading the lesson, or the evangelist, or you rotate between brothers.
- Remove the pressure – the goal is to inspire the children to love God. Encourage teachers to share their excitement about God. Allow them to create their own lessons, as long as they don’t lower the standard and throw things together at the last minute.
- Attitude is everything – Remind the teachers that this IS church service for the children. If they see an adult who dreads being at church, they might dread coming as well. If they see someone who is excited to be there and loves talking about God, they will too!
- Love the teachers each week in different ways – give individual cards, have individual talks, give small gifts, or provide breakfast muffins. Find out what motivates each teacher, and then you can rotate how you will give to the group each week.
- Thank the teachers each week for their service. Remind them that Jesus would probably choose to be with the children rather than in the “main” service.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff – substitutes, sickness, missing snacks, scrapes and bruises – keep your patience and a joyful spirit and you’ll help the teachers remain calm and joyful as well.
- Remind the teachers weekly to look God’s lessons from the children. What can WE learn this week about having a childlike heart?
If you help to make the entire rotation a joyful experience focused on God, others will want to experience it. The children’s ministry will gain a reputation for love. The disciples will know that their relationship with God will be strengthened and encouraged during their service – they will not be forgotten for a few months. Then the people will volunteer and we can all praise the Lord!