If you’re in church ministry, then you are absolutely dependent on your volunteers. You won’t survive a Sunday without them! This isn’t just true for Children’s Ministry, but for any ministry in your church. Leading volunteers isn’t what they can do for you or for your ministry, it’s about partnership. At Operation Christmas Child (A Project of Samaritan’s Purse), we have thousands of volunteers who serve with us every day, every week, and every month.
As I think through the types of things volunteers should know, there are hundreds, if not thousands of them. However, here I’ve boiled it down to 7 high level principles that your volunteers need to know in order to be successful. This isn’t an exhaustive list, I could’ve gone on forever, but knowing these 10 principles will move your volunteers toward success.
1. Their leaders care
You’ve heard the saying that “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. That’s true. We say, “Connection before correction”. If your team doesn’t think you care about them or if they think that you’re using them, they won’t stay engaged for the long term. Not only that, but they’ll find someone who does care and join his or her team. Ministry is relational. It doesn’t mean that things won’t get messy, relationships tend to get messy, but it does mean that you should develop communication skills to work through things. Teams get messy. Still, the best teams have leaders that care about them.
2. Relationship with God comes first
You can’t have the horizontal without the vertical. I’ve heard many pastors say that and the older I get, the more I believe it to be true. Your relationships with people around you will only be enhanced by having a deeper relationship with God. The same is true for your team. Their spiritual alignment needs to be strong in order to be successful.
Are there teams that don’t have a spiritual alignment but are still successful? No. Let me explain.
When doing ministry in a Christian context, our spiritual alignment is with God through Jesus Christ. When you see a great NBA team, their “spiritual” alignment is with basketball. They may be men of faith individually, but they are wholly focused on the game. They live and breathe basketball. When you see a team of soldiers who work well together, they are wholly focused on serving their country and each other, that’s their “spiritual” alignment. Again, they may be men of faith individually, but that’s not their main concern.
3. Vision steers the ship
If you can’t see, you won’t know where you’re going. But vision isn’t about seeing where you’re heading, vision is about setting that direction in the first place. Do your volunteers know what your vision for the ministry is? Are they in alignment with that?
Better yet, if someone asks one of your volunteers where the ministry is headed, would they be able to respond? Hopefully they would! If not, that’s a growing point for you as a leader.
4. Volunteers are capable of doing what’s needed
Encouraging your team is in your job description, whether it says it or not. Many volunteers quit because they feel discouraged or inadequate. Training and encouraging them is your job. This will go a long way in retention, in recruitment of new volunteers, and in volunteer effectiveness.
5. The Gospel is central, no matter the ministry role
It doesn’t matter what kind of team you lead. It could be a team of Children’s Ministry teachers, a team of Ushers, Deacons, anything. No matter what, everyone on your team should be ready to proclaim the Gospel when necessary. There’s no exception to this. If one of your Ushers encounters a church visitor who asks about following Jesus, there shouldn’t be a need to call a Pastor. Your Usher should be well equipped to engage that person.
6. Volunteers can be the experts
Understand this. As a leader, you’re not the expert. You may be paid to lead a team, but that doesn’t mean that you’re the expert. As a matter of fact, if you are the expert, you’re handcuffing your team. You need to be the coach of a team of superstars. They need to be the experts. You need to listen to them.
7. Ministry is larger than what you see
What reach will you have? Do you think that bringing the Gospel to a child only affects that child? At Operation Christmas Child, we may bring a shoebox to one child, but the affect of that shoebox, and what comes with it, often changes families and whole communities. In the same way, the ministry that you do not only affects those individuals that are there, but their families, neighborhoods, and communities. We’ll have no idea the reach we have until we see the end result in eternity.