People follow the top.
Meaning, when leadership values ministry to children, the “rank and file” usually will, too. The converse is also true: if leadership regards ministry to children as peripheral, an unavoidable nuisance, or unworthy of their time and attention, so will everyone else. Some suggestions:
– Increase visibility. How often are children in front of the congregation? Are kids shunted away in a basement or children’s church room except for Christmas musicals or Easter programs?
– Share “God stories” with staff and congregation. Did a child receive Christ last week? Volunteer to pray for the snack in Sunday school? Share his or her testimony at school? Sometimes “big folks” think of children’s ministries as free babysitting simply because they don’t hear anything else! God is at work in children’s ministry. Share what He’s doing. You can do this with Sunday service interviews with kids and/or parents, in your newsletter, blog, bulletin board, with a Powerpoint presentation or in a zillion other creative venues. Just make sure it’s regular.
– Is your senior pastor willing to take a SS or children’s church class during the summer or for a few weeks and give teachers a break? His or her willingness to plug in to a children’s class sends a message to the entire church loud and clear: Kids Matter. Teachers will appreciate the break, too.
– Are elder and deacons “manning the trenches” once in a while, perhaps during the summer or on the sub list? Are they teaching or helping? Do they attend or express interest in committee meetings?
– Does leadership regularly affirm and encourage volunteers?
– Is teacher training available? Many a would-be volunteer may be scared out of a classroom or other role if they feel unqualified, untrained, or ill-prepared, without sufficient support. Be sure they have it as well as a place to ask questions and address concerns.
Sometimes Children’s Ministry leaders are so desperate for someone to take the fourth grade boys or the sixth grade girls that they’ll toss anyone into a children’s classroom. As long as the prospect is vertical and breathing, they’re good to go, right?
It’s tempting to think that once you’ve filled a teaching roster or schedule, you’ve done your job and everything’s cool. NOT! We can recall one teacher who was recruited for a children’s church class just so the roster was filled. Trouble was, she did more harm than good. Although she was a retired school teacher, “Mrs. Smith” detested four and five year-olds, wasn’t gifted with that age, had the personality of a sour persimmon and the warmth of an igloo stuck in an iceberg. She resented being asked to serve – but lacked the courage to decline. To top that off, she was lousy with kids! Needless to say, that children’s class was an epic disaster. The teacher hated it. The kids hated it. Parents hated it.
The point: when it comes to ministry to kids, it may be better to have an empty classroom than to have “a body” in there who shouldn’t be!
So, look for people who are kid friendly and fun! These candidates may not be high profile. They may not be professionals or have extensive teaching backgrounds. But if they’re gifted and called, with appropriate coaching and support, they can take off and soar!
More tools, tips and techniques “from the trenches”:
4 Monster Mistakes (“Been there, done that?” :))
Children’s Ministry forum – a variety of responses to the age-old question of “Where do I find volunteers?”
Adding Value to What You Do: “We started giving the perception that this ministry is valuable and you should be a part of it.”