How to Recruit Children’s Ministry Volunteers

Can you imagine what your ministry would be like if volunteering was by-invitation-only? Exclusive to the people who want to reach families in your community. You can grow your team to the point where people are literally waiting to join.

One of the major hurdles to growth is the emotional response we have when asking people we might not know to join our team. Even extroverted people can get the idea that Children’s Ministry is a place where there is never enough help. This limiting belief leads to a ministry that looks similar to childcare.

Our goal is to impact families by providing opportunities for spiritual growth. With a plan in place and a system for follow-up, recruiting Children’s Ministry volunteers can be a seamless and repeatable process.

Are you making it easy to volunteer?

Think about it. How hard is it to volunteer in your ministry. Do they need to know who to talk to? How do they find that information? Some ideas to make it easier to volunteer in your ministry would include:

  1. Post a list of volunteer positions, responsibilities, and preferred schedule commitments. You might even post these on your website.
  2. Create (if you haven’t already) a procedure manual for Children’s Ministry in your church.
  3. Work with your Pastoral leadership to advertise the opportunities you have in Children’s Ministry.

Consider the First-Serve Experience

What is First-Serve? First Serve is a term applied to an opportunity where the volunteer helps in a classroom to try-it-out without a long term commitment. Once they’ve participated, you can follow up with them to get their feedback and either schedule them for another First-Serve in a different group or get them scheduled on a regular basis.

Personally, I love the First-Serve concept because it breaks down the barriers to serving. When approached by someone seeking to recruit, it much easier to say yes to come-try-it-out, than to sign up for a lifetime. The plan then becomes to find the right place for them rather than the immediate need you may have.

Plan for Follow-up

You need a plan for recruiting your volunteers. Your plan needs to be a detailed and repeatable process. Below is a simplified version of the plan that I use starting with “Express Interest.” If you’re a technical person, you might create a spreadsheet or use your software to develop a “workflow.”

  1. Expressed Interest – This step is for anyone who filled out a card, called you, or talked to you about serving in Children’s Ministry.
  2. Discover Spiritual Gifts – This is an important step as it helps you determine if the person should be a Teacher, Helper or someone else.
  3. Schedule a First-Serve – Arrange for a volunteer to have a First-Serve experience.
  4. First-Serve Follow-up – You may send a person back to step 3 unless they want to be on the volunteer schedule permanently.
  5. Application & Background Check – Have the new team member fill out the volunteer application form and complete a background check.
  6. Training – Provide an opportunity for the volunteer to be trained on your policies and procedures for ministry to families.
  7. Interview – If you haven’t already, sit down with this new team member to get to know them. Find out what excites them about the Children’s Ministry.

I would highly suggest putting a friendly and detail oriented person in charge of this process and have them send out emails, make phone calls, send text messages or whatever mode of communication is acceptable to get people through the steps.

Mindset Makes A Difference

Recruiting volunteers requires you to think differently and communicate your vision for Children’s Ministry while you invite others to your group. Think about it like this. You are someone who just walked in the door of your church. You don’t know anyone, and you might be a little cautious about getting involved too quickly. Maybe you have previous experience at another church that you consider less than favorable. You sit in the seats and listen to the message week after week. Everyone is friendly but what you crave is a connection.

If someone would just come over, introduce themselves, and invite you to be a part of their group – you would feel more comfortable.

Build Relationships

When a ministry leader approaches you, you might put your guard up if you feel that person is only talking to you because they want something. You need to build a relationship with that person. Be authentic. Get to know the people that you’re thinking of recruiting. A classic way to get to know people is to meet them for coffee. Spend forty-five minutes getting to know them and allow them to know your story as well. When it’s over, you might not have a new volunteer, but you’ll know that person better and that could turn into a volunteer opportunity in the future.

If you are a ministry leader, you might be surprised to know that people join your ministry for reasons that are different from yours. They don’t see things the same way you do and are motivated often by friendship, camaraderie and a general sense of purpose as you help kids get to know the Savior of the world. A great book on the value of volunteering is Volunteer Revolution by Bill Hybels. Although published in 2003, the central theme is valuable today. One of my main takeaways from this book is that volunteering is more than meeting a need, its an opportunity. Focusing on the benefits and impact of volunteering will motivate people to serve.

Close the Backdoor

It’s very easy to let people slip through the cracks and head careening toward burnout. One way to avoid this is to regularly spend time with each volunteer. Have dinner, coffee or something else that invests in them. This will show the team member that you’re invested in your relationship with them and subsequently, their spiritual growth.

You are in control of how often, perhaps schedule a time every two or three months depending on how big your team is and how limited your time is. The main point is to make the effort. Your team will thank you with the loyalty in the weeks and months ahead.

Provide Opportunities for Relationship Growth

Maybe your church is small enough that everyone knows everyone else and spends time with each person every week, but in most churches, this isn’t the case. As you grow and add more services your team will begin to feel disconnected to the Children’s Ministry because there are other team members they’d like to know better but there’s never an opportunity to get to know them.

Relationship growth is an easy thing to do because it doesn’t require an elaborate setup. You need time on the calendar to get together, someone to bring food and an activity to do.

Some ideas might include:

  1. During the summer, go to a park, let the kids play and the adults can have their own games or sit around the picnic table and get to know everyone.
  2. Get a group together to go to a sporting event or concert. Group rates are great for this kind of activity.
  3. Have a work party at the church where you go through the classroom to organize, purge and our perform maintenance to the classrooms or building.

Develop Leaders

Give away ownership to your team. Put people in charge of teaching, events and anything else that helps the ministry grow and do more. If you’re spending time on something that could be done by someone else, you need to give that task away. No matter how much you love making PowerPoint slides, or spending hours at the copy machine, just give it away and give your people vision and guidelines, but let them run with the areas you’ve entrusted to them.

Developing a leadership team in Children’s Ministry is a powerful tool to spread the responsibilities of planning events, buying supplies, organizing volunteers. What makes a leadership team even more special is to provide opportunities for growth. You can have your team read the same book or devotional before you meet up. You can have online conversations about what they’re learning in the book.

Utilize Your Team

Recruiting is not just the job of the Children’s Pastor or Ministry Leader. The whole team should be working together to identify and invite people to your ministry. Challenging your team to think of one person in their sphere of influence isn’t a hard task but the outcome could be amazing.

Incentives may work in your team, but be careful with these. Your best volunteers might be turned off because they don’t serve to get something in return.

Plan for Growth

When you’re developing leaders and working on ministry growth. Think about what your ministry will look like 5-10 years down the road. Plan for the kind of growth that is sustainable and repeatable.

If your groups have two people teaching, how about adding a third person to accommodate more growth?

By Chris McKinney

Children's Pastor from the Pacific Northwest. With 20 years of experience in Children's Ministry, Chris uses his knowledge to help others reach families in their communities.