The Top 3 Mistakes We Make with Our Volunteers (and How to Correct Them)
We couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers. They are essential to our mission of pointing kids towards a life-long relationship with Jesus.
But we’re not perfect. We make mistakes – even when it comes to leading our volunteers.
Here are the top three mistakes we make with our volunteers and how to correct those mistakes.
1. We Don't Empower Them
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been teaching a large group lesson and that one
kid was acting up and disrupting the whole thing. You’ve been there – I know you
Now, because I was teaching, I expected my volunteers to step up and handle the
situation. But, inevitably, they didn’t.
That was my fault. I hadn’t taught them how to manage the room and I didn’t
empower them to do it.
I always used a simple “three strike” rule. The first strike was a warning. That was it.
The second strike meant sitting against the back wall – still participating, but from a
distance. The third strike was calling their parents out of the service. I could count
on one hand the number of times a kid got to strike three – but it was effective
when they did.
But my volunteers always felt like I was the only one allowed to give strikes. You
may have a totally different system – and that’s fine! But whatever your system is,
teach it to your volunteers and then give them the authority to implement it. Tell
them you expect that they’ll implement it! Explain why you need them to implement
it! Encourage them to take ownership over the room and empower them to lead.
2. We Put Them in the Wrong Role
A lot of churches insist that parents serve if their child is in the children’s ministry.
The logic is that those who benefit from the ministry should be required to serve in
the ministry. But that would be like saying anyone who benefits from the worship
team should be required to serve on the worship team.
That would be a disaster!
Not everyone can carry a tune – much less play an instrument!
Not every parent is gifted at or passionate about children’s ministry! They’re just not.
So, they serve out of obligation. And that’s a mistake.
Now, it could be that they’re in the wrong children’s ministry role. I’ve had awesome
small group leaders that would have been terrible large group leaders (and vice
versa). So, by all means, explore different roles within your ministry.
But if there’s not a good fit, the best way to correct this mistake is to free them from
that obligation. Encourage them to find a role that’s better suited to their gifts and
passions. They’ll do more for God’s kingdom in a role that suits them than they will
being a “warm body” in your children’s ministry.
3. We Don't Coach Them
The first time I ever taught in children’s ministry I was so excited. I was a lowly intern
and thought I’d be making copies and going on coffee runs and filling holes when a
volunteer backed out at the last minute. I didn’t think I’d ever, well, speak in front of
I got the lesson the Monday before I was scheduled to teach. Then our children’s
director told me I needed to be memorized. I couldn’t take the lesson up with me.
My excitement turned to fear. I’d never taught anyone anything before – much less
without notes! But, fortunately, I had a great boss. Our children’s director spent the
better part of his workweek with me. He taught me how to memorize. He taught me
how to move. He taught me how to use my voice.
In short, he coached me. He didn’t assume I knew what I was doing – and I didn’t.
He led me. He modeled it for me.
Our volunteers need us to coach them. Even the most gifted volunteer needs to be
nurtured. So, give them your time. Give them your attention.
If a volunteer is falling flat, it’s (usually) for one of two reasons. Either they’re not in
the right role (see above) or they haven’t been coached. You can’t control the first
reason – your job is simply to help them find the right role. You can control the
second reason – by helping them grow into their role.
I’m so grateful to have had leaders who empowered me, coached me, and made sure I was serving where I was best suited. If I hadn’t, I would have burned out long ago.
Be that leader. Your volunteers with thank you. Your kids will benefit. And God’s kingdom will expand.