Challenging Your Volunteers
11 ways to recharge your volunteers’ faith
By Jody Capehart
Who is your primary ministry to — children or volunteers? If you truly want to multiply your ministry, you answered volunteers. Just as Jesus’ investment in the 12 disciples resulted in future generations of disciples, your investment in your volunteers will ensure that life-changing ministry continues to occur with children.
If your answer to my question was children, you need to change your paradigm. Not changing your paradigm means you won’t have the commitment it takes to challenge your volunteers spiritually. The suggestions in this article require commitment. They also require time and energy, but if you’re willing to disciple and mentor volunteers, you’ll find the time and energy. Use these 11 ideas to challenge your volunteers to grow spiritually.
1. Measure volunteers’ faith ahead of time.
It’s difficult to challenge volunteers to grow spiritually if there’s no faith to start with. One volunteer in a church taught the children about a “dream catcher” that would take away all their bad dreams. After further investigation, the children’s ministry director discovered that this volunteer didn’t even believe in Christ. Make sure you know what people believe before they work with children.
2. Disciple teachers.
Train your teachers to teach as Jesus taught. Rather than merely exposing your teachers to the latest educational theories, help them see that they’re walking in Jesus’ footsteps when they teach children. Jesus asked questions, used real-life objects to teach, encouraged his disciples to work together, and much more. As teachers are challenged to model their ministry after Christ, they’ll grow to be more like him.
3. Be a role model.
What kind of spiritual maturity do you display? Do you act out of a vital relationship with God? Is prayer an afterthought or an important element in your life? How often do you pray with your volunteers? Do you ever share with them a spiritually enriching moment you’ve had lately? Your example of faith and trust in God may be your most powerful message.
4. Pray with your volunteers.
Start training meetings with prayer and end with small group prayer-and-share time. Call volunteers to ask them what you can be praying for them in their personal lives and ministries. Have teachers arrive 15 minutes before class so you can meet as a group and ask God for his blessing on them and their classes.
5. Show your volunteers how to have a quiet time.
Encourage volunteers to spend daily time in prayer and God’s Word. Use a teacher-training meeting to teach this discipline. Or meet with a different volunteer each week for breakfast and a brief quiet time. Helpful booklets to share with your volunteers are 7 Minutes With God (NavPress) and Quiet Time (InterVarsity Press).
6. Affirm spiritual growth.
Look for ways God works through volunteers. When you hear about a child who’s grasped a concept for the first time or comments on something a teacher has taught him, pass that good news on to the teacher. Preface your report with something such as “God used you in Blair’s life this week.” There’s nothing more exciting for a volunteer than to be used by God in the lives of children.
7. Value spiritual maturity.
Your volunteers will learn to value what you value. If you affirm them for how pretty they look each week, their clothes will become important. But if you affirm them for godly qualities, they’ll dress inwardly first. For example, you can affirm volunteers for their commitment to Christ during a trying time, faith in a difficult child, or humility when confronted by an angry parent. Point out how these things show that they’re growing in the image of Christ.
8. Hold volunteers accountable.
Assume nothing. Let your volunteers know that you care about their spiritual well-being and that you are a fellow traveler on this faith journey. Encourage them to ask you how things are going spiritually, and do the same for them. Don’t forget to also ask about other areas of their lives if you want them to feel that you genuinely care for them.
Or establish partners who’ll keep each other accountable. Volunteers can meet with or call each other regularly to share concerns, pray, and encourage each other with Scripture.
9. Give short-term commitments.
When volunteers sign up to teach, offer them a defined term such as three, nine, or 12 months. Say, “The ministry to the children is a very vital part of the overall ministry of this church. Therefore, we want our teachers to be the best they can be. Because each of us needs to be taught, we want you to teach for a while and then go back to the worship service and an adult Sunday school class.”
10. Pass on sermon tapes.
If your volunteers teach during the worship service and don’t hear the sermon, mail them each a tape of the sermon on Monday morning. Call them on Thursday to discuss the sermon.
11. Plan an “R and R: Recharge and Renewal Retreat.”
Take your volunteers away at the church’s expense. Plan activities that focus on recreation, reading the Word, and rest. Encourage volunteers to play and enjoy yummy refreshments throughout the weekend. End your time with a worship service.
This article “Challenge Your Volunteers” by Jody Capehart is excerpted from volunteernoon.com, Oct. 2006.