Revolving Door or Revolutionary Solution?
By: Selma Johnson
Two veteran children’s ministers sound off on the pros and cons of rotating volunteers.
Rotation: The Solution for Today’s Ministry
If someone had told me decades ago I’d be pro-rotation in children’s ministry, I would’ve said, “Never!” Having been a children’s pastor for more than 30 years in small churches and in mega churches, I know all the arguments for having the same team members serving in children’s programs. Those reasons were great for the ’60s, ’70s, and maybe even the early ’80s.
Those were years when more traditional families went to church. Volunteers had more time to prepare, there weren’t as many “every other-weekend” parents, and children were more accustomed to traditional church structures. Families made certain their kids were in Sunday school every week. Not as many grandparents, aunts, and uncles were raising children, and not as many jobs required weekend work. Small and large group children’s ministry models weren’t even thought of yet.
Despite all that, I wish rotation had evolved early on in children’s ministry—what a difference it could’ve made in how those children, who are now adults, view church. This is the 21st century. New ministry techniques are in place all over the world, and they’re working amazingly well. Kids learn much more visually, beginning in their preschool years. Adults are no longer the central focus in the classroom. Through my experiences in the church, I’ve become a huge proponent of a rotation system for volunteers in children’s ministry—here’s my list of reasons.
• Today’s church has a huge population of kids who come twice a month or less due to changing family dynamics. Kids are used to change and have adapted to it as a way of life.
• Busy volunteers are more willing to step up and to commit in a rotation system that meets their scheduling needs.
• Over time, our ministry’s concept of “teachers” has transformed into the concept of team leadership. We’ve experienced better cooperation among volunteers and leaders in various departments using this concept.
• Our rotation system lets volunteers use their specific gifts for music, games, creativity, resources, and more, without pushing them into positions where they’re less equipped or comfortable.
• More men are willing to step up and get involved because they can use their specific gifts.
• Kids are more excited and eager to attend because team members are fresh and eager to be with them.
• Kids change classes and teachers earlier and earlier in school. They’re accustomed to seeing different faces in school classrooms—why not at church?
• Due to employment situations, a lot of our team members could only serve every other week or once a month. A question we had to ask ourselves was, do we penalize good volunteer by being so rigid and saying, “We can’t use you because you can’t be here every week”? The answer, obviously, is no.
• Volunteers can negotiate days among themselves if something comes up or they can’t serve during the time they’ve been assigned.
• Team members who’ve served forever and aren’t willing to change to meet children’s needs find it’s easier to step aside and let teams and rotation take place. This has actually happened at our church without hard feelings. So many times people who’ve served for years develop the attitude, “This is my classroom”—and when new people join they feel unwanted and leave. With rotation this doesn’t happen. Everyone works together. No one develops the “It’s my room and you better not disturb it” attitude—we’re all working toward the same goal.
• Rotation is an excellent solution for churches with multiple service schedules. Saturday and Monday nights and multiple services on Sunday require a fluid schedule.
• Our children’s ministry began a volunteer rotation schedule, and we’ve tripled our volunteer base.
• We’ve increased our volunteer base with people who are eager to be there with kids and are doing a superb job teaching children about Jesus. As a church, that’s what we want.
• Adults are happy, children are happy, and I’m not stressing to find subs every weekend.
I’m sold on rotating volunteers, and I have no desire to go back to the “old way.” I no longer dread services, worrying over who’ll show up or not show up or who’ll have a sad face and wish they weren’t there.
Consistency- Not Convenience-Is the Key
By: Bonnie Workinger
I’ll never forget Mrs. Johnson. If she only know the impact she had on my life; the stability and security she provided every Sunday when she greeted me with her warm, loving smile. When I was young, life wasn’t exactly stable and secure. My family moved a lot. We didn’t attend church. I longed for roots and familiar faces. Mrs. Johnson provided that. She was also the one person who reminded me week after week, that no matter what, Jesus loved me.
Today we live in a busy world where divorce and separation in families is common. Ids experience change- and often upheaval- daily. As a society we’re so busy that we devote little time to investing and developing relationships. I’m saddened that our churches aren’t much different when it comes to offering these things to our children.
As the church, we strive to offer the children who walk through our doors acceptance, love, and trust. This happens thanks to consistent and committed volunteers week after week. There are significant advantages to establishing a consistent team geared toward developing relationships with kids as opposed to rotating volunteers each week.