When you’re looking for volunteers or chaperones for children’s events or children’s ministry, it’s easy to choose the first few warm bodies available. But teaching kids about Jesus is about more than simply having a warm body in place. There are several things you need to ensure prior to signing up your volunteers.
Do you need volunteers for children’s ministry? Don’t forget these five things.
- Common Goals
Get everyone on the same page with your church’s values, mission, and priorities. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised just how important this first line of training is when recruiting volunteers.
Volunteers are looked to as leaders, so they need to be on board with what your church is teaching. Many times during the course of the event, the leader of your group will be teaching kids faith and a child or teenager will ask them for guidance. If a volunteer doesn’t believe or follow the teachings of your church, their counsel may be a deterrent for a student in their walk with God. Don’t forget this very important training!
- Health and Safety
Do your trainees need CPR/First Aid, food allergy awareness, etc.? When asking for volunteers for your different children’s ministry ideas, don’t forget the “just-in-case” scenarios.
For example, let’s say you are planning a nature walk on a Saturday with your students. Yes, you will need water and food, but what about someone who is certified in First Aid or CPR? Choose your volunteers carefully because you want them to be an asset to your activity, not a detriment. If you are doing something that requires outdoor acumen, choose volunteers who are suited to this. Hold a class prior to the activity to fully communicate the physical restraints of the activity, as well as tips and tricks to help with leading the students.
Make a list of what to look for in your students. For example, if one of your students has asthma or food allergies, train your volunteers about the warning signs of an impending attack. Collect a list of potential health issues for anyone on the outing, along with some training tips for how to work with them and how to handle the situation if something were to happen.
Brainstorm ideas for including kids with learning differences, language differences, special needs, and disabilities. Diversity is seen, but inclusion is felt. Ensuring that everyone feels included is important; it’s how Jesus wants us to treat others.
As you collect your group of volunteers, train them as leaders who include everyone. There is no room for bullying, no matter the situation. Discuss all of the possible differences in the group. Find solutions for combatting any participant’s feelings of being left out. For example, if you have a student who has a disability and cannot swim, make sure you bring a raft along, or a tube where they can float with the other students. Consider asking them what makes them feel left out. Train your volunteers to work to prevent these feelings. It all boils down to communication and training.
- Reporting Abuse
Identify a process and procedure for reporting observed issues that may be signs of abuse or neglect.
Abuse is defined as:
- Inflicting or allowing non-accidental, serious physical injury
- Creating or allowing a substantial risk of non-accidental, serious physical injury
- Using or allowing cruel or grossly inappropriate procedures or devices to modify behavior
- Committing, permitting, or encouraging the rape of the child or other sexual crimes
- Creating or allowing serious emotional damage to the child
- Encouraging, directing, or approving delinquent acts involving moral turpitude committed by the child
Train your volunteers to look out for these signs. At the first sign of any of them, report the situation to the appropriate leader. Many people don’t report because they are not sure what abuse is, nor do they know who to tell. Remove these factors to ensure a safe environment for your students.
Give volunteers and chaperones time and space to come up with children’s ministry ideas, especially for activities. Ensure consistent communication with your volunteers. Let them know that you care about them and the good work they are doing. Asking them to help with ideas will make them feel ownership.
Consider collecting your volunteers for a session where you play games, bond, and brainstorm ideas for future children’s activities. Bring Sunday school curriculum or books that have Bible stories for kids for them to peruse to see what types of ideas they can use or expound on. Use what works!
Successful Children’s Ministry = Teamwork
You can’t do it alone. You need a team, and most of the time that team is completely made up of volunteers. Encourage a sense of ownership and creativity. But most importantly, create an environment of love and acceptance for all. People gravitate to places where they feel part of something. Create that safe space for your students, but start with your volunteers!