Volunteers are People Too!

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.
— 2 Thessalonians 1:3 ESV

Running and planning a weekly children's ministry can be overwhelming, much like an ever turning carousel. Restless Saturday nights spent feeling anxious as another Sunday approaches without enough volunteers. Wondering how classrooms will be staffed and if children will have to be turned away because there isn't enough help. In these moments I would often pray, "what you are doing to me God, why can't you give me the people I need?!?"  Without realizing it, my view of volunteers had been slowly changing. Instead of being sons and daughters of The Most High God that need to be cared for, developed and disciplined, they were a means to an end.

How can you see volunteers as people, not objects to fill holes in your ministry?

1. Celebrate Together

People celebrate what they value. What do you value in ministry? If you are not sure what you value, think about what you talk about the most? Is it how many kids come each week? Is it the great new ministry tool you just implemented? Is it your superhero team of ministry volunteers? Be intentional in what, why and how you celebrate. Make it fun and memorable. People want to serve where they feel valued, and where they are part of something bigger than themselves. Celebrating people and what they have accomplished bonds them together. Have fun with the people you are on mission with, celebrate who they are and what God is calling them to do!

2. Disciple Volunteers

God calls us to disciple other believers. Do you account for this when you are equipping and training volunteers?  Serving in our children and youth ministries should provide opportunities for people in our churches to use and develop the gifts that God has given them. These gifts overflow and bless both the community and the church. Developing volunteers gives us pause as leaders to examine our own hearts. Are we pursuing selfish gain? We build our volunteers up in knowledge and skill not for our own glory and benefit, but for God's glory, their own spiritual health and so they will be equipped to better love those they are serving. Not just what we invest, but why we invest in people matters and will be seen in the vision and theology we teach.

3 Pray for each volunteer by name

This is a recurring theme in Paul's letters. We need God's help to remember to pray and to pray for our volunteers well. (Funny that to get better at prayer we need to pray and ask God for help). What a wonderful way to get to know volunteers better and care more for them! If you aren't already, try praying regularly for your team of volunteers. Pray for them both generally and specifically. Reach out to them and ask how you can be praying for them. Dedicate time during the week for staff to pray together for the volunteers and teams under your care.

Here is an example: 

Good Father, 

Thank you so much for bringing Megan to Journey Kids. Thank you for saving Megan and giving her the gifting to minister to those in our children's ministry. Continue to grow her affections for you. You are her faithful Father, may she trust in Your never-stopping love. Help me to see and care for Megan, and know how to best encourage her. Faithfully sustain her passion and increase her knowledge so she can joyfully serve you and others. Renew her spirit and give her love that overflows to all who are under her care. In Christ's Name, Amen! 

1. What are some examples of how you celebrate volunteers? 

2. How have you been cared for by those who have discipled you in the past?