Leading a children’s ministry is a unique experience. One might say that you live in three totally different worlds.
In one space, you’re communicating timeless truths to children who have limited life experience. For example, how do you explain sin in real terms without scaring, scarring, or shaming young hearts.
In the second space, you’re helping parents be the real disciple makers in their kids’ lives. You provide resources and encouragement while praying that the parents are taking their spiritual role seriously.
In the third space, you lead a big team of volunteers and are working to develop leaders on that team. These are the folks who interact most closely with kids each Sunday, so your job of leading them directly impacts how they lead kids.
You carry all of these responsibilities, plus the weight of participating as a staff person and working to keep your ministry area connected to avoid ministry siloes, which is actually hard work! And that’s not even to mention maintaining your own personal devotional life or trying to stay on top of everything at home. It’s a lot!
I want to give you a simple plan to calm the chaos and lead well. In the rest of this post, I’m going to cover how to communicate effectively with your volunteer teams.
Communicating Effectively with Volunteers
Your volunteers are absolutely vital to your ministry. Literally, you cannot do your job without your volunteers.
What’s more, the better you lead your volunteers, the more impact your ministry will have. That means kids being taught and cared for, parents knowing their kids are in a great place, and the whole church body confident that they can invite their friends with kids to church.
The most important area of focus for leaders with volunteers is communication. Without effective communication, your vision will be cloudy and no one will know what to do — absolute chaos.
Communicating with your volunteers usually happens in a couple ways. You communicate in person, usually on a Sunday morning or over coffee or lunch during the week. You also communicate via email or SMS text during the week.
Communicating Well in Person
My favorite time to communicate with my volunteer teams is on Sunday morning in our team huddles. Our team huddles happen before church gets started and before parents start showing up. In fact, we do it early enough to make sure each room team can get in place to set up and get ready ready for kids to arrive.
If you decide to do a Sunday morning huddle, and I think you should, here’s what to consider:
- Plan for at least 15 minutes, but make time for 25 minutes together.
- Start with prayer. I’ve seen some teams take and pray over prayer requests. That may work for you depending on the size of your team and how well they relate to one another. Whether you do prayer requests or not, you should also spend this time praying for your church, for the kids, and their parents.
- Celebrate what God is doing in your church and in your children’s ministry. Your people need to be continually reminded that they are a part of God’s work, not just helping you do your job.
- Recognize and celebrate a faithful volunteer each week. Talk about what they’ve done or are doing that is worthy of praise. It could be that they stayed late to help clean or they are especially attentive to a difficult child’s needs.
- Talk about specific instructions for that day. Remind them about the lesson focus, the flow of the curriculum, and any tricky parts they might need clarity on before going to their rooms.
- Cover the announcements they’re going to miss by not being in the church service that week. It’s never fun to be out of the loop on church-wide information because you’re serving somewhere else.
- Connect everything to your mission and values. Not only do people need to know they’re a part of God’s work, but they need to know they are connected to one another on a shared mission with shared values.
Finally, the best part of the Sunday huddle is that it might be the only chance your team gets to see your enthusiasm and for some of the enthusiasm to rub off on them. When you’re hyped about sharing Jesus with kids, they’ll be hyped, too.
Communicating Well During the Week
Between Sundays, you still need to be communicating with your team in an effective and thorough manner. There’s nothing worse than being part of a volunteer team when you have no idea what’s going on. Your midweek communication is your chance to keep everyone in the loop — which takes a little more work than you might think.
You should be communicating at least once a week with everyone on your team, even those who aren’t serving that week. Then, for those that are serving, they should get two more pieces of communication that week. Let’s break those communication pieces down for clarity.
The Weekly Blast
The all-hands communication (the one that goes to everyone) that goes out weekly should be personal, informational, and vision-oriented. In most cases, this communication goes out via email, but I’ve seen some creative leaders using text messages, a blog, a YouTube video, or social media for this weekly blast.
That weekly piece to every volunteer should come from you personally, not from a ministry department or generic email address. Include information that everyone needs to know, like church-wide announcements and celebrating what God is doing. In fact, you can use this weekly team-wide blast as a template for what you’ll talk about on Sunday morning in your huddle.
Active Roster Communication
Communicating with those folks who are scheduled to serve that following weekend needs to be precise. You’re giving them functional information they’ll need to do their job that week. And there should be two pieces of communication each week for those people in addition to the reminder email/text about being on the schedule.
The first communication they’ll get that week should help them prepare and have plenty of time to do so. On Monday, send out an email or text message to everyone serving that week. Include the curriculum files they’ll need for Sunday so they can review them. Include the schedule for that week, even if it’s exactly the same as every other week — you’ll have new people on the team and people who forgot because they haven’t served in a while.
The second communication they’ll get that week should be shorter and unignorable — meaning they can’t ignore it. It should include an obvious reminder that they’re on the schedule, a brief overview of what’s happening that weekend, and the curriculum. I like sending this piece as a text message blast because it’s quicker to digest, personal, and unignorable.
This whole communication flow might feel a little redundant, but that’s the point. Most people need multiple reminders to be 100% in the loop. They get a hundred emails a day and just as many text messages and Facebook messages. Your message is one of many, so you’ll have to be redundant in order to make sure your information breaks through the noise.
If you feel like you’re over communicating, you’re probably communicating just the right amount. When it comes to communicating with people whom you see only once a week, at most, then you need to be a little more incessant with your message.
It’s okay to be redundant, too. No one will be annoyed that you’re communicating thoroughly with them. You may get the odd remark from some people, but those people are the vocal minority. I guarantee that most people are grateful to be in the loop and an extra email or text each week is not a big deal.
We’re building a brand new tool to help ministry leaders communicate effectively with volunteers, parents, and those that they serve. Join the HuddleUp waiting list to receive updates about the product as we get closer to releasing it in a few months!