Five Things That CM Volunteers Need

What do CM volunteers need?

  • Affirmation. We all need encouragement. Volunteers are no different. Honor them. Brag about them in their presence to others. Deflect praise to them. Shoulder the burden of criticism so as to minimize its impact on them. (This is a necessary task of leadership. There is a time for volunteers to hear and deal with constructive criticism, but it can be demoralizing if they get hit with it week after week without any kind of filter or support system.) If they do not feel appreciated, then they typically will migrate to opportunities which yield consistent positive feedback. It is a fact of human nature. Ignore it at your church’s peril.
  • Resources. Ministry to children requires basic supplies and tools. It also needs various knock-your-socks-off cool props and set pieces to capture the imaginations of children and those volunteers that get to work with them. Even if you have little or no budget in your church, start small and build a treasure chest of cool stuff for your workers to use in the ministry. You might even network with other local churches to see if they would loan you their cool stuff. I bet they would be willing to give it if they no longer have a need for it!
  • Clear expectations. Never assume your volunteers know every policy or procedure in your church. This relates to taking children to the restroom, check-in/check-out procedures,  appropriate physical touch, sanitizing toys and tools and general cleanup, and so on. Do they know what to do? Are you sure? Write it down. Post critical information on walls in conspicuous places. Have a handbook full of the information which is given to each teacher and ask them to sign that they have read and understood it (I am currently developing this for my church, both for leaders and for parents. It is hard, but necessary).
  • Training. Learn the culture of your church and train your people using appropriate means. In my context, much of the training currently occurs using just-in-time training and mentoring. In the past we have done seminars, classes, and sent people to events. We try to have current leaders training rising leaders.
  • Communication. Be in contact with your leaders in various ways. This is not hard to do in the current environment with social technologies, handheld devices, email, cell phones, and–dare I mention it–the ability actually to speak face-to-face (rumors of this method’s demise are highly exaggerated).

What would you add?


6 thoughts on “Five Things That CM Volunteers Need

  1. I agree with these five things but I wonder if we are missing something.

    I understand that they need training in things like classroom management and effective ways to teach but there are more foundational things we feel our volunteers are missing.

    Do they understand the gospel and know how to talk about it?
    Are they seeing what God is doing in, through and around them?
    Do they feel connected and can they see the big picture?
    Do they have a love for Jesus that can be shared?

    Just some questions we are asking.

  2. Rob,

    Thank you for your feedback. I appreciate you dropping by to offer your input! I apologize for any lack of clarity on my part. Sometimes I forget that occasionally people actually read what I write on this blog. This post was intended to offer five things that volunteers need from leaders, something I did not originally specify in the body or title of the post. It is not meant to be exhaustive or even represent the top five. These are simply five things which I consistently bump into in my local church and in other churches as I interact with fellow CM leaders.

    You raise some important issues which certainly should be considered, at least in part, in the vetting process of recruiting and placing volunteers. I would like to offer a bit of feedback of my own.

    When you say “we” who do you mean? Me? Your church? Someone else? That is, are you being specific or general? You raise the point of the gospel. I would augment your point by asking, “Do they live it out in their lives?” Lots of people can talk a good game, but has the gospel taken root in terms of a personal relationship with the Lord God? You mention connection and the bigger picture: what does that mean for you? Are you speaking of God’s interaction with people in the culture, or are you now speaking of the local church? You conclude by mentioning a love for Jesus that can be shared. Is there any other kind of love in the biblical sense?

    I ask these questions because I deal with volunteers who come from a wide range of backgrounds. Some are more theologically and biblically experienced than others. Some have mature, vital relationships with God and others are young in their faith journey. My point is that while it is important to ensure that those who are teaching and influencing the children love Jesus and are growing in their faith maturity, it is also important to use recruitment language and metrics that provide opportunities for people who are at varied stages in the growth into maturity.

    When I was first starting out as a teen, I was not ready to be a teacher for a variety of reasons. But boy-oh-boy, I knew how to capture the kids attention and get them excited about Jesus, or how to show compassion to marginalized kids. So I served as a helper, and later learned to take on more responsibility as I matured.

    How is that for a reply?:) Thank you again for joining the conversation. Interacting with others is how I learn best, so I appreciate the challenging encouragement!

  3. Glen,

    When I used the word “we” in my reply, I was specifically talking about the team I lead. As our team grows in its relationship with God and as we come to understand the gospel more, it changes how we see things. We want to see our volunteers, who are actually connecting with kids, to grow in the same way.

    We find ourselves talking more about God’s grace and seeing what He is doing than anything else. Leading people there doesn’t seem like training.

    I think your post was great. I would love to talk about how we lead our volunteers to talk like Paul does in Phil. 1:21. Could you imagine the impact if they did?

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