Welcome to the Orange Kids Podcast, where we talk kids’ ministry and discuss practical solutions to our weekly challenges. This week, author and volunteer-recruiting expert Christine Kreisher joins hosts Mike Clear, Gina McClain, and Kellen Moore to talk recruiting and scheduling summer volunteers.
LET’S GET INTO THE EPISODE
The challenge? That yearly scheduling hiccup that faces down ministry leaders each spring: finding and scheduling summer volunteers. Your usual volunteers have been serving all year, and they need a break. Maybe they’re even taking vacations. (How dare they, right?!)
In the midst of it, you and your staff are trying to schedule vacations and plan for VBS and summer camps.
And yet, funny enough, Sunday still happens every week! So how do you prepare? We ask Christine:
1. What are your top recommendations for preparing for summertime volunteer recruiting?
Christine: We all face this challenge. It’s really important to look at excellence. Excellence is doing the best you can with the resources you have. We can’t be after perfection; we have to be after excellence. Excellence is at the very heart of God.
Ask: What creative ways can we simplify programming but elevate relationships?
The goal is connecting kids to each other, a small group leader, and the heart of God.
- If you do live throughout the year, maybe go to video for the story.
- Maybe you combine small groups so they have a consistent leader every week.
- Gina: Have leaders tag team with each other.
Christine: Kids should still be able to expect a consistent leader to provide community for them.
Mike: Give yourself permission to cut back on programming. Do the best with what you have—but you may not have a lot to work with. Say that to yourself, your leadership, and your volunteers. It’s okay to step back.
Christine: It’s a great reminder for staff and volunteers. We’re going back to why we do what we do; it’s about relationships.
2. How do you communicate to your summer programming changes to your existing volunteer team?
Christine: Use pre-service huddles to cast vision for summer: Things are going to look different. We are elevating relationships, and you play a key role.
3. How do you invite new volunteers, including parents, to serve?
I love inviting people into the adventure of serving in family ministry; it’s one of the most exciting things you can do with your life.
You can recruit on a small scale or church-wide scale. Whether it’s hallway conversation of church-wide campaign, make it clear: “We know you love and appreciate our volunteers. They serve consistently on a weekly basis. We want to give them the opportunity to give them a break. Would you be willing to fill in?”
Give them a behind the scenes look at how you are investing in the lives of the next generation. Once they get a taste of this they say, “I had no idea you do this!”
Even if you get just a handful of volunteers out of it, that’s a win.
Gina: Even if they don’t stick, they are still good PR for you.
Kellen jumps in to ask whether Christine will come and work for him.
Because who does not want Christine on their team?! (Not that he can, you know, pay her…)
Christine: When you show potential volunteers what’s happening behind the scenes, a picture is worth a thousand words.
At her church, they host a monthly overview of what church does for people interested in getting involved. “You need to know that the same energy, passion resources that go into adult services, that’s what’s happening in our kids’ ministry environment.”
It makes so much difference when they see what’s happening rather than just hearing about it. It’s not just childcare.
Gina: It gives them a whole new context.
Gina returns to vision casting for volunteers: Many volunteers came in during peak and had to deal with high energy, hair-on-fire Sundays. Now we reset expectations that they are still needed, even with fewer kids during the summer. The circle is smaller, but you are still vital. You can do more with relationship when the circle is smaller. Cast a different vision for that season. This helps you set them up to win.
Open House Event (included in the Orange MVP Box) – This helps connect parents and small group leaders. Small group leaders now know who to tap when they are on vacation, as parents have a vested interest in their child’s small group.
Christine: You still need to onboard parents/volunteers with background checks and training (full vetting process).
Kellen: Still do due diligence. It’s just a different avenue to get volunteers onboard.
Mike: Summer is a unique time to engage a different demographic – college kids who are back home.
Christine: Make personal calls to college students who have previously served. Affirm their gifts and that you need them.
If you want someone to feel significant, give them something significant to do. – Reggie Joiner
Kellen adds that as a college student, he didn’t want to have to think a lot during the summer. Encourage college students that they can just come and have fun.
4. Whatever you do, make serving fun!
Christine: Go with theme days and extend high-energy activity time. Volunteers come to us with an unspoken social contract. They come expecting to make friends. What can we do make sure that every volunteer is connected to one? It can be as simple as a pool party or picnic at the park. Invite everyone to show up and hang out and play. Then people build those natural connections. Now they have a friend, so they’re going to stick.
Gina: When they have a friend, they’re willing to push through, even when it gets hard.
Mike: At our church, they combine all the kids during the summer and streamline programming with one Large Group instead of three. Large Group time is longer with more interactive games and a shorter Small Group time. There’s a big theme with t-shirts and a team competition. Lean into the fun. You don’t want to miss next week because there’s a big team incentive.
Gina: Build off your theme for volunteer connection efforts.
Christine: Then you have kids waking up their parents on Sunday, wanting to get to church.
5. What other things should you consider about Summer volunteers and programming?
Christine: VBS is a great first serve opportunity if you do it well. Make new volunteers Small Group leaders at VBS so it’s a taste of Sunday morning.
Gina: It’s a win when you structure VBS like Sunday morning so kids get it when they come Sunday.
Mike: For summer, clearly define starts and stops. I want you to run hard for this period of time through the summer – then you can take a break. Often people don’t stop, because they love it, but having a clearly defined time frame makes it easier for someone to sign on in the first place.
Christine: Take care of your volunteers. Tell them they are required to take at least a two-week break. Lead from an abundance mentality.
Mike: Summertime is time of refreshment. Lean into that. Refresh yourself and your volunteers. There’s a niche of people out there – parents, college students – who can step in (and maybe join in on a more permanent basis later).
Christine: When you care for your volunteers well and they feel empowered to lead, they become your greatest champions. Ask your volunteers who they have a significant relationship with, and invite them to be the one to start the conversation with a potential parent volunteer. They get the ask, and then a staff leader can step in and carry the baton. Leverage Small Group leader/parent relationships to make the ask.
- Take a look at this list and make sure you’re considering each item for your Easter weekend service(s)!
- Look for ways to simplify and streamline your summer programming.
- If you haven’t already, create a plan to give your regular volunteers a summer break.
- Lean into parents and college students for summer volunteer help.
- Make it fun!— for kids and volunteers.
Got questions? Want to volunteer for Kellen or create your own Orange Kids Podcast rap?