As leaders of those who serve preschoolers, the need to encourage and train those volunteers is an ongoing challenge. The obstacle is finding a process that is effective, yet easy to follow. It’s interesting to consider that what works with preschoolers just might work at a higher level with your preschool volunteers! And what could be easier to follow than A-B-C?
When interacting with preschoolers, there needs to be a place for everyone. Little ones like to play and no one wants to be left out. Everyone wants to be a part of the fun. When it’s time to make music, everyone wants his own instrument. When its time to pass out snacks, everyone wants to help. Somewhere deep inside our little ones this longing to belong and to be needed is starting to develop.
Those who volunteer in your preschool ministry are much the same. Everyone needs a place to serve, a task to accomplish, a purpose to fill. And, while not every task is equal in terms of responsibility or expertise required, every task is necessary; thus every volunteer is needed. When we are ALL in, ministry flows better. When ministry flows better, those involved will grow to new levels of both belonging and serving. It may take some creative thinking, but find a place for everyone! That place may or may not be working directly with children, but there is something everyone can do, if we are creative!
Working with little ones is a quick way to learn that instructions need to be upfront, straight-forward and clear. Given a sheet of paper, a handful of crayons and 15 seconds, a preschooler will have crafted a project and be ready to move to the next task. If your instructions aren’t heard before the supplies are given, your little ones are well on their way to what they envision as the goal of the day. Trying to back preschoolers up and redirect them is like….well, you know. It’s not easy.
As a volunteer, no one likes to guess what they are suppose to do and if what he is doing is right. Give your team clear guidelines as to what you would like to see them accomplish. Along those same lines, few people like to be micro-managed. So, once the task/job/project is conveyed, allow your team to take it and run with it. They may do it differently than you, and that’s ok, as long as the task has been accomplished within the guidelines you gave.
Little ones need a lot of encouragement. As parents and leaders, we cheer for every sign of accomplishment. From potty achievements to scrawlings of early letters to offers of sharing a favorite toy, every move toward accomplishment is celebrated. Each tiny win that is applauded and lends momentum to the next task.
The same approach to encouragement can do wonders when offered to your volunteers. One of my favorite quotes on encouragement is from Jeff Henderson: “The international sign of if someone needs encouragement is if they’re breathing.” Cheer your team on. Thank them for what they do, often. Note when someone goes above and beyond and thank them for that specifically. And, because preschoolers just don’t say thank you very often, you as the leader, can make sure that each member of your team knows they are valued and appreciated!
Of course, the idea is not to treat your volunteers like preschoolers! But just realize that some of what we need when we are young doesn’t change a lot as we get older. We just need it at a different level. If you can remember your ABC’s, you can lead your volunteers on to their next level!