Aaron & Karen Collier, children’s pastor and preschool director at Piedmont Church in Marietta, Ga., visit to talk communicating with your ministry volunteers when it comes to training, vision casting, and celebration. Mike, Gina, Kellen, and the Colliers focus on the value of placing relationship before ministry role.

LET’S GET INTO THE EPISODE

We’re back! Welcome to the Orange Kids Podcast, where we talk kids’ ministry and discuss practical solutions to our weekly challenges. As Mike points out, kids ministry cannot survive without … well, yes, Jesus. Okay, and the Bible. And a budget helps. But ministry doesn’t make it without VOLUNTEERS! Mike says, “I have yet to meet a church leader who said, ‘you know what? I have enough volunteers!’”

Unless you are that church leader Mike has yet to meet, you need volunteers. You need to recruit, do background checks, find the right fit and provide training. And once you manage that—you need to figure out how to keep them!

BIG HINT: FOOD HELPS.

But you already knew that.

So Mike, Gina and Kellen chat with guests Aaron and Karen Collier from Piedmont Church in Marietta, Georgia, for more practical tips on how to communicate with, train, and celebrate your volunteers.

Aaron = children’s pastor
Karen = preschool director
Hattie Ray = adorable daughter (possibly named after the delectable Ray’s Donuts the Colliers use to snag volunteers?

1. How do you communicate with your volunteers?

Aaron: A combination of text messages and emails (including the free app GroupMe, which allows volunteers to communicate with each other and find their own replacements)

However, the personal touch is still best, as working with volunteers is all about relationships.

Karen: We do three trainings each year and use giveaways to help them feel valued. Orange parenting books, kid devotionals, gift cards. They also know to expect crazy stage games.

2. What is your rhythm for TRAININGS?

Aaron: Initially, every volunteer goes through a 90 minute “reducing the risk” course that covers policies and procedures for keeping kids safe. After that, we do a personal interview and get to know their heartbeat, what they really want to do in ministry.

If someone joins kidmin between large group trainings, the Colliers assign an experienced mentor to walk alongside and do on-the-job training. Other experience volunteers regularly serve as coaches.

Large group trainings happen three times a year and include one hour with the whole group and a one-hour area-specific breakout. 

In between, the Colliers focus on taking individual volunteers out for lunch. Aaron adds, “Always keep the relationship before the role.”

The Colliers note that some of their best ideas come from volunteers, parents who are in the trenches every day.

Kellen seconds the motion: “I love when leaders can come into the room and say they are not the smartest person. It’s easy as a leader to say, ‘I have to be the one to know, I have to research, I have to give.’ When you can ask a volunteer ‘what can we get better at?’ it takes the ego out.”

Gina adds that it’s vital for a ministry leader to be accessible, especially on Sunday mornings. Walk into rooms and let volunteers know what they are doing matters.

Aaron: “We regularly schedule ourselves as staff to be small group leaders.”

Mike points out that technology allows smaller pockets of training between large group training times and one-on-one interactions. “You can do a Zoom call with your large group communicators or small group leaders or your host team.”

3. Vision is awesome, but vision leaks. What are the ways you lean into CAST VISION?

Karen: We do a volunteer breakfast with donuts first Sunday of every month. Volunteers can bring their kids, and we vision cast the new theme for the month and help them get behind it. “If they don’t know it and understand it and believe it themselves, they’re just going to read it off a piece of paper. Our goal is to help them connect what the kids are going to be learning to something going on in their lives right now.”

Aaron: “If you are excited about what you are doing, people are going to be excited.”

Remind volunteers that even if it’s a hard morning, that’s okay, because Jesus is still going to be glorified.

Karen points out: “They’re actually our friends. Become friends with your volunteers. Do life with them. Show up.”

Mike: “It’s harder to walk away from a relationship than from a role.”

Kellen: “People don’t sign up to do kids ministry because they know all the ins and outs. They sign up because they want to be part of a community that’s serving a bigger purpose.”

Gina: “Your lead in is not about what they do for you, but who they are and what God is doing in their lives. Show up when you don’t have to. That turns up the volume of your voice in their lives.”

4. Once you’ve covered training and casting vision—how do you CELEBRATE the wins?

  1. Show up in the rooms Sunday morning and spend a few minutes looking each volunteer in the eye and thanking them for what they’re doing.
  2. Churchwide volunteer celebration. Invite families. Feed them!
  3. Handwritten thank you and birthday cards. Texts are good, calls are better, handwritten cards top the list. (We can’t write in cursive anymore. That’s what wrong!) 

Intentionally communicating with volunteers to TRAIN, to VISION CAST, and to ENCOURAGE may seem like one more thing to add to a crowded list. But it’s vital to make time to be present for your people and celebrate the work you are doing together.

We could talk about volunteers all day! But we need lunch. Let’s keep the conversation going over in our Facebook group!

THE TAKEAWAY

Intentionally communicating with volunteers to TRAIN, to VISION CAST, and to ENCOURAGE may seem like one more thing to add to a crowded list. But it’s vital to make time to be present for your people and celebrate the work you are doing together.

(Kellen thinks we should flip the “m” and make the site orangekidwin. Because our new site will be awesome. Just like Kellen.)

Orange Kids Community on Facebook

Let’s keep the conversation going!