Volunteers for Better or for Worse

Jenny Lichte
Let’s just get something out of the way right from the start. Volunteers almost never volunteer for life. The headline here doesn’t mean that you should expect marriage-level commitment from a volunteer. That’s not the invitation you’re offering.

No, what I mean by my title is this: volunteers should feel valued, attended to, gratified, and supported just as much on “good days” as they do on harder ones. A bad day should not make them ready to quit, because they will find a soft landing in your support and encouragement. And they will not quit after 12 good Sundays, because they will know how valuable they are to the church family and will feel gratified for their work. When you invite someone to serve in your children’s ministry, you’re offering them a priceless treasure.

Placing your volunteers is NOT “filling holes.” Volunteers should never simply babysit, or just watch the children while parents do something more important. In children’s ministry, your volunteers are the hands and feet of the Gospel message. They’re the front-line soldiers carrying the good news of Jesus to the children who sit ready and listening. They’re the people who get hard questions, who get hurt feelings, who get antsy 6-year-old squirmers and sleepy 12-year-old girls. They must take ownership of their role just as a teacher in a public school takes ownership of hers, even though they may only be with children at church for an hour each month. Their length of face time with children by no means weakens the value of the message they’re bringing. What they do has eternal consequences. Be sure they know how important they are and how important the work is that they’re doing. Empower them. Make them aware of their situation, empathetic to the students, and service-oriented to God.

Nor is finding and placing your volunteers simply “plugging people in” so they’ll feel locked in to a spot in your church and won’t ever leave. Inviting someone to help share God’s good news with the coming generation is a precious gem you’re offering them. A front row seat at God’s work growing, watering, and tending souls for his kingdom. What a gift that you would ask them to share in this! And to invite them to this place in the family of faith should also come with nurture for them and for their spiritual growth. You’re offering to tend to them as they tend to the children. You’re offering to work for them, to serve them, to hold them in your prayers and in your work efforts so that they will be equipped to succeed. Assure volunteers that you have made accurate assessments of them and that you will be invested in their well-being for the coming days.

Your volunteers will fail from time to time. You will fail from time to time. But guess what? Our God never fails. He never leaves us. He will not let any one of us get in the way of his redemption plan. But he will give us a front row seat. Invite someone to sit beside you in that imaginary front row. And together, enjoy the hard and the beautiful of God’s work in the lives of the children he’s entrusted to you.
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Meet the author


          Jenny Lichte is the Director of Children's Ministry at Grace EPC in Lawrence, Kansas. She and her husband, Jason, graduated from Baylor University. They have five children.
          Jenny has taught kindergarten and high school, has volunteered with children in numerous capacities, and has been in ministry for over 13 years. She is also deeply involved in supporting foster families (see FosterVillageLawrence.org).
          Jenny is passionate about Jesus, about children, and about equipping adults to see and interact with children as the incredible humans they are. 
          To contact her, email: jenny@gepc.org.
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