8 Mistakes in Recruiting and Keeping Volunteers
Where would we be without those faithful workers who regularly give of their time to serve in our churches? I think we all know the answer—in a world of hurt! Dedicated workers are the backbone of any ministry. Churches could not function without them.
But frankly, as I travel, I’ve noticed a growing challenge for our churches in this area. In short, most churches need more workers. The needs seem greater than the number of available and willing servants. Those who do serve often feel overburdened, discouraged, ill equipped, and under appreciated.
As local church leaders, we need wisdom in leading our volunteers: enlisting them appropriately, training them regularly, supporting them effectively, and affirming them constantly. In light of this need, consider some common mistakes to avoid.
- Overlooking prayer
In our zeal to fill ministry positions, we sometimes overlook the obvious priority of prayerfully seeking God’s guidance. I’m impressed by the commitment of pastors and deacons I’ve met who regularly schedule time to pray for the current volunteer staff as well as about the need for additional workers.
- Waiting for people to volunteer on their own
Let’s face reality here—while we may expect godly people to volunteer to serve on their own when they hear of ministry needs, for a variety of reasons, most don’t. My advice: don’t waste time reminding your people of how deficient they are in this area (it usually doesn’t work anyway). Just take the initiative to do the necessary enlisting, making individual contacts and sharing the ministry vision and needs.
- Seeking to enlist without personal involvement
There’s a place for worship-folder requests for help and public announcements in services (they make people aware of the needs and can lay a foundation for a personal contact later on), but we cannot rely on these alone. The most effective enlistment takes place when we take the time to talk personally with someone about a specific ministry need and ask them to pray about getting involved.
- Failing to define tasks
Confession time: I recall, earlier in my pastoral ministry, seeking to enlist workers without explaining exactly what the ministry job entailed. I just assumed they knew! I’ve since learned the importance of job descriptions for even the most basic church volunteer roles. Keep the descriptions concise and include the desired time commitment (don’t allow a ministry to be open ended), and both leaders and workers will benefit.
- Delegating without accountability or follow-up
The “dump and run” approach to delegation is all too common. Often we are so relieved to find anyone who will help that we pass the baton of service and disappear forever. In reality, effective workers who stay on the job are those who have regular contact with leaders who provide help and encouragement.
- Forgetting to provide adequate training
Not everyone, even with a job description in hand, has the ability to accomplish the task of their ministry without the necessary training to do the job well. We provide training venues for church workers through the GARBC Resource Center (see www.rbpstore.org), but leaders can also strategize their own training efforts at the local level.
- Neglecting to provide adequate supplies and resources
As a follow-up to the previous thought, I suggest that church leaders make sure workers have the right equipment to do their ministries well. It’s a mistake to ask our workers to fend for themselves. Write the provision of supplies and resources into the church budget, and make it a priority to support workers with whatever they need to serve effectively.
- Ignoring expressions of appreciation and recognition
Most who serve faithfully in our churches aren’t looking for applause. They’re simply happy to do whatever God enables them to do for His glory. But they do appreciate expressions of thanks. Church leaders who regularly honor workers in appropriate ways reap significant benefits in their ministries!
Associate GARBC Representative
(Originally published in the Baptist Bulletin)
Helping Students Learn
If you are a pastor, you might wish to share this article with children’s teachers in your church.
As a children’s teacher or worker, you most likely experience a wide range of abilities in your classroom or children’s program. Children differ greatly in how they learn and the rate at which they learn—even within the same grade level! Teachers can help bridge those gaps among children by making small tweaks in their teaching practices. By adjusting the length and nature of learning activities to match students’ abilities, you can enable every student to learn more of God’s Word.
If students experience success in their learning and feel that they are making a valuable contribution, they will enjoy being at Sunday School, junior church, children’s Bible club, etc. As you plan learning activities, whether you are using those in the teacher’s guide or designing your own, think about how you can adapt them so that all students can experience a measure of success.
If you are a new teacher, you will most likely follow the suggested procedures in your teacher’s guide closely. As you gain experience, you will discover other ways to organize your learning activities and present your lessons. Your curriculum—the teacher’s guide, teaching materials, suggested learning activities, student books, etc.—are tools for you to use in whatever manner is best for you and your students.
Teaching methods to help you span the wide range of student abilities:
1. Adjust the difficulty level. If an activity or written task is too difficult for some students, allow them to respond in another way. For instance, if the suggested teaching plan is to have students write answers to review questions about a Bible story, but some students have difficulty writing, you could orally review the story together, or students could draw scenes from the Bible story. If some children are unable to retell the Bible story after you’ve presented it, ask them to share the part that they remember and have other students tell the rest. If children have difficulty memorizing Bible verses, use picture clues to help their recall, or allow them to read part of the verse instead of memorizing it all, or let the group recite it in unison.
At the opposite end of the learning scale, higher ability students may get restless because they complete the activities easily and quickly. Provide some challenging activities. Students could compose Bible quiz questions from previous lessons; design a board game on a file folder, using the setting and characters from a recent lesson; or make a complex word search, using words from the memory verse. If a student enjoys art, he or she might design a poster that pictures the theme of the lesson.
2. Use partners. Pair capable readers with slow readers to practice memory verses. Have older students work with younger students to complete word searches. Have beginning level writers dictate their thoughts to more experienced writers to transcribe. Ask students to share answers to your questions with their neighbors. If a student has difficulty following directions, assign a buddy to help him or her know what to do.
3. Vary the length of activities. If your students grow restless during the Bible story, consider dividing the story into shorter segments. Students with shorter attention spans will have difficulty listening attentively for more than 10 minutes. You can increase their comprehension of the Bible story by emphasizing the main events of the story and omitting extraneous details. Students with learning disabilities may have difficulty completing tasks that require writing, reading, or spelling. Instead of asking these students to complete the entire activity page, have them do the sections that are easier for them. If students need a longer time to complete a learning activity, allow them to continue to work if a helper is available and if it does not interrupt the flow of your lesson. As you work with your students, remember that all students do not have to do the same thing at the same time. It’s okay to adjust your expectations and activities to match their capabilities. You may need to expand activities for students who need a challenge. They could set higher goals for themselves in memory work. They might assist you by helping the younger children. You may have ongoing activities available that these students can do when they have free time in class.
4. Vary your teaching methods. Plan for ways to incorporate student participation during the Bible story. Students can help make visuals for the story. If visuals are provided with your curriculum, you can display the visuals for the lesson and have the children find the visual that shows that particular part of the story. If the story involves conversation between two characters, you could type that dialogue and have two students read their speaking parts as in a play. You could prepare a simple skit that communicates the theme of the lesson or part of the Bible story and have students present it. Students can signal responses (thumbs up or thumbs down) to give their opinion about whether a character made a wise choice. By using the students to help you tell the Bible story or having them respond to the story in an active way, you are helping them better comprehend the truth.
5. Use choral reading. Just as children learn songs by listening to and singing with other children, those students who have difficulty reading can benefit from listening to and “reading” with other students. Less able readers can learn memory verses by participating in choral “reading” of the verse if it is written on a large poster. Also, they can repeat the theme of the lesson (e.g., “God cares for us”) if you have posted it on the board. By using choral reading, you are actively involving all the students and helping them learn the theme or memory verse.
An exciting part of teaching is that every class is a learning experience for the teacher! Don’t be reluctant to try different teaching methods to help your students learn. Christ shaped His teaching methods to match the needs of His students. So take the plunge, try a new way of presenting the material, and guide every student to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
GARBC Executive Assistant