My first year in ministry I had five students and no volunteers. I had to resort to begging my husband to come to youth group and hang out. For a couple of weeks that worked, but finally my husband sat me down and said he really had no idea how to—get this—”hang out.”
Now for those of us in ministry, “hanging out” with kids and students is second nature. But to a software engineer, there needed to be some guidance as to what role he was actually supposed to fill.
It became clear in that first year of ministry the value of not only having volunteers but having volunteers that were trained and equipped to lead with excellence. I have always served in smaller churches where I was the only paid staff which really elevated the need to have a consistent team who felt confident to lead.
Volunteers are the backbone of every ministry regardless of the size of church you serve in. As leaders we often forget that our volunteers have families, jobs, and commitments that can stretch them thin all the while still doing all they can do to attend everything going on in your church! We need to be good stewards of all the resources that we have been entrusted with, but we also need to pay special attention to our volunteer team.
We all know how hard it is to recruit great volunteers, so once we’ve found great people to lead in our ministries, it’s our job to set them up for success from the very beginning. (I can’t be the only one who’s thrown a software engineer into a small group with little to no training.) That’s why, once a year, it’s so important to host a catalyst for the consistent volunteer training your volunteers will receive all year long—I call this event your Volunteer Kickoff.
The goal of a volunteer kick off is simple: to inspire and inform your volunteers with everything they need to know before they show up for the first time this year.
Training your volunteer team so that they understand the vision of your ministry will ensure that your ministry will be more successful.
So, WHO is invited to your Volunteer Kickoff? All family ministry volunteers—from your small group leaders to your large group communicators to your tech director. Join forces, and invite volunteers from preschool to high school! Gathering all your family ministry volunteers together to cast a vision from cradle to college can be a game changer. Think about it—what would it be like if every volunteer in every ministry understood the scope of what you wanted every child raised in your church to know before they went off to college? Talk about elevating the volunteer culture!
WHEN should you host your Volunteer Kickoff? Before promoting your children and students to the next grade is a great time to host a volunteer training. Pick a day and time where the majority of your volunteers would be able to attend. Often times, hosting a lunch right after the service is a great way capture the most people. If you can offer childcare, that might even be better for those parents with young children.
WHAT exactly happens at your Volunteer Kickoff? Start with a large group time to cast vision, havefun, and appreciate your volunteers for their commitment this year. Once you cast the vision for your family ministry strategy, you can then break out into groups based on what ages each volunteer is going to serve with. Throughout the years, I have felt it is really important to reintroduce my volunteer team to the phase their child or teen is currently in. I love using the Phase Summary Guides to educate my team on where their child or teen is socially, emotionally, physically, and mentally. I have had wonderful volunteers who haven’t sat in the same circle as a 6th grade student in a while, so this resource is incredibly valuable. When you make sure that your volunteer knows how to best serve their child or teen, you are setting them up for success.
As leaders we are so intentional on who we ask to be on our team, we have to keep that intentionality when it comes to training them. Utilize training to help make sure each volunteer understands the vision so that they can best use their gifts to serve in your ministry. We have to commit to the time it takes to train our leaders so that they have the skills to make a big impact in the life of your families.
HOW do I pull off a Volunteer Kickoff? I’m glad you asked! Our team at Orange has partnered with churches around the globe creating successful events for their volunteers and created a brand new answer to this question. It’s called the Volunteer Event Kit, and it includes everything you’ll need to put on your own Volunteer Kickoff, from scripts to graphics to marketing to social. You can check it out on Orange Leaders!
Here is my favorite part of creating a team, it is so much fun to do ministry with friends! When you invest in your volunteers, they begin to function as a team with one mission in mind. They can become a team that not only serves together but does life together. Once your team becomes like a family, it is easier to reengage them each year.
I have no idea on how to do ministry without invested volunteers. Having a great team of leaders to do ministry with is, in my humble opinion, the only way to do ministry with excellence.