Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Plant a Seed…GROW a Volunteer

77 tips for growing vital volunteers from fertile friendships

Summer is no time to slack off on your recruiting. In fact, summer can be one of your most productive seasons for connecting with great new people. There are tons of things you can do now to develop friendships with people who may grow into new team members. You can plant a seed, water a relationship, fertilize spiritual growth, and more.

Like friendships, relationships with new team members don’t just happen. They move through a natural progression of acquaintance, acceptance, trust, deepening, companionship, and commitment. (We’d all like to jump to commitment when it comes to recruiting, but relationships require every stage and a lot of patience.)

Prepare your field now with these checklists for every stage of a friendship.

13 Places to Meet New People at Church

Thanks to the Spirit of God drawing people week in and week out to your church, you have opportunities waiting to meet all kinds of new people.

At all church events, stand near the food. You’ll easily meet and greet all sorts of hungry new people.
  • Serve coffee and doughnuts. Everyone shows up there eventually!
    Attend an adult Christian education class where you’ll get to know others (and you’ll grow, too).
  • Join a sports league—even if you don’t have the skills, you’ll have fun.
    Volunteer at the welcome table instead of hanging out at the children’s ministry info table.
    Join the choir or praise team—you’ll get to know God a little better, too, as you worship Him!
  • Get involved in a small group—for instant friends and fellowship.
    It’s an oldie, but goldie: Follow up with people from your church’s visitor cards—a phone call trumps an email, and a personal visit trumps a phone call. Forget the form letter; that trumps nothing.
  • Wander around. A lot. (Try not to look lost, though!)
  • Serve your church as a greeter. Give ‘em a firm handshake.
    Attend your church’s membership class—always.
  • When attending service, sit in a different spot each week. People tend to sit in the same vicinity each week—invade some new space.
  • Go to church dinners…and sit with people you don’t know.
6 Ways to Help People Feel Accepted
There’s a man in our church named Roger who’s made our family feel accepted from day one. Follow Roger’s lead, and you’ll make people want to come back.
  • Use people’s names. Commit names to memory.
  • Touch them…shake a hand, pat a back.
  • Smile. You’re happy to see them, aren’t you?
    Remember their story. Ask about something they told you earlier.
  • Be present. Don’t be searching the crowd for your next great contact during conversations. Maintain eye contact.
  • Seek people out. They won’t naturally come to you.
11 Things Not to Do
Okay, so you’ve met a new friend, what do you do now? Don’t be tempted to do these things.
  • Fill the person’s email with jokes, heartwarming stories, or chain emails that you must send on if you really love the person or Jesus.
  • Act desperate.
  • Ask too-personal questions: “So what really happened between you and your ex?”
  • Gripe…about anything. No one wants to be around a grouch.
  • Sigh heavily when you talk about your ministry.
  • Bring up anything on your body that has recently been diagnosed, X-rayed, scanned, or that oozes.
  • Turn down invitations you get from people for dinner, parties, small groups, or anything else. Everyone’s busy, and it’s okay if you can’t attend once or twice, but if your answer is a recurring “no,” people tend to stop inviting you.
  • Share church matters that should be kept in the office.
  • Gossip. No, no, no, no!
  • Have a “better plan” than anything others suggest doing together.
  • Invite them to sales parties (plasticware, cookware, jewelry, rock-tumbling) with the subtle expectation for them to spend money to be your friend.
5 Qualities Trustworthy People Have
I asked my husband (who’s a very trustworthy guy) to list the top qualities of trustworthy people. So if ever in doubt, think “What would Ray do?”
  • Empathy—“I’m sorry that happened.”
  • Sincerity—“I really mean that.”
  • Confidentiality—“I’ll never tell.”
  • Openness to others’ ideas—“What do you think?”
  • Listening skills—silence.
14 Best Books to Help You Grow With a Friend
This list isn’t for the faint of heart. I asked a few of my friends for their favorite “deep” reads. So grab a good friend and dig into spiritual truths that’ll help you both grow in your faith—and deepen your relationship.
  • Waking the Dead by John Eldredge—this is your alarm clock going off!
  • Knowing God by J.I. Packer—a classic that never grows old.
  • Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli—encouraging and honestly blunt.
  • Any book by Henri Nouwen—yes! Any book!
  • The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer—makes you think
  • Disappointment With God by Philip Yancey—confronts questions we’re often terrified to ask.
  • Captivating by John Eldredge (and his wife, Stasi)—a chick book but powerful stuff.
  • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis—Another great classic.
  • Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney—You can help each other grow in discipline.
  • Out of the Saltshaker and Into the World by Rebecca Manley Pippert—Discover new ways to share your faith.
  • Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper—What’s your purpose? (not to be confused with the other purpose book).
  • Desiring God by John Piper—How you can delight in God.
  • Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller—Think outside the religious box.
  • The Calvary Road by Roy Hession—examines God’s activity in the heart of the hungry seeker.
6 Best Web Sites for e-Cards
Want to say thank you? Nice to meet you? Thinking of you? Get well? Or just share a laugh? These are our favorite sites to find great e-greeting cards.
  • Dayspring.com (Dazzling Christian-themed e-cards)
  • Hallmark.com (Great e-cards for any situation)
  • Crosswalk.com (Inspirational e-cards that’ll bring a smile or tear)
  • Americangreetings.com (Huge selection of top quality e-cards)
  • Bluemountain.com (A paid site, but beautiful e-cards)
  • 123greetings.com (More great e-cards)
3 Best Places to Lunch With a Mother of a Preschooler
Think easy cleanup and interest areas for little ones if you really want to have a meaningful conversation with these young moms.
  • Any place with an indoor playland or enclosed play area.
  • Park with playground equipment.
  • Preschool classroom—takeout or delivery.
7 Easiest Parties for Grown-Ups
Party! Party! Everyone loves a party, but who likes the work? Try these ideas that make having a party as much fun for you as it is for your guests.
  • Chocolate Boutique (An extravagant, delicious party celebrating chocolate and God’s love)
  • Sports Night and Pizza
  • BYOB (Bring Your Own Beef) Barbeque
  • Build a Pizza (Everyone brings their favorite topping—can work with ice cream, too, except then it’s Build a Sundae)
  • Grammy Awards (Get together to watch the sap and provide commentary on everything from dresses to acceptance speeches)
  • Party at the Park (Everyone brings a dish and outdoor game—you don’t have to clean a house!)
  • Scavenger Hunt (Yes, we’re grown-ups, but these are always great fun, no matter what the age!
12 Things to Do Before Placing Volunteers
Time for commitment? You’ve built friendships—way to go! Now do the detail work that ensures the right placement of every single person on your team.
  • Have people fill out an application.
  • Conduct a background check.
  • Learn about their SHAPE: Spiritual gifts, what they have a Heart for, what their Aptitudes/skills are, their Personality type (introvert, extrovert) and what Experiences they’ve had. This makes a much better fit.
  • Introduce them to their future team leader—a new friend, too!
  • Watch them in action before placing them in a specific area.
  • Ask them: If they had $20 to spend on themselves, how would they spend it? Great way to find out future gifts you can give for affirming!
  • Ask what their love language is—this also helps with affirmation ideas.
  • Ask where else they’re involved—at church or in the community—help them complement their commitments, not add more stress to their plate.
  • Introduce them to other people on the team.
  • Give them tools to be their best.
  • Give them a job description.
  • Pray for them.
By Christine Yount Jones
Christine Yount Jones is the executive editor for Children’s Ministry Magazine.

Reprinted by permission, Children's Ministry Magazine, Copyright 2006, Group Publishing, Inc., Box 481, Loveland, CO 80539.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sign Me Up! 7 summer staffing solutions

Summertime is boom time in children’s ministry. There’s vacation Bible school, special events, outreach programs, and more—always more! And you may already be challenged to find enough volunteers for your year-round events. Where will you ever find more?

1. Summer Interns Local colleges and universities house competent summer interns, so connect with faculty members or student services to publicize your summer needs. Provide specific job postings with details and approximate schedules. Offer a variety of times and tasks to potential interns. Interns often prove to be some of your most dedicated volunteers because they’re on a mission—to learn.

If you use interns, pay them in experience what you can’t pay them in money. Coaching, training, evaluation, and on-the-job education are “perks” for interns—things they’ll look back on in their future careers as key learning points. Internship benefits also include résumé-building, real-life experience, a chance to work with children, rewarding volunteer work, and more.

2. Home for the Summer When summer break hits, a different type of college student heads home to their parents (and congregation). Inquire with parents, provide a list of positions and descriptions, and invite these young adults to join your summer team. The key here is follow-up—with parents and the students. Point out the benefits of serving—kids will love being around these fun, young adults; and college students will gain a great volunteer title to put on a résumé one day.

And don’t forget to scout for high school students on summer break—you’ll likely find a few who are willing to pitch in for special events.

3. Summers Off Teachers, professors, and other professionals who have summers off make great temporary summer volunteers—even if they’re not enthusiastic about volunteering during the school year. Teachers are a perfect fit—they love kids, they’re experienced, and during summer they may be willing to jump back into the “classroom” for a higher purpose.

Teachers may want to serve an age group they don’t teach during the year. Do detective work to find teachers in your congregation. Ask your ministry children for referrals—you may find an excellent teacher just looking for an opportunity like one you’re offering.

4. Summer Birds Tap into a wealth of wonderful summer help by seeking out retirees who spend their summers in your area. Target these folks by making your presence and needs known in your congregation through bulletin announcements and before- and after-service information booths. Emphasize that your ministry is the perfect place for temporary residents to get involved and get connected. Also design attractive, informative announcements to post at senior events in your church.

5. Standby Members Some churches have developed successful “standby” programs that you can easily create. Several established church members who aren’t regular volunteers sign on for the standby program that asks for occasional service only. The church calls on standby members to serve during summer programs and in other times of need based on a rotation schedule. Standby members receive an advance schedule with the date and time they’re needed, and they’re only scheduled to serve once or twice during an entire program.

This standby rotation model works well for members who are committed to the church but aren’t serving regularly. It’s very low on time commitment and offers these people the chance to check out what’s happening in children’s ministry during one of the most exciting times of the year. It’s a win-win situation: Standby members get involved with minimal obligation or burnout, and your church has an automatic list of willing “extra” volunteers.

6. Family Fun Inspiring families into service is nothing new, but recruiting them as a unit to staff your summer programs may be something you haven’t considered. Families of all shapes and sizes can make valuable contributions to your summer programs.

Karen, the children’s director of a small church in Florida, struggled with recruiting enough summer help until, out of desperation, she called her sister in a neighboring town and asked her to help with vacation Bible school. The sister brought her husband and children, ages 3 and 13. The entire family got involved—the 3-year-old officially greeted kids, the 13-year-old delivered snacks and assisted other adults, and the husband and wife led worship and served as the cleanup crew.

When the church members saw this family’s willingness to help make VBS a great experience for kids in a church they didn’t even attend, they created a family volunteer program. Now families choose an event and then are assigned various positions according to their ages and interests. This program has operated successfully for several years and has provided more than enough volunteers to staff special summer events.

7. Summertime Teens Church of the Nazarene, a midsize church in Durango, Colorado, has created a long-standing alliance to fill summer positions in children’s ministry with the help of the youth director and a willing attitude from its teenagers.

“Every year our youth director asks his group of teens who wants to help out in the children’s department over the summer,” says Alison Trabing, a Sunday school teacher and former Sunday school superintendent. “The teenagers love it—they love the little kids.” Trabing says the keys to successfully recruiting teenage help are simple: “They’re not serving every night, and of course, we feed them!”

Recruiting teenagers for positions ranging from snack management to game refereeing benefits everyone. Your children get to hang out with the “cool” kids and see them serving God in the church. Teenagers experience the reward of helping younger kids, taking on leadership roles, developing their interests, and doing something extraordinary over the summer.

Reprinted by permission, Children's Ministry Magazine, Copyright 2006, Group Publishing, Inc., Box 481, Loveland, CO 80539.