Over the past months, I have blogged about what churches could be doing for families with preschoolers. The series has included five ways to foster an environment where parents feel inspired to bring their children to Christ: building relationships with young families, providing a strong biblical base, and incorporating developmentally appropriate practices so children can come to Jesus through play. This blog in the series circles back to building relationships, this time with volunteers.
In my experience, volunteers don’t tend to stay in positions where they feel like they are filling a slot or meeting an obligation. People stay in ministries they are passionate about and where they feel they have the gifts and graces to make a difference. We can only know a volunteer’s passions and gifts if we take time to build a relationship to engage in ministry together.
Identify potential volunteers
When developing preschool ministries, I begin by identifying potential volunteers. I ask myself, “who has demonstrated interest in preschoolers? Who has natural connections to this age-group?“
I look through the church directory and consider retired teachers, grandparents, preschool teachers, and others that seem to have the passion and gifts needed for working with young children and their families. I avoid asking parents of preschoolers to provide leadership in this area. I want them to be served rather than to serve.
Engage in conversation
In an earlier blog, I talked about asking families what the church can do to help their children learn about God and how the church can better support them. I have found that when I am having these chats, it is really helpful to also begin conversations with potential volunteers about what I am hearing from families.
I share the needs then ask for their ideas, I encourage the volunteers to dream and plan with me. I listen for signs of interest in the ministry and talk about ways they may wish to serve. I encourage them to take short term risks and get involved for a few weeks or once a month.
This is not an instant process. It takes time to engage in conversation. It takes time for the ideas to take shape. It takes time for the volunteer to clear their schedules of other commitments so they can get involved. But taking time to build the relationship will increase the chances that the volunteer will be motivated to stay on board as they realize they can be a conduit for families to bring their children to Christ.
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