We all know volunteers are vital to a great Sunday School experience, right? What does that practically look like in the day-to-day, week in and week out? That is the question we can conquer below with several ways to make sure your volunteers feel valued, and in turn, you can retain them year after year.
Value them from moment one.
You know the mornings, you are racing out the door because the alarm did not go off, kids can only find one shoe, there’s spilled breakfast, and when you finally arrive, you are already exhausted before the Sunday School hour begins. For some, this is the way they are entering to serve. A “hello” with eye contact, opening the door, and helping with setup issues, is vital to getting volunteers off on the right foot. Volunteers can sense their value and how excited you are that they are there even with one hello!
Train and prepare for growth.
Training is essential to volunteers coming back year after year. No matter the age, even the most experienced volunteer can learn to grow, engage the curriculum in a new way, or catch a fresh vision. Once trained (Check out Top 12 Resources for Sunday School Teacher Training), they will feel prepared to do their very best for the kids they serve. As you encourage and train them to prepare throughout the week, ownership takes place, and they will have even more excitement to help or teach anyone that may come through the door. Kids will gravitate towards teachers that are planned, thoughtful, and ready to teach them something new about God’s Word.
Let them feel heard.
Most of the time, the best ideas come from those directly involved with the Sunday School class, etc. Offer times for feedback through various means: in person, surveys, online forms, and questionnaires. Once volunteers know they have a safe place to put forth ideas and constructive critiques, they will continue to walk with you in the coming years. We cannot think that only the curriculum providers and ministers have all the great ideas. Some of the best improvement ideas could come from that first-grade teacher who shows up diligently each week. Do not underestimate the volunteer voice.
Supply and Resource them well.
Well-stocked rooms, copies of curriculum, copies of the lesson activities, and other supplies show that you value volunteers. You appreciate their time to prepare and teach. The last thing any Sunday School volunteer would like is to show up to a disorganized classroom without the supplies needed for the activities they prepared to lead and lack of copies and items for the number of kids they may have. Even if your area does not have adequate storage, make sure there is a place they know to go to for extra supplies or provide their daily supplies in the room ready to go each week. As teachers run out of a supply (paper, markers, sanitizer, etc.), ensure they know you are available for those notes and will follow through the next week, providing what they need. These minor things, i.e., markers that work, convey a level of value that will help all volunteers stick with you each year.
Communication is another key for volunteers to feel ready to take on whatever is happening in your ministry. They usually have the most contact with the kids and families, and you want them to promote all events and activities, so being informed is a great start! Mundane volunteer weekly emails could end up in junk folders or never read, so change it up with these tips:
- Include a short devotion with the upcoming week's lesson to help focus on preparing their hearts to teach.
- Start a volunteer shout-out. If your group is large and some may not know each other, this is a great way to build community.
- Link some hot topic articles. If there are any pertinent and important articles that meant a great deal to you in your spiritual growth, include them for your volunteer team.
- Add upcoming events in a clickable image format where the volunteer can easily click on the image for more information. This helps if parents or kids have questions about an upcoming event.
- Make sure reminders, and any details that need mentioning are said quickly and concisely.
- Finally, attach any needed curriculum. The electronic format will be helpful to anyone who might lose their paper copies.
Volunteer appreciation does not have to be a large once-a-year or semester event that costs a lot of money. You can appreciate them monthly with small gifts or notes to make sure they know they are wanted and valued. If your curriculum changes themes each month, add a volunteer gift that goes with that theme. If your curriculum is set for the semester, get creative and come up with a small volunteer gift each month that may apply more to the season than the actual curriculum. Everything from a handwritten note, a small gift card, or a candy bar can be just the thing a volunteer needs to feel special and noticed.
Birthdays and the extra mile.
Depending on your time and resources, including a small birthday card, social media post, or gift really goes a long way. Everyone wants to feel special on their birthday, and it’s significant coming from the children’s ministry they serve. If you know their favorite candy or drink, have that ready in their Sunday School room or area during their birthday week. Other ways to go the extra mile:
- If a volunteer is in the hospital, visit them. If you cannot do so, send flowers or a card to let them know you love and miss them.
- Ask about their kids and special events. If you can attend, show up to support their family.
- Prayer time together before the event, if possible. Pray over the weekend, but also leave time for any prayer requests they may have.
Every volunteer is unique and might show up at Sunday School with various family situations, weekday jobs, and giftings. To retain them, making them feel valued is essential. We never want to see our volunteers as just someone to fill a position. They are pouring into the next generation, giving of their time, with sometimes very little recognition from the church. As the children’s ministry leader, you have an excellent opportunity to make children’s ministry the best place to serve because you put forth intentional effort to make sure they feel loved from the first moment they arrive and throughout the week. This effort will not be in vain; those awesome volunteers will continue serving with you year in and year out. Seasoned volunteers are the best voice of recruitment as they can share with others the care you provide for them in the children’s ministry. Never underestimate the small ways to appreciate them each month. Volunteers are so important; let’s ensure they feel valued each time they serve.