Since co-writing Simply Strategic Volunteers with Tony Morgan, one question that always comes up is whether a church should require parents to serve in the children's ministry. This sentiment was worded well by a recent commenter here on LeadingSmart.com. They wrote,
I am a children's director who spends a lot of time recruiting parents to serve in our ministry. When I hear people say, "I'm just not cut out for it"-- it makes me sick. We invest hundreds of hours in your kids a year, and you can't give up an hour of your time to help kids begin and grow a friendship with Jesus. I think it is pathetic! The church is the hope of the world. Let's act like it.
I totally get that frustration. I've heard it many times and know of several churches which have an expectation that all parents volunteer somewhere in the ministry where the kid is being served.
I have a little different take on that. Let me ask...
- Do you really want adults serving in your kids' rooms who perhaps don't even like kids?
- Do you think others on the team will enjoy it if some of your volunteers are there only because of coercion...not because of passion or interest?
Wouldn't you rather have adult volunteers who love kids and have a passion for using their gifts with your children?
It is my guess the children's director who wrote that comment would say, "Of course I'd rather have passionate volunteers. But that's not the world I live in. Every week I scrape the barrel to get enough volunteers just to have safe classrooms!" I may be putting words in his mouth, but those are the words I hear from many struggling children's leaders.
The problem comes down to culture. It takes a volunteer-centric culture in the entire church, from top to bottom, to build a ministry that is truly focused on plugging people in positions where they are wired by God. Without that, a scarcity mindset takes over and we shift to turf-guarding and silo-building. And that produces frustration, bitterness and cynicism on a church staff--which no one likes to be around.
If it were me, and my only control was over the children's ministry, I would focus for the next semester on transitioning my entire volunteer team to only people who loved kids, had a passion for the ministry, and were truly gifted in areas we needed in the classroom. Get rid of everyone else. In the short-term, it will be awful. You will be short-staffed and there will be many things you can't do. But in the long-term, when you have classrooms full of happy, energized volunteers--you will see other gifted and passionate people lining up to sign up.
No one wants to be on the team where the only requirement was the ability to make a baby. Everyone wants to be on a high-performing, fun-filled team.
What say you?