Tag Archives: volunteers

Don’t Make Permanent Changes For Temporary Situations

set in stone

Over the last ten years I’ve been in full-time ministry, most of that in children’s ministry, I’ve found myself repeating a few phrases over and over. The title of this post is one of them: “Don’t make permanent changes for temporary situations”.

Though I’ve never had a paid ministry assistant, over the years I have had several volunteer folks who have helped to fill that role. Almost without exception, in the first few months, they would come to me with a situation and a solution… and I would find myself repeating that same phrase. Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about, then I’ll explain why it’s not a good idea.

John was one of my newer volunteers but he was a natural and due to his willingness and availability had become someone I relied on quite a bit. After a few months I had placed him as coordinator over our Sunday evening program for elementary. He came to me one night with a situation… our attendance had dropped over the last two weeks. He proposed that we move the entire program to a different set of rooms that were smaller. What he didn’t know or realize was that every year around this time we had the same dip in attendance but always picked back up. He also didn’t know that if we gave up our rooms, other ministries would be glad to make use of them and we’d never get them back. He wanted to fix a temporary situation with a permanent solution.

Here are the hoops my situations have to jump through before I consider a permanent solution:

1. Is it consistent?

Before I make a new policy or a major change I want to make sure it’s not an isolated incident. I’m not going to make a new policy because one child was left late after a program… but if a month of Sunday’s goes by and I’ve got three or four families consistently abusing our workers by picking up super late… I’m going to write up a policy.

2. Is there history I’m not aware of?

For any situation you come across… someone in your church has seen it before and has dealt with it. Typically the Pastor or another staff member who has been there longer knows something you don’t. In my situation with John, he didn’t know how many years we had worked to outgrow the other set of rooms… I wasn’t about go backwards just because of an annual dip in attendance!

3. Am I Acting or Reacting?

Some situations seem bigger than they really are. We all get sick children in our ministries from time to time… but with swine flu running amok, we’re tempted to go nuts and treat every kid with a sniffle like they’ve got the plague. I always want to be sure that I’m not just reacting to the high-pressure of a temporary situation. In the heat of the moment, especially when dramatic people are involved, it can be tempting to start churning out changes and new policies until the storm passes. Making choices based on fear, feelings and self-protection is never a good idea. Sure, you solve the immediate issues, but later you have to deal with the consequences of choices made in haste. Does the situation warrant a huge change? Usually your common sense will serve you better than a policy. Urge your volunteers to look at the big picture. Keep existing policies and procedures in mind and use common sense.

We can easily get drama-happy… where we want to make big deals out of simple issues so that we can feel like we’re doing something important. Drama is not ministry. Ministry is what we do after the drama is quickly and graciously dealt with.

When A Key Volunteer Quits…


What do you do when someone you depended on quits Children’s Ministry? Maybe it’s a top level coordinator or just someone who said they would do music for VBS. The job they were going to do doesn’t matter… the fact that you’re not stuck with it, or unable to do the program because of it, is. It can be easy to panic when you get those emails or phone calls. I’ve recently had this happen to me. It changes things, but I’ll adjust and eventually have the same outcome. I guess that’s the point after all.

Here are some tips for dealing with big jobs that get abandoned.

1. Don’t Panic

This is not a choice you can make just after you’re disappointment happens. This is a choice you make today… before anything goes haywire. Are you going to be a person of action… or reaction? I don’t know about you, but I want to be in control of what comes out of my mouth… and though it’s true that no one can tame the tongue… you can control where the tongue is speaking from. If your heart is focused on the One you live to serve, if you realize who is in control, that heart will overflow out of your mouth when the time comes. Make the choice today to not panic.

2. Don’t Burn Bridges

Like Moses said, “Let your people go!”… kinda. You may be angry, hurt, upset, disappointed… but let them go easy! You’re going to have a ton of feelings toward them… none of them will be good ones. None of them will be based on anything other than what you think they’ve done to you. You can’t base decisions on bad thinking. So make your choice now… when they call or email… let them off easy. I always make a point to let them know that the door swings both ways, in a positive sense. They’re welcome back anytime! I can count on two hands the number of volunteers I’ve gotten back because I gave them a guilt free exit.

3. Trust Your Real Source

Both step one and step two rely on step 3 to work. You’ve got to realize where your help comes from. It’s not a volunteer, your spouse or your pastor… not even in yourself. Your help comes from the Lord (creator of Heaven and Earth). Also, it’s HIS ministry, HIS kids, His church, HIS passion and therefore HIS responsibility. Trust that God has a plan to work everything out for your good and HIS glory. Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send you laborers… it’s HIS harvest field… if he wants it harvested, he’ll have to send you folks to help! He does and He will.

4. Think Outside Your Circle

Okay, so the spiritual stuff is good… but what about the help you need? God helps those who help themselves right? Maybe. I prefer to say that we do what we can do and God does what we can’t. If you’re like me, you’ve tapped about just about everyone you know. It may be time to think outside your circle. Pray a bit and ask God to open your mind to someone who may have the right skill set to do what you need done. Ask them directly, letting them know what skills attracted you to them. Offer a limit to their service… say, three months. Tell them they can visit before they commit. If they bite, awesome, if not… keep praying until God delivers.

Trials like this are never fun. They’re one of the more frustrating things you’ll deal with in ministry. But like any struggle, you can just go through it… or you can go through it and have God’s purpose work in you as a result. You’re going to go through it anyway… might as well do it God’s way and get some benefits!

Tips To Managing A Confrontation


Any children’s minister with policies will eventually have one of those policies ignored or transgressed against. Calling a volunteer to ask over it is never fun or easy. Correcting one of our kids is easy. Correcting an adult, even better an adult that is older than ourselves, can be downright awkward or even embarrassing for everyone involved.

Over the years I’ve have to call plenty of volunteers to the carpet. Most have been more than willing to be corrected and move forward but once in a while it turns into a fiasco. Sometimes because of the personality of the volunteer… and sometimes because I go into the meeting half prepared.

Here are some things I need to remember for next time.

1. Do not operate on assumptions or rumors.

Assume the best about the person. Better to be proven wrong than to treat them poorly because of misinformation.

2. Keep focused on one goal at a time. One correction per meeting.

You may have a lot of things to cover… but if you throw to much at them they’ll think you hate them. The people are more important than the policy.

3. Write an agenda. Stick to it.

Write up what your goal is and work your way back from there. Each bullet is a correction. Sprinkle it with compliments.

4. Make sure your goal is to improve the minister not just the ministry.

Your real goal will come through in your conversation. If it’s pure, it will cover a multitude of mistakes.

5. Understand there is the Truth, your perception of the truth and their perception of the truth.

Assume they have a different view of the subject than you. Listen. Try to understand.

6. Pray.

Before, during, after. It helps everything.

7. Follow up after.

Even just a text full of praise and thanks for the volunteer’s willingness to change can help put out the fires that often spring up after a meeting.

5 Things To Help With Children’s Ministry Burnout


You often see articles on how to avoid burnout in ministry… but what about when it sneaks up on you? How can you get out of the hole of despair your in? Below I’ve listed some things that help me when the well doing makes me weary.

5. Time Away – but not necessarily

Taking time off if you haven’t had a break can be a great way to recharge… but not always. Sometimes taking a break can be like running away. If you don’t do things to recharge in your time away, you’ll end up coming back right into the same situations as ill prepared as you were before.

4. Act Your Way Into Feelings

I’m not talking about faking a good mood… though we’ve all been there. That would be an attempt to feeling your way into actions… which is killer. Acting your way into feelings means that you get up, get out there and keep on trucking. If you can’t do everything you’re supposed to do, do what you can do. Give God room to move in your ministry life by continuing to do as much of it as you can. The rest of the steps depend on this.

3. Change Things Up

Most of the time we’re not burned out on ministry as a whole… we’re just burned out on parts of it. It may be time for a change in those areas. I’m a fan of giving away parts of the ministry that grind my nerves away to those who are especially gifted at it. Even if you don’t delegate everything… doing it differently can be just the thing to renew your interest and passion.

2. Ask For Help

We get burned out when we try to do more than we can handle. Sure, there are things God has called us to do that may be beyond us and all… but His yoke is easy and all that. I’m talking about when we take on to much and try to do it all ourselves. It’s time to delegate. Don’t know how? Try asking yourself, “Who would take my place if I were sick this Sunday?” and go from there. You don’t have to give everything away… just the parts that anyone else can do.

1. Pray Through

As a child I would hear people talk about ‘praying through’. I didn’t understand it then… but I sure do now. Praying through, for me anyway, is praying until my attitude changes. Literally bugging God until He helps me through. Typically for me it means Him humbling me and realizing it was some sort of independent pride that got me where I was in the first place. Along with seeking energy, attitude adjustments and such, you might also ask for creativity… or if you’re season has changed. God loves you more than the ministry you provide. He knows that you minister out of your overflow… and He will fill you if you wait on Him.

Children’s Ministry Raw


This weekend we recorded our JAM City children’s church service using four cameras and an portable audio recorder. I spent most of Sunday afternoon and all day Monday putting it all together and editing it down. The result is a 56 minute video cut into 10 minute segments available for your viewing pleasure on YouTube.

No set. No fancy lighting. No amazing costumed characters. Just a bunch of passion and a great group of kids (it was a ‘rain Sunday’ so not even a large group of kids). 😉

I’ve edited out a lot of our more fun segments to focus on the ministry portions… but I plan to make those available as separate clips shortly. Stuff your missing is: Rules & Regs, Jumps, Offering, Praise & Worship, and Game Time.

If you have any questions about anything you see in the video… leave a comment below and I’ll get right back to you.

Link: JAM City Children’s Church Video

Internet Resources I Use In Children’s Ministry Every Week

Most of these resources you’ve probably heard of or maybe even use yourself but just in case you haven’t… here are a few online resources I use in Children’s Ministry every week.

Bible Gateway

Link: http://www.biblegateway.com

Description: Online bible with verse lookup, keyword search, topical search and multiple versions.

How I Use: I use it while on the phone to quickly find verses for specific needs or questions. During service prep it’s helpful to find the easiest to understand version of a particular verse. I also find reading a passage in multiple versions helps in my own understanding since I don’t do the Greek and Hebrew thang.

Animation Factory

Link: http://www.animationfactory.com

Description: Low-cost animated clipart, video backgrounds and PowerPoint backgrounds. The cheapest resource for full-motion animated video backgrounds online anywhere.

How I Use: This is where I get video backgrounds for the song videos we make in-house. The animated clipart also comes in handy for Jump Videos and such.

Google Images

Link: http://images.google.com/

Description: Search images that are available online (but be careful what you search for!).

How I Use: I use Google Images almost daily to find pictures to help illustrate sermon points, find photos of bible characters, images of real settings in the Holy Land. It’s also how I find images for posts on this website.

Google Docs

Link: http://docs.google.com/

Description: Online document editing and sharing suite.

How I Use: You can not only create Word-like documents online, you can share them with volunteers. If I’m working on a service with a lot of input from key volunteers, I’ll share the document with them and allow them to fill in their own service segments for review. You can also create online spreadsheets. We use one to track BGMC giving and it is shared between myself and the BGMC coordinator. I also use it to put together show notes for the CMMonthly podcasts and share it with Super Dave so he can add his own thoughts.


Link: http://mail.google.com

Description: In my opinion the best email service on earth. Gmail is free to use and has powerful features including my favorite feature, message threading (groups emails by individual conversations).

How I Use: I’ve been using Gmail for years now. My first email dates 10/04/2004. It is the best way to stay connected to your email from any computer (or cell phone) anywhere in the world. I use it to keep my contacts organized. You can label them and group them as needed. You don’t actually have to delete your emails, you Archive them. Gmail then allows you to quickly search through your archive for any word or phrase in any part of your email, not just the subject. This has come in very handy in the past when I need to confirm sent emails or facts discussed via email from the past.

I also have 6 different Gmail accounts that are able to be funneled into my main account. When I reply, it does so as if I was logged into that particular account. This is an excellent way to keep your emails organized since I know what the topic is based off which email it was sent to (one email for each podcast, one for graphic design projects, a personal email for church and friends).

Google Groups

Link: http://groups.google.com

Description: Free email groups with extra features.

How I Use: I use Google Groups constantly. I have a separate group set up for each of my ministries as well as a master group containing every email in my department. Not only can I send out emails to everyone in a particular ministry, members of that group can also email one another. When they do, the email goes out to the entire group. So it’s like having a conversation in a room of people… but online and through email.

If I send out an announcement, and one person has a question, the question goes out to everyone in the group. I or others can answer, and the answer goes out to the entire group as well. It saves me from having to answer the same question again and again. It also allows my top-level leaders to have the same access to their workers that I do. Groups especially comes in handy when there’s a cancelation or other last minute announcement that needs to go out quickly.

One of my ministries has a separate group set up just for the parents of the children in their groups. They use it for announcements and discussions.

What do you use online?

I shared my stuff! Please share your online resources in the comments!

Delegating Is Hard.. But Worth It

Giving away parts of your ministry responsibilities is mandatory if you want a thriving, growing ministry that’s not bound by your limits and abilities. A children’s minister that is secure in their calling can allow others to develop parts of their ministry… even if that volunteer is more talented with it than we are!

If there are so many benefits to delegation… why aren’t more ministers doing it? Other than the common reasons ministers don’t delegate, I think it’s because it’s harder than doing it yourself (at first) and folks simply don’t know how to do it properly.

Delegating is harder than doing it yourself… but it’s worth it.

Training someone else to do your job may sound like a great deal. You give it away and don’t have to worry about it any more. Not true. Giving away a task means you have to train the person… and constantly evaluate what they’re doing to make sure they’re doing it correctly and improving along the way. It won’t always be harder than doing it yourself… but you’ll never want to completely walk away. The ministry is still your responsibility.

Here’s how to delegate properly.

  1. They watch you do it – We must always, always, always display what we want. Folks who have never done an object lesson will never ever learn what you want in a conversation or from a manual. They need to see it in motion.
  2. They help you do it – Bring them up on stage with you and have them help you. There is no time limit on any of these steps. If they need three weeks singing behind you as you lead… give it to them.
  3. You help them do it – It’s a major step… but you’re still there to support and help if they need you. This is a far cry from the typical way folks are dropped head-first into children’s ministry with no training or leadership. Give your volunteers the gift you may have never had yourself.
  4. You watch them do it – This is the step that never ends. Offer a lot of praise. Give constructive feedback. Keep them in the service prep loop. Make them a part of your team. This is more on you than them.

Delegating is harder than doing it yourself… but it’s more than worth it.

The Pastor James Show

About 5 years ago I was not a delegator. I felt that everything to do with the main children’s service on Sunday morning had to be created, developed and delivered by me alone. That’s what they were paying me to do. I was the children’s pastor. I was doing okay.

Then came a new volunteer that I quickly gained a lot of respect for named John. He had been the son of a well-known pastor and was trying to rise into ministry on his own without relying on his father’s name. I respect that kind of thing. After a few months I asked him what he thought of the service. He said something that rocked my world forever…

“The Pastor James Show was awesome!”

I doubt he even realized how much he was saying. Not only was he pointing out that I was doing everything on stage… it suddenly sounded very prideful and self-centered. That wasn’t my heart… but as I thought and prayed through, God showed me that pride was most defiantly an element.

I almost immediately started sharing portions of my service with my volunteers. I had someone else start leading worship. I appointed a game leader. I started asking folks to come in a little early to set up the room in 15 minutes rather than the 2 hours it was taking my wife and I to do it the night before alone. I quickly realized something…

My ministry had been limited by how much I was doing.

How jacked up is that! I was working harder than ever… but because I was doing it alone… I was limiting how effective my ministry was. As I delegated more and more I found that I had more time to focus on things I didn’t even realize I wasn’t doing. Things like building relationships with parents for example. Updating policies and procedures for another.

Thinking I was the only one who could do it right was Pride.

The Pastor James Show wasn’t about the kids… it wasn’t so much about God… it was about Pastor James. I didn’t intend for that to be the case… but when people looked up there… that’s who was shining bright… me. When I started giving stuff away, and helping others become the better and better I realized something… If you succeed more than I would in my ministry… I still win. Wins don’t only come 1st hand… they come when people you disciple and developed win as well.

Doing everything means I was focused on nothing.

I wasn’t being a children’s pastor… I was being a worship leader, puppet master, stage manager, sound and video director, security coordinator, disciplinarian, game leader and more. My job was supposed to be to bring the Word… but it was only after I let go of so much that I realized how little I was actually developing a real and genuine message from God to his children. I was more focused on schedules, props, time management and such than I was on rightly dividing the Word of God. That has defiantly changed as a result of delegating.

All of the benefits didn’t happen overnight. Giving away pieces of your job isn’t easy at first… it’s actually a lot harder than doing it yourself for a time. That’s why most folks don’t bother… but we’ll talk more about that tomorrow.

Reasons We Don’t Delegate

It’s our job

It can be hard to ask volunteers to help because we feel there are things that only we are supposed to do. Even with the rest of it, we’re the one’s being paid (in some cases anyway) to do the job. We don’t go to our volunteer’s jobs and help them.

While there may be certain things that only a pastor should do… most of what we do can and should be given away. Our job is less about doing ministry and more about training others to do it. The general rule: anything that anyone else can do should be done by someone else.

We want it done exactly how we do it

When we do everything ourselves, we learn to simplify our procedures so that we can quickly move through them and get more done. This means that in actuality, you are probably the best in the church at what you’re doing. It can be very difficult to give away one of your responsibilities because you’ve not only perfected the process… but because you want it done exactly the same way.

Though keeping every responsibility under your direct control will ensure that everything is done exactly how you want… it does limit the amount of things you are able to do. They will not do it exactly the way you would do it… but it will get done and you will be free to do more of what only you can do.

We don’t want to overwhelm volunteers

We’re so happy to get a new volunteer that we don’t want to give them anything to do right away… for fear that we’ll run them off. We know how hard our job is and we are afraid that we’ll lose our help if we give them to big a job. This was me in a nutshell.

Volunteers volunteer because they want to work. In many cases they sacrifice a ‘big church’ service that they enjoyed because they want to serve. It’s almost like they’re paying to be there. It is our job to make sure they’re getting their money’s worth. If we don’t give them something to do, they will wonder why they’re even there… and they will leave. You stand to lose more volunteers by not delegating than by sharing the load.

Our job is to difficult or complicated

In my own case, I was afraid to give away parts of my job because they were very difficult and in some cases high-pressure. I thought I was being noble because I was protecting my staff from the hardest jobs. In reality, with God’s help, I realized that I was actually being prideful. Was I the only one who could handle the tough jobs? Was I somehow better than them? With this realization I was able to look around my ministry with fresh eyes.

I realized that the most dedicated people I had in ministry were in the toughest jobs. Ministry coordinators and bus captains were the most dependable… but I couldn’t keep a person on door security to save my life. So the more stressful and draining a job was potentially, the more the people were endeared to it. So not only was I downplaying their strengths, I was robbing people of an opportunity to serve God like never before.

The other truth here is that once you give a piece of your ministry away, it will not burden them like it did you. We ministers try to carry it all ourselves and so every part can see overblown and overwhelming. But to someone who is carrying only one part, it is not overwhelming to them.

Delegation is hard work… but it’s the only way your ministry will grow larger than yourself. We’ll be talking more about that tomorrow.