Only about 25% of the American population actively volunteers for a nonprofit, according to a 2013 study. That’s despite the fact that research shows that more than 90% of people want to volunteer. Not to mention that volunteers benefit from higher levels of social support and lower levels of loneliness and depression.
In other words, volunteering isn’t just good for the community—it’s good for the volunteers, too.
Like any type of nonprofit, churches rely heavily on volunteers to accomplish their mission. But as a church leader, you already knew that. You understand the value and need for volunteers all too well. Thankfully, religious organizations make up about a third of the causes Americans volunteer for.
Still, finding reliable volunteers is a challenge. Most churches and ministry leaders seem to be in constant need of more help. But why is that? Why aren’t more people volunteering within the church, especially for kids ministry?
1. They’re too busy.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that busyness would be the top excuse for not volunteering. To volunteer is essentially a donation of time, and time is increasingly a precious resource. More and more things are competing for that limited time.
Consider these statistics about our culture’s relationship with being busy:
- 59% of Americans find it difficult to balance work and life—perhaps an underestimation.
- The average American has only 26 minutes of free time each week.
- Only about 45% of people use their paid vacation time. And more than 40% admit to continuing to work even when on vacation.
- 60% of U.S. adults said they sometimes felt too busy to enjoy life. This number increases to 74% for parents, especially those with younger children.
Amidst all of these side hustles and multi-tasking, volunteering for their local church is often lost. Your ministry is not competing against other nonprofits for volunteers—you’re competing against their work, families, and Netflix.
2. They’re not interested.
Not everyone wants to volunteer, specifically for a church or your children’s ministry. They might feel more called to serve at another charity or within a different ministry at your church.
Teaching biblical lessons to children is not for the faint of heart. Being good volunteers for kids ministry takes a unique set of skills, especially lots of patience. It’s OK to admit that not everyone is a good fit to get involved with your kids’ ministry. You’re better off finding the right volunteers, rather than just more volunteers.
Be specific with what people can expect from volunteering. Take the time to understand what makes good volunteers for kids’ ministry. Focus on your onboarding and training to better prepare the volunteers you do have.
Remember, you’re not limited just to people within your church or a specific age demographic. Look in your community or even within your student ministry for people with a genuine interest in getting involved. Good volunteers for kids ministry can come from some unexpected places.
3. They don’t realize there is a need.
You know exactly what your ministry needs are because you’re involved with them directly. But don’t assume that other people know them as well. You have to regularly share volunteer opportunities before people will get involved.
Don’t be afraid of asking for volunteers for kids ministry—either to individuals or groups within the church. There’s certainly a point when you've asked too often or too aggressively. But most ministries fall on the other end of the spectrum. They stay quiet and hope that volunteers will find them.
Promoting volunteer opportunities can certainly include traditional routes like an ad in the worship bulletin or an announcement from the pulpit—but most ministries are vying for that limited space. Get creative by getting small group leaders to share your needs or sending out targeted email campaigns to groups that would make good volunteers. You could even create job listings for volunteer kids ministry positions on LinkedIn with a full job description of what is expected.
4. They don’t know how to get started.
Even for those who are interested and know the need, volunteering can be daunting. That’s because they’re not sure where or how to begin.
There are likely dozens of questions swirling through their heads:
- Which ministry should I sign up for?
- What’s going to be expected of me?
- Who do I talk to about getting involved?
- How long am I committing myself for?
- Do I need to bring anything with me?
- Am I even qualified to be a volunteer?
Try to anticipate some of these questions and answer them in advance. One of the best places to place this information is on your church’s website. Create a volunteer page with all of the information about volunteering, plus a form they can fill out to get started. Link to this page anytime you promote the need for volunteers.
Besides that, you can also hold occasional volunteer Sundays in your ministry. This is your opportunity to express the need for volunteers and tell people about a clear next step. Often, that could come from a current volunteer, who usually makes the ask feel less pushy. Even better, this volunteer can answer any questions from churchgoers who might be interested in signing up.
5. They’re burned out from volunteering.
There’s another valid reason why some people might not be volunteering for your kids’ ministry. Perhaps they’ve volunteered in the past (either at your church or another one) and got burned out.
You’ve probably seen this happen countless times. A volunteer is overworked or under-appreciated or both. They don’t have good boundaries and end up losing interest because the ministry is less of a calling and more of a chore. No one wants volunteers for kids ministry to burn out—especially not you.
If you’re dealing with someone who is already burned out, the best thing you can do is give them space. Let them spend time away from their volunteer role to heal and decide when it’s right to engage again. Don’t pressure them or guilt them into serving again too soon.
Better yet, use them as a lesson to care for your current ministry volunteers. Don’t overlook the hard work they’re doing and end up losing them, too. Appreciate the servant leaders you have on your team. Tell them, "Thank you." Give them small gifts—like a latte or pizza party. Ask how they’re doing and how you can make their experience more meaningful.
Finding Volunteers for Kids Ministry
Being a kids’ ministry leader comes with a unique set of challenges and issues. Finding, training, and keeping quality ministry volunteers is among the most common and frustrating. You need more volunteers because you don’t have enough time, but you also don’t have enough time to find the right volunteers. Whew!
Hopefully, these reasons why people in your church aren’t volunteering can give you some insights into finding a new source of volunteers for kids ministry. Having empathy and understanding for these valued ministry leaders is a great place to get started.
Another option is making your volunteers’ lives easier when it comes to technology. Too many volunteers lose their minds because loading church curriculum to screens is a pain. Playlister was designed to make this process so easy that any volunteer can handle it. Signing up for Playlister is the move your volunteers will thank you for.