Preparing for Your Back-to-School Ministry Launch
Now that we’re well into the summer, it’s time to talk fall. Depending on where you live in the country, “fall” kicks off in August or September. (And if you’re a faithful listener Down Under, we’re just giving you an extra six months of lead time!)
We know that kid min leaders don’t get to relax during the summer. Summer camps, VBS. You squeeze in family vacay. Your volunteers are in and out. And by the way—here comes the launch of your big fall initiative and the start of your ministry year!
You want to start off on the right foot with all your volunteers in place and ready to go.
But you’re so busy working in your ministry that you don’t get to work on your ministry. It’s time to create some space, whether it’s a few hours or a full day, to get set for fall.
That’s why we’re thrilled to welcome Alston Causey to help us prepare!
Mike kicks off the conversation:
It’s July. Fall is staring us in the face. What are some things listeners should be paying attention to as they plan for the fall season?
Alston: Don’t give up hope. It can feel like “there’s no time, so I shouldn’t do anything.” Even if you can only do onething, it will set you up for a better experience through the year.
Alston’s come up with Five Awesome Things. Do one, do several, delegate.
1. Get specific about volunteer recruiting.
Shockingly, you probably don’t yet have 100% of the volunteers you need yet. (Unless you’re Gina. She’s way overstaffed. Riiiiight.)
Alston: We are often looking for volunteers right up through promotion Sunday. One of the easiest ways to find new leaders quickly:
Great leaders know other great leaders.
Be real with your volunteers. Tell them your specific needs and encourage them to invite someone in their life to come and serve.
Gina: You gotta know your need. Let your team know you’ve done your homework and know what’s coming down the road. Sometimes as ministry leaders we say we need more, but we don’t define it.
Say, “Who would you love to invite to be part of this?” If there’s hesitancy, maybe you’ll discover something about your ministry that isn’t working. You can drill down and make your ministry more appealing.
Alston: We want our culture of volunteering to be remarkable—that it would be worthy of remarking to your friends about. It’s not what we want from you. It’s what we want for you.
When they see that you are for them, they’re excited to bring other people along with them.
How do you create a great onboarding process for volunteers?
Alston: Are you just plugging them in to get a hole filled quickly? That’s never a win. When they don’t know the win or the vision for that role, they’ll stop serving before long.
We are intentional about the onboarding process, even though it can slow us down sometimes. You still have time to get them to an orientation, have them check out the roles they’re interested in, and do a training.
On day one when school starts back, create a moment. Acknowledge, yes, it’s going to be crazy, but you are beginning something big. At the end of training, we have a confetti moment that no one knows is coming. “Congratulations, you are officially a volunteer!” It feels like a party.
Be intentional about kicking off [fall season] in a big way, not just for the kids, but for the volunteers.
Mike: When you’re short volunteers, you can ignore it. Or you can beg and plead from stage. Please don’t. It devalues your ministry. Go personal instead. Trust that God will bring the right person in the right time
2. Help your volunteers love volunteering.
Alston: Before fall gets here, think of three ways to appreciate volunteers this semester or during the whole year. Put it on the calendar. We forget to develop and appreciate our volunteers because we don’t take time to think about it.
When you ask your volunteers to come to an event or training, give it added value for them: This will make you a better volunteer, but also a better spouse, parent, coworker.
Alston used a personality profile training last year because people enjoy learning about themselves.
Which Disney Princess are you? Kellen is Belle.
Make sure volunteer training is not just a value add for you, but a value add for your volunteers.
Gina: It’s an investment in them that will have a return for you as well. “I want more for you than I want from you.”
How different would it be if our ministries were a place where someone would say, “I’m a better dad, I’m a better husband, I’m a better Christ follower because I serve [in this ministry”?
Alston: Do a movie night with popcorn and candy and invite your volunteers and their families. (A movie night can be more than $100 for a family.)
It doesn’t have to be expensive. Take the time and think about it. It communicates love and shows them how important they are.
Mike: A lot of time training defaults to “here’s what I need from you.” You’ve swung it the other way
3. Gather your key volunteers and cast vision.
Alston: Identify your key volunteers who lead other volunteers (coaches). If you don’t have a system of volunteers who lead other volunteers, consider creating one. Small groups of volunteers led by a coach are just as powerful for volunteers as small groups are for your kids.
Cast the vision for this leadership team. It may be the same as last year, but re-engage and encourage them not to lose sight of it.
Gina: It’s recalibrating your leaders and making sure you’re all moving in the same direction.
Alston: If you are a volunteer who leads other volunteers, you are part of the leadership team. Usually the final Sunday before the big promotion Sunday, we create a fun night with a short vision cast. It can be as simple as dinner and games.
One year Alston threw a big family event outside. It was fun, but also harder to vision cast with shouting kids and yellow jackets.
Mike: You already feel the pressure of leading your ministry area. You can expand your capacity by investing in a few volunteers who in turn invest in the rest of your volunteers.
Alston: Having a volunteer leadership team is the reason we could open a second campus. It’s worth starting a volunteer leadership team even if you can only find one or two people before fall ministry season starts.
Mike: You may get volunteers who aren’t a great small group leader or large group communicators, but can help lead the volunteers. That opens it up to more volunteers.
Fall is a natural time to go back to a rhythm after the chaos of summer. It’s a great restart and time to cast vision.
Alston: Number one thing to give your volunteers: a roster of contact information for volunteer team leaders and staff. Let them know who to go to with needs and questions. This sets up their team lead to be a pastoral figure. It helps big churches feel small and small churches feel even more personal.
4. Re-engage parents and kids with your ministry.
Alston: Back-to-school has become the second Easter. [Families] all come back when it’s back-to-school season.
Leverage the back-to-school bash mentality. We gave kids a different school supply for each Sunday in August. Kids loved it because they are collectors.
Establish a rhythm of coming back every Sunday.
Plan a cool event in September or October. Build momentum and hype with something to look forward to.
Mike: Do something that is already built into the rhythm. Themed days, like PJ Day for “Spring Ahead.” They love it.
It seems like the Christian throwaway answer. But if you’re going to do anything before the school year starts, it’s praying intentionally for your ministry. How can I pray that this year would be different? How can I pray that God would do measurably more through our ministry this year?
I’m praying for my staff and my volunteers, that they wouldn’t just see it as serving Jesus, but they would grow closer in their relationships to Jesus through serving.
We’re praying for the parents. We want to equip them to win.
Ultimately, we pray for the kids that we serve: for safety, that our ministries would be irresistible for them, and that our ministries would be transformational for them.
If you do nothing else but pray—pray through the filter of what we’ve talked about today.
- Get specific about volunteer recruiting. Determine exactly what you need and lean into your current volunteers to invite people they want to serve alongside.
- Help your volunteers love volunteering. Schedule three times during the semester or year when you will celebrate your volunteers.
- Gather your key volunteers and cast vision. If you don’t already have several key volunteers to help lead your volunteer team, invite several to join you. This expands your own capacity. Find a time to cast vision to your leadership team.
- Re-engage parents and kids with your ministry. Take advantage of the back-to-school rhythm to encourage consistency and momentum for families as you begin the fall season.
- Pray. Pray specifically for your volunteers, parents, and kids. It may be a ministry cliché, but it is THE game changer.