Recruiting...by the first month of my college internship I had learned well that this named the nemesis of all Children's Ministry Directors. Of course at that point I was in observation/learning mode and hadn't yet experienced the full burden of finding enough people to staff nursery, preschool and elementary programs not only on Sunday mornings, but for VBS in the summer, Wednesday night clubs, plus any time there is a special Holiday service or any other fun event that could be beneficial for the children and families of a church.
As I started my job as Children's Ministry Director with only two weeks between start and the Fall launch of school year programs I started to feel it, even though it worked out. Ever since that first day of work in my present role I have experienced the tension of the strange tight rope walk that is Children's Ministry.
I might be paid to keep the children's ministries running, but at the same time the ministries are completely dependent on volunteers. If five people decide their lives are too busy for the commitment of children's ministry, there's the end of one of our key programs that kids and parents depend on.
I've been struggling with these worries and the stress of recruiting. I hope that awesome, passionate, talented people will be drawn to Children's Ministry, and I want to do all I can to make that happen. I've read numerous articles, book chapters and blog posts about recruiting. There are so many strategies out there, but I have developed this nagging realization that there must be something more. This is because I know that even if I called 100 people in my church, or put out an announcement every Sunday, offered bribes or tried to do everything short of breathing for volunteers there is still the possibility that no one would want to do it.
Now, with VBS coming up in a couple of months, the leadership gaps are coming into focus, and my chest tightens just a little. I have recently had five people decline for key leadership roles, and when I think about VBS it gets a little harder to breathe.
That's when I remind myself of the verse that is so key to my sanity "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7 I take a deep breath and start presenting those requests and thank you prayers. Then I remember what God has taught me this year about about the basics of recruiting. Which can pretty much be summarized in the above mentioned verse and this next verse: "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28
I had the duh! moment of applying these verses to recruiting when I attended a dinner for children's ministry workers put on by my denomination a couple of months ago. I had all but given up on gleaning any helpful insight from the dinner because everyone at the table started ME questions about how to do Children's ministry (and I'm just barely 2 years into the job)...until I heard the speaker say "don't act desperate". My attention was piqued, because then (similarly to now) I was feeling VERY desperate. Her words could have been from God himself to my heart. She said "don't act desperate, because YOU NEVER ARE DESPERATE. If God wants a ministry to happen he WILL provide the volunteers to staff it."
She went on to explain that this doesn't mean that we stop doing our part and not asking anyone. Her suggestions was to go ahead and ask five people. If FIVE people say no that you have personally asked, then maybe that position needs to be re-evaluated. I could have slapped my forehead at how obvious this was. I had been worried and anxious about something that I need to depend on God for. I need to trust that he will provide if it is something he wants to happen.
That sentence spawned the beginning of my new recruiting strategy (that I should have employed all along). This is how the strategy works.
Step 1: Pray hard that God calls people to work in Children's Ministry. Not just warm bodies to meet ratios, but the RIGHT people. People who are talented and that will be wildly passionate about what God lays on their hearts.
Step 2: Pray that God would direct me in some way or another to those people.
Step 3: Ask five people whose names God has put on my heart. Five people is manageable. Five people is a lot to ask for one job, but it is so much easier to wrap my mind around than wondering if I will have to end up asking every church attender (anxious minds create crazy scenarios).
Step 4: Keep praying as I wait for answers.
Step 5: TRUST. I'll then leave the outcome in God's hands.I will trust that he cares about this ministry more than I do. He has made me passionate for it, because He is passionate for it. If for some reason, once I have faithfully done my part, He hasn't provided the people, then I need to seriously evaluate that position or program.
Easy enough to say, a lot harder to do. So I take a deep breath, and try to release the worry by trusting, asking and thanking the One who really has the power. Perhaps all these polite declinations are just Him whispering: "trust me. No, REALLY, just trust me".