by Bill Emeott
Lead Ministry Specialist | Lifeway Kids
I hear the same concerns in church after church: “We don’t have enough workers!” In some cases, I’ve even heard of churches that have cancelled Vacation Bible School because they couldn’t find workers to serve. So, what is the answer?
I wish I had a magic pill that when placed in a glass of water a ready, willing, and trained worker would pop up. Unfortunately, I don’t, but what I do offer are some principles that I think will help with your enlistment and even promote retention year after year.
- KNOW THAT GOD IS IN CONTROL. As much as you want to have a successful VBS, much more so the Lord Jesus Christ wants that for you, your church, and the kiddos who will be attending. Pray for workers. Pray for workers. Pray that God will lead your path to intersect with those He’s preparing to serve. Pray for people who need to be attentive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit in regards to VBS. Pray, pray, PRAY!
- RECRUIT WITH A VISION. Everyone wants to be a part of something that’s important and VBS IS IMPORTANT. Start with the vision, the mission, and the goal. Start with the why of VBS. In most churches, VBS is the most focused evangelistic opportunity of the year. Lead with the dream of seeing boys and girls and their families come to know Jesus. That compelling mission is something for which folks will get on board.
- BE ORGANIZED. No one wants to be a part of a hot mess. Get organized and present an organized front. Know what your needs are and when asked, be ready to clearly present those needs. Organization makes a difference.
- BE ENTHUSIASTIC. You should be the most excited person in your church when it comes to VBS. Excitement is contagious. People get excited about what you’re excited about. Be the catalyst for enthusiasm when it come to VBS.
- SHARE THE JOY. You don’t have to do all the enlisting alone. Start by recruiting leaders of various areas within your VBS and empower them to enlist those who will be working with them. Enlist a VBS Preschool director to enlist lead preschool teachers who will then enlist the teachers who will work directly with them. The same goes for every major department within your VBS.
- USE A MINISTRY DESCRIPTION. I’m not talking about a three-page document that has to be read with an attorney. I’m talking about a half page, bullet-pointed list of what it is you are asking someone to do. People don’t live up to our expectations because they don’t know what we expect. It’s a lot easier to say yes when you know what you’re being asked to do.
- DON’T FORGET THE MEN. Kids need to see men serving. Don’t assume they won’t. Guys make great VBS volunteers. Keep in mind that men want to know their role is important. They’re not interested in serving in the middle of a hot mess, and they want to know what it is you’re asking them to do.
- CONSIDER THE BUDDY SYSTEM. Often, friends are more apt to agree to work together than if you ask them to serve alone. Consider best friends serving together or even sharing larger, more demanding roles. I’ve been surprised at the difference in response when I ask good friends to serve together.
Don’t just enlist and leave them hanging. Equip and empower recruits for success.
- TRAIN THEM. A lot of people won’t volunteer because they don’t think they’re “teacher” material. However, most everyone can be taught, and part of your role as VBS leader is to train recruits for the tasks at hand.
- Provide information and encourage workers to attend local training events. Conventions and associations of churches often pool their resources to provide training. Seek those opportunities and share them with your leaders.
- Consider hosting a training/kick-off party at your church. Provide a themed snack or meal, share needed details regarding your upcoming VBS, and enlist your team leaders to lead their teams in training.
- One-on-one training around a cup of coffee might be your best bet. Meet at a local coffee shop with those in whom you need to invest.
- Online training is an option. Simple hand-held or propped up smart-phone videos texted or emailed to your team can be an effective way to get information and training out to your folks. Be creative.
- EQUIP THEM. Not only do folks need training; they need equipping. Equip your leaders with the resources they need.
- Curriculum. It’s been said that curriculum is only as good as the teacher teaching it, but I’ve found that many teachers (especially new teachers) are only as good as the curriculum that’s been provided. Make sure you’re choosing curriculum that is Bible-based, age-appropriate, and child-centered.
- Resources. Provide the resources and equipment your folks will need. If your church has a supply closet, make sure it’s fully stocked and your volunteers know they can access those resources. If there are unique resource needs, agree to assist in providing necessary items. Budgets are limited, both at church and at home. Don’t let VBS be a financial burden to your leaders. Work to find a solution.
Providing support and appreciation goes a long way toward a happy recruit. Don’t enlist them and leave them. Be there for your team. Encourage them with Scripture, pats on the back, emails, handwritten notes, and other fun ways to express appreciation. Remind VBS workers that what they’re doing is truly making a difference—an eternal difference. Cheer your leaders on to victory and success.