I have spent countless hours on special bulletin inserts because I needed a Sunday School teacher. I have spent many minutes in front of my church body pleading for one more person to help with VBS. I have sent out many facebook messages looking for a classroom helper. And sometimes those efforts provide fruit. But more often than not, I’m left hoping for a phone call that never comes.
Can you relate? Staffing VBS, or any program, is hard. Maybe one of the hardest things that you will do. It is a challenge to get enough people, let alone the right people. Yet, if you want the gospel to be the focus of your VBS program (check out this article) you need the right people.
You need the people who are going to commit 100% to the kids coming to your VBS. You need the people who are faithful prayer warriors to pray for your program and for you! You need the men who are good with difficult kids so that through their insight, patience, and compassion, these kids not only hear the hope of the gospel, they experience it in love and grace. You need the baby whisperers who can rock even the fussiest baby so that his mom can serve without worry (these people are VITAL).
But when those people don’t sign up to help on their own, you are left wondering how to find them. Vague prayers to God and scouring the latest church directory could be your next plan…
But in reality, it is much simpler than that.
People like to be asked. Personally.
Let me share my recruiting process with you:
Here are the action points and then I will explain each one.
- Begin by praying.
- Make a list of all positions that you will need for VBS.
- Set up clear expectations for each role.
- Consider volunteers from last year.
- Generate a list of possible helpers.
- Mesh your “needs” list with your “possibilities” list.
- Personally ask people to serve in a specific role.
- Be flexible.
1. Begin by praying
Begin by praying for God to specifically provide the RIGHT people and the RIGHT number of people needed for your vacation Bible school. We serve a sovereign God who knows exactly who will be at your VBS and in what role they will be serving. And we know that it will be good. (Romans 8:26-30)
Start praying for volunteers as you begin to think about VBS. Don’t wait to pray for these important people until you are desperate. Pray specifically for the larger roles that you need to fill. Continue in an attitude of prayer as you begin to fill in names on your list. Thank God for providing the volunteers that you need.
2. Make a list
Make a list of all the positions that you think that you will need to fill for VBS this year. Every single one. I typically go by the rule of 10 kids with one teacher and one helper for elementary aged kids. If you think that your class sizes will be larger than this, decide if you need to have more than one class (that may be based on available classrooms) or if you need to add an additional helper in that class.
Kindergarten, preschool, and younger kids will need more helpers per kid. Keep in mind bathroom needs for preschoolers. You know…if one has to go, they all have to go, and do you have enough help for that? Depending on the age of kids in your nursery, you may need to have a 1:1 or a 1:2 ratio.
I like to look at the attendance records for the grade level below from last year. But if you don’t have that information, consider looking at Sunday School attendance or midweek program attendance. Definitely pad that number a little bit to ensure for visitors (YOU WANT VISITORS).
3. Set clear expectations
Set up clear expectations for each role. I would encourage you to take the time to lay out clear job expectations for each position. This is a concrete method of communicating expectations with your volunteers (…that could be a whole other topic). It doesn’t have to be pages long. Several bullet points will help volunteers more than a quickly offered and vague verbal description. When you are able to hand out or email a list of expectations, you can be more confident that you and your volunteer are on the same page. Your volunteers are here to serve the kids at VBS, but you are here to serve your volunteers. Defining clear expectations is a great start to a unified approach to VBS.
Your volunteers are here to serve the kids at VBS, but you are here to serve your volunteers.
The concept of unity can be found in Paul’s letter to the believers at Philippi. In Philippians 2:1-4, Paul pleads with the believers to “consider others more significant than yourself.” This is a great call for VBS leaders to practice humility. If you are willing to take the time to fully equip and serve your volunteers by first defining clear expectations, you are in fact considering others before yourself. This is foundational for a unified team at VBS.
4. Consider last year’s volunteers
Consider volunteers from last year. Maybe someone was placed in the “right” role last year and indicated interest in helping in the same area again. Pencil that person into that role. Then make a phone call, send an email, or drop them a text depending on your relationship with him or her. Share what an awesome job he did last year, and if possible, give a specific example. Ask if you could plug him in the same position. NEVER ASSUME that he will serve again!
Or maybe you had a volunteer last year who did a nice job with her role, but you saw how you could better utilize her elsewhere. Explain what you saw and why you think she would be perfect for a different position. Be ready to give clear examples as to why you believe she would be a great fit for this new position.
5. Generate a list of possible helpers
Generate a list of possible helpers. This is where you can finally pull out your church directory. Put your needs list aside. Turn it over, minimize the window, whatever. Just don’t look at it right now. Begin to compile a list of people that you think might be willing to serve at VBS. Throw in a few people that you aren’t sure about either. They might surprise you.
I think that when you do this step separate from your “needs” list, you are able to come up with more possibilities. You aren’t locking each person into a specific role yet. You are just evaluating whether you can see them at VBS this summer!
6. Mesh “needs” and “possibilities”
Mesh your “needs” list with your “possibilities” list. Stop. Right now. Earnestly pray and ask God to direct you as you begin to pair up your lists. Ask Him to help you see roles differently, if needed. Ask Him to help you see different people in different roles. Pray for wisdom (knowing what is right and good…and doing it) as you are preparing to staff your VBS. Praise Him for already knowing who will serve in what position. Thank Him for allowing us to have a relationship with Him through Jesus.
ONLY after you have prayed about this, should you continue onto meshing your lists. Lay both lists in front of you (or pull them both up on your computer screen). Using a pencil, begin to fill in your “needs” list with “possibility people.” Keep in mind your church policy on whether teachers have to be members, whether nursery workers have to have special training, and if you will need to complete a background check on new volunteers (give yourself enough time).
Don’t be afraid to think differently. It may be that you come up with a “need/possibility” pair that surprises you. But, you never know! It could work.
7. Personally ask
Personally ask people to serve in a specific role. This is the step that makes all the difference in your recruiting process. You make VBS a personal opportunity rather than just another program your church does. You are showing your potential volunteer that YOU (the person who is in charge of VBS…or some aspect of it) think that he would be a great asset to VBS. You thought of him personally and wanted to take the time to personally ask him to serve.
You have spent time in prayer about this, you have put in the hard work up to this point. Now, make a direct contact with a “possibility person.” I would speak with her face-to-face, if at all possible. Remember, people like to be asked. Personally.
When you are discussing this opportunity, treat it as an opportunity. Because it is. VBS can provide great blessings and fulfillment in a volunteer’s life. It is an opportunity to share the gospel with kids and possibly even adults. VBS can be life-changing, and you are asking someone to be a part of that! Don’t apologize for asking. Be excited.
VBS can be life-changing, and you are asking someone to be a part of that! Don’t apologize for asking. Be excited.
Clearly explain the job description. (You know it because you had to write it down in step 3). Answer any questions. Share that you can email a job description so she can review it and pray about it specifically. Then ask her for a response within a week. Giving a deadline sets up more clear communication and expectations. This is a way that you are serving even before she is an official volunteer. It also gives you a clear point at when you can follow-up. Some might be ready to say YES right now. Great! But, I always like to offer the option to pray about it first.
If you need to follow-up with a potential volunteer who didn’t get back to you, do so graciously. Ask if he had time to pray about that position and knew if that would work for him. If no, graciously accept that answer. Do not try to persuade. You are not desperate. God knows who you need and will provide.
8. Be flexible
Be flexible. Someone may already have an idea of where he wants to serve. If you agree that it is a good fit, great. You are ready to be flexible. If you have already filled that position, or it isn’t really a good fit for that particular volunteer, be ready to suggest another opportunity in a different role. You used a pencil. Remember? Be flexible.
What if I attend a huge church and can’t ask all of my volunteers personally? You probably have some structure to your program with different levels of leadership. Equip others to help you recruit. Personally. Share this with your team. Divide and conquer. But be personal.
What are your biggest recruiting woes? Have a success story? I would love to hear it. Encourage us, or let us encourage you!