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You want me to volunteer? - Shifting mindsets in kids’ work volunteers

Valerie Whittenburger highlights some of the many excuses or reasons that people use to potentially block an amazing opportunity to serve the very children who will one day stand in our same shoes.

One of the building blocks of any children’s ministry is the group of volunteers supporting the vision. There is no way the ministry can function well without the contribution of a team. However, what if saying yes to volunteering isn’t so easy? What if you don’t feel capable of such a task? What if you’ve ever thought or said the following:

‘I don’t know how to relate to children’.

‘I’m too busy already’.

‘There are plenty of other people who can do it’.

As a volunteer and kids’ work intern, I've said these very words. It’s so important to realise the potential pitfalls and mindsets that we as volunteers battle before agreeing to join a team. Even now, I have to stop these thoughts when I find something challenging.

 The best way to combat these mindsets is to identify them and refute them. Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly used responses to the age-old question, “Have you ever thought about joining our kids’ work team?”

1. ‘There will always be someone better at it than me.’

We have all thought this at least once in our lives. This thought isn’t saved for kids’ work alone, but it is just as prevalent within this volunteering opportunity. This type of response is what I call ‘sneaky pride’. It focuses solely on the ability of yourself, more specifically the negative thoughts surrounding the ability. However, the team needs people of all types and talents in order to function the way God has designed it. There is a place for everyone on the team.

One of my favourite phrases has always been, ‘God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called’. Instead of resting in intimidation, try observing and learning from others. I guarantee they are having the same thoughts and will need the same approach and support. Never go at it alone for you’ll find that we were meant for community all along.

2. ‘I could never lead at the front.’

For many, the thought of the responsibility of speaking in front of others is terrifying. I submitted to this fear for many years. As soon as I voiced this to our kids’ work director, I was met with the reassurance that I wasn’t alone. I was also encouraged that I could work my way up to such a task. Gaining confidence in the smaller tasks prepares us mentally for the next phase of leading.

Remember, leading is not always at the front. It begins by agreeing to volunteer. By being in the room, we are all helping children to learn who God is and who He says they are. Start with leading a game. Team up with another person and help lead a lesson. Help a group with a craft. Whatever you do, remember that you are a leader. You’ve been called, and you are not alone in that calling.

3. ‘I’m afraid I won’t be good at it, or I’ll make mistakes.’

I would consider myself a perfectionist. Trying new things without knowing I’ll succeed at it stirs anxiety and ranks high on the scale of things I’d rather not do. That is why kids’ work is so important. It forces us to confront the very things holding us back as adults. I make mistakes every week. I still haven’t quite figured it all out. But, there is a beautiful phenomenon that God provides.

I may not get everything perfect, but the children don’t see that part. What they remember is that I showed up and chose to love them and lead them. It’s as if God filters out the mistakes I so often focus on and helps them to see the very best in me. He allows them to see me as He sees me, and I see them as He sees them.

Society doesn’t teach us that it’s okay to make a mistake. Perhaps one of the best lessons we can share with children is to take risks in front of them and keep moving forward through the mistakes. At the end of the day, we are human. We are not perfect. That is the reminder that we need our Father.

4. ‘I’ve never worked with kids before. I don’t know how.’

This was my internal response every time I heard an announcement pleading for volunteers. I had never had the opportunity to work with children, and I felt ill-equipped. Perhaps you’ve felt the same. My best advice is to give it a try.

Commit to visiting your kids’ work on a Sunday. Take the pressure off of committing immediately. Just give it a try. Ask questions. Talk to the other leaders. Observe what’s going on. Pray.

This response will never change if you don’t take a risk and try. It may not be the right place for you. On the other hand, you may discover that you’ve found what was missing all along. Remember that you were once a child. Many volunteers contributed to your growth and maturity. This could be a chance for you to pass along the same legacy.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these are among many excuses or reasons potentially blocking an amazing opportunity to serve the very children who will one day stand in our same shoes. Never underestimate how important your role is.

Some of the best greetings and hugs I receive in a week are from kids on a Sunday morning. We are all fashioned with God’s purposes and promises. We are called to share these with others, including the children’s ministry.

 

Take a risk. Say yes. You may just find you’ve walked into the best adventure you never realised was waiting for you.

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