When children's ministry leaders recruit "volunteers," they are thinking like the world—though they may not realize it.
To start with, the volunteer label conveys that the volunteer is uninstructed and unlearned, when that may not be the case. Your workers also must know they are not just helping you in your ministry; rather, a significant part of your ministry is to care for them. How you value them—without seeing them as volunteers—will determine if God will send more people to serve.
Volunteers also may think they are not near as holy as the clergy, as if only pastors can have the anointing. We don't want children's workers to believe they are less than leadership. We work as a team of one, moving in the same direction to minister.
And when ministry gets tough, a volunteer mindset leads some to think they're entitled to quit. But in God's kingdom, no one is a volunteer. We are members of His household (Eph. 2:19).
In 2 Corinthians 9:12, Paul addressed the church in Corinth, referring to their ministry of feeding the poor. He said, in effect, "Listen, this service that you are performing is not merely fully supplying the needs of the saints. It is not just putting food in their bellies. It is overflowing with many expressions of thanks to the living God." The word translated "service" in that verse is used elsewhere in Scripture of priestly duties.
Those who work with the children also perform a priestly duty, a spiritual duty, a godly duty. More than that, their service overflows with many expressions of thanks to the Lord. What our workers do is much more than the tasks performed by mere "volunteers."
Children are called to people, so we need the right people on board. If we pray for those who are hearing God for a generation, we will get intercessors. We will get evangelists. We will get some with a prophetic spirit. We will get teachers. We will get pastors.
We don't just want warm bodies. If our workers aren't right with the Lord, we don't want them engaging with the children. We want them to be able to minister out of being in His presence. We don't want people who just check off their little ministry commitment and check out! Go after people who would see their role as members of God's household filled with the Holy Spirit, and your ministry can move forward in power.
Work to change the theology of volunteerism in your children's ministry. Pray against a volunteerism mindset in your church once a week or month for an entire year.
In recruiting, we have to go after hearts. We have to go after lives who are summoned to this ministry. We have to call the called to this calling.
Refer to your workers as "volunteers" if you'd like, but equip them as ministers. We call our workers "parent assistants." When you see workers as volunteers, you are building a program. When you see them as ministers, you are changing a generation.
Lenny La Guardia is executive director of the Children's Equipping Center and vice president of ministries at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri.
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