5 things I’ve learned about children’s ministry and volunteers

September 15, 2021

Children’s Ministry is difficult in a lot of ways. It’s not even working with kids that makes it so challenging. Instead, having enough people ready and able to serve is the most difficult part. I have often wondered if this is a unique problem to my local church context, but having talked with dozens of churches — big, small, rural, and urban — I’ve discovered that we all seem to struggle with the same difficulty: finding great volunteers! 

I’ll admit that I haven’t cracked the code, but I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned that not only help us staff our classrooms with able and trusted people but have also allowed our leaders to flourish and enjoy serving in ministry.

Not everyone can do children’s ministry 

It sounds strange to suggest it, but one way to get more volunteers, and the right ones, is to narrow your audience. What I really mean is that when you are talking to leaders or potential leaders, make sure they know you need skilled laborers. Highlighting the specific and unique qualities needed for service will empower volunteers to step into service with the confidence that they are gifted for the role. How would it make you feel if your boss walked into your office and said, “We just need more people doing your job, and literally anyone can do it!”? When we lower the bar by saying, “Anyone can serve in kids ministry,” we can unintentionally belittle the work of our current volunteers, alienate high capacity leaders, and inadvertently welcome the wrong or even unsafe volunteers.

Letting people know that you need specifically-skilled and intentionally-called leaders will allow them to see the beauty and necessity of their commitment to serve. It illuminates their responsibility in ministry and changes children’s ministry from childcare into soul care for kids. 

A lot Is at stake

I believe one of the greatest misconceptions church members have about children’s ministry is that it is primarily a place to drop children off and keep them occupied while the important work of discipleship and ministry happens with adults and youth. The reality is that our children (birth–age 11) are very much in need of hearing the gospel. We show and tell kids about Jesus so that their lives can be moved and shaped by the power of the Holy Spirit. Souls of any age who do not know Jesus are separated from his love. Therefore, kids need to hear the message of the cross (Rom. 10:14), too.  

I’ve discovered that when our people are presented with the reality that our children’s souls are at stake, God’s Spirit moves them to action. The higher the stakes, the greater the need. Children sometimes seem innocent, but apart from Jesus they are lost and in desperate need of the Savior. We need leaders who are willing to step into discipling roles to help kids see and experience Christ’s love, praise him for his goodness, and go on mission for his glory (Matt. 28:19-20). 

Get to know your volunteers

Getting to know your team seems obvious, but I confess that it was something I did poorly when I first started in children’s ministry. Outside of the gospel message itself, our volunteers are our greatest asset. The saints make ministry possible. So as you recruit, equip and serve your team. Serve alongside your volunteers, take time to delight in their service, and share in their lives. Write thank you notes to those who go above and beyond. Send get well cards to team members who call off due to sickness. Prepare a meal for someone who just had surgery and will be out for a few weeks. 

Small and seemingly insignificant acts deeply affect the hearts of our people. Paul says, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom. 12:10). When we find unique and kind ways to appreciate our people, we get the opportunity to live out that kingdom ethic. 

Knowing your team is especially important for the sake of protecting kids from abuse. An essential part of creating welcoming environments for children is taking safety seriously. After all, the only truly welcoming environment is one that ensures that only trustworthy people are on the team. 

One way to do this is through the Caring Well Challenge. The CWC helps equip churches to be safe for survivors of abuse and safe from abuse. A big part of this initiative is the encouragement to know every member of your team well. In addition to administering background checks, the following are several other steps churches can take to as a part of the screening process: written application, references check, internet check, and an interview. In addition to screening, recruitment should be limited to people who have attended your church for a set amount of time. And each volunteer should be intentionally trained on how to report when abuse or neglect is suspected. To learn more about each of these steps, and to help your church become safe for survivors and safe from abuse, see the free resources provided at CaringWell.com.

Elevate the moment

God is the best at celebrating. The Bible is full of feasting and celebrations for God’s work in and through the Israelites. There are harvest festivals, milestones, weddings, and more (Ex.12:14; 23:16; Deut.16:1,13; Pss. 20:5, 95:2). When new volunteers go through training, that’s a milestone. Celebrate it! When someone serves in a classroom for the first time, that’s a big moment. Celebrate with them. When someone shares the gospel with a child and they respond, that’s a miraculous thing that deserves celebration. When a leader has served for five years, that’s worth even a Baptist dancing about! 

It’s easy to get caught up in the business of doing ministry. I can easily forget to recognize incredible moments, transitions, milestones, and most importantly, God’s work through his people. Let’s not miss out on the opportunity to celebrate. Children’s ministry isn’t easy, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be incredibly fun and full of celebration. 

You hit where you aim

Why do we often miss the mark on what we are trying to accomplish? Systems, processes, training, and goals are very much a part of thriving in any arena. When recruiting children’s ministry volunteers, adopting some organizational rhythms will help to keep you on track and ensure that the people you’re recruiting don’t fall through the cracks. 

Set recruiting goals, and let your team know what you’re aiming for. It’s important to be able to articulate exactly how many people you need, what age groups, service times, or events that have the greatest need, and why it is so important for people to join in the work. Setting recruiting goals will give you two gifts:

  1. Direction. You’ll know better how to align your daily work with your ministry’s needs (and God’s desires for it).
  2. Accountability. You’ll know when you are hitting the mark and when you’re not. You’ll know when you’ve reached your goal so that you can celebrate! 

A ministry that is healthy will often attract healthy and vital leaders. The more you are able to show your congregation the skills needed to serve, the urgency of children’s discipleship, and the reality that they’ll be cared for and celebrated when they volunteer, the more they’ll be willing to jump in and serve. Then, once someone commits, celebrate the moment with them and say, “Welcome to the team! Let’s invest in the next generation.”

Willis Deitz

Willis Deitz is husband to Whitney and father to Eden, Piper, and Anna. He serves as Kids Director at Pleasant Valley Community Church in Owensboro, Kentucky. He also writes and produces Dashboard Devo, a podcast designed to jump start family worship and discipleship. You can follow him on instagram at … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24