From getting the family ready in the morning to traffic to any number of things that can arise between waking up and arriving at church, Sunday mornings are busy, especially for your volunteers. They need help and encouragement.
Snacks are great. Having a killer t-shirt for them is awesome. But helping ease the stress that small group leaders face when they walk into your environment will actually show you appreciate them more than both snacks and t-shirts combined.
Showing appreciation and care is more simple than you might think. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Prep all of the supplies for the weekend during the week. You may not know it yet, but you probably have a dozen or more people willing to help you throughout the week to prepare and organize the supplies for the weekend. There are moms who’d love to come in during the middle of the week to sort small group leader bins, help cut out supplies, or stand at the copy machine while it’s running copies.
Prep EVERYTHING. If the activity calls for 15 sheets of butcher paper, send 15 sheets not a roll of butcher paper. Precious relational time will be lost if the small group leader has to cut these on the fly in your group.
Don’t feel like you have to do everything. In fact, having volunteers do this will help free time in your schedule for you to build stronger relationships with your small group leaders.
Have a small group leader kit ready to go with everything that a leader will need for their time with the kids. Depending on the number of kids that come, always prep those leader kits with more supplies than they will need. We decided this number was 12 kids. This might seem like a waste, but it was worth it in order to take stress off leaders who thought they might not have enough supplies for their group. Having to flag down a coach or run somewhere for supplies not only cuts into precious relationship building time but also gives the impression that the environment is disorganized and unprepared.
Make getting these supplies easy for your volunteers. Even when you prep leader kits with more than enough supplies, a leader may need more of something. They may be their group’s only leader; they can’t leave their group without supervision. (Well, they can, but you and I know what happens when 12 forth grade boys are left unsupervised around scissors and glue…) Consider having a “runner” in the room whose primary responsibility is just to make sure leaders have their supplies. He or she can walk around the room checking in and helping leaders get what they need. This will demonstrate that you value both creating a safe place for the kids as well as the relationships they are forming in their group.
Give small group leaders everything they need at the top of the hour. As much as we try, we simply can’t predict how long each activity will run. Don’t leave your leaders hanging with nothing to do while they’re waiting for their next set of supplies to come. If you want an activity to be a surprise, place them at the bottom of the leader kit or put them in a larger back. Just give small group leaders a heads up as why you’re doing that and how you’d like them to do the activity. They’ll go along for the ride and will be thrilled they’ll have all their supplies exactly when they need them.
A small group leader coach is absolutely necessary. The coach is often an under-rated position in children’s ministry. The coach is a shepherd to small group leaders. They care for them and make sure they’re OK and have what they need while they serve kids. This is actually one of the most service-oriented roles in children’s ministry as the job is never about the coach. They are in the environment as servants to those small group leaders, helping each one of them win. Because of this, they need to be focused. As staff, don’t pull them away from their small group leaders during the start of the hour as kids are coming in to talk about things you should have communicated during the week. This is especially during the small group time that follows large group. Coaches need to be as present with the small group leaders under their care as much as the small group leaders themselves need to be present with their kids.
When small group leaders are given undivided attention from the coaches, they will certainly feel like you value them and their service in children’s ministry.
Small group leaders are at the front lines of your ministry. Helping them win is helping your entire ministry win. Only a few minor changes in your system could exponentially affect how kids build relationships that bring them closer to Jesus.
Those are just a few simple ideas, but of course there are more. What would you add to this list? I’d love to hear what you’ve done to help small group leaders win in your children’s ministry!