By Melinda Shunk
Children's Ministry Coordinator
Cindy Burns has been the children’s minister at Pulaski Heights for more than 11 years, and a day doesn’t go by that she doesn’t value and give praise to every volunteer that helps minister to the children that walk through their church doors! At a district small group meeting, Cindy had once shared with me that she had a once-a-year meeting that normally filled all of her volunteer positions. She had my interest, but we didn’t have time to get into a deeper discussion on it until recently at lunch when we circled back to the ins and outs of how volunteering works with a once-a-year sign-up.
I was curious because PHUMC worships more than 1,000 parishioners each Sunday, has about 25 kids in each classroom K-5th grade, and has at least 30 special events for children a year. That is a lot of volunteer opportunities and most need at least two volunteers in the classroom, while many like VBS need 100 or more. Like anyone serving in Children’s Ministry, you don’t want to burn out the same amazing volunteers by asking them to do everything. You don’t want to ask anyone to do anything out of their range of Spiritual Gifts. You never want to fill a position because their only qualifier for the position is that they pass all Safe Sanctuary checks.
Each year before her need to recruit volunteers, Cindy spends a lot of time in prayer. She prays that God may offer a call of service to her church as they offer up the opportunities to serve.
“In a church, one might use the word volunteer but I prefer to think of it as a service to God and to the church and to others,” Burns said. “If most of us can serve in some way, then no one person has to do it all. God provides! My calling is to be sure I am reaching out to enough folks to give the opportunity to serve as many as possible!”
In mid-January each year, she holds her once-a-year volunteer sign-up. The whole church is invited directly after worship for a fellowship lunch with childcare provided. Sign-up sheets are posted with every ministry event position, time commitment, and description of gifts used to do the job.
For some of the sign-up boards, she asked long-time returning volunteer teachers to stand next to the sign-ups to answer questions and explain why they keep coming back to serve. By the end of the afternoon, she and her Children’s Ministry team will have the majority of the positions filled. She also reaches out with a phone call to those who were not able to attend the lunch with opportunities about the slots that still need to be filled.
Cindy has this advice to give when making sign-up sheets and phone calls:
1. Break-down the jobs as small as you can. Many hands make light work. Example: For VBS: a.) snack purchaser b.) snack sorter for each day c.) snack distributor. Instead of one person in charge of the overwhelming task of being the VBS snack person.
2. When talking to a member about serving, Cindy says, “If your reaction to this request is -I would rather walk on hot coals than do this … God probably is not calling you to this service. If your reaction is butterflies in your stomach and thinking that you’re not sure if you are worthy, I might encourage folks to put themselves out there and give it a try.”
3. Have all the materials the teacher may need to do the lesson ready in the classroom. Always have a detailed description of what to say and do so that classroom volunteers can show up shortly before class and still teach a good lesson. Many folks are so busy these days they don’t have extra time outside of the church. Don’t give them homework.
4. Let volunteers know how much you and the children value their service. Cindy can’t say enough praise for those who serve the children in ministry at Pulaski Heights.