We have all seen the funny VBS volunteer memes that show people tired or regretting saying yes to the call to serve at VBS.
While there may be some truth and certainly humor behind these memes, I believe that it is possible to keep your volunteers energized all week long. This year, I had the privilege of putting on my first VBS ever. It was hard to prepare for, having not seen a VBS since I was a child, but I think it was great to come at it with a fresh approach. I was unsure about how I would keep my volunteers excited about five back-to-back nights full of kids following them around, but somehow they loved every minute of it. We even had new volunteers each night because our volunteers would tell their friends to come join us.
Here are six ways we have found to be successful at keeping our VBS volunteers energized:
1. Communicate Vision
I think we often get tired of hearing the vision for our ministry long before we have communicated it enough to our volunteers. It is not enough to share the vision one time, and assume everyone heard it or caught it. Figure out what your vision is for VBS, and communicate it with passion every chance you get. I gave my vision for VBS in adult service, in team meetings, in one-on-one conversations, via email, etc. I’ve learned it is much more likely that we are under-communicating, than over-communicating with our volunteers.
2. Give Ownership
VBS is one of the hugest kidmin events out there. You cannot possibly do it alone. Delegating as much as possible to volunteers will help you keep your sanity, and give them more ownership of the event. We placed a lot of importance on every leadership position on our team. Our small group room leaders owned their rooms from decorating before the event, to tearing down on the last night. Many of our room leaders ended up owning their rooms to the point of purchasing extra items for the kids that I hadn’t thought of myself. The color group leaders were placed with a specific age of kids for all five nights. By mid-week most of them wouldn’t dream of missing a night, fearing disappointing their team. Find ways to give every volunteer ownership and a purpose for showing up each night.
3. Share Wins
One of my favorite things that we did with our volunteers at VBS was getting together as a team an hour before the kids arrived each night. I would share wins, spiritual and funny, from the night before, cast vision for the night, open up the floor for others to share wins, and pray over the night before going to individual stations. As the Children’s Pastor, I hear a lot of wins from kids, volunteers, and parents, but if I don’t share them with my team, they will never know all the positive, life-changing things that are happening because of their hard work.
4. Feed Them
If you have read some of my other posts about volunteers like Intentional Volunteer Meetings or 8 Easy Ways You Can Appreciate Your Volunteers, you probably know that I feel very strongly about always providing food for your volunteers. I know budget, or lack thereof, can be a real issue for many of us in kid’s ministry. However, I believe that feeding your volunteers is so important that you find a way to pay for it out of your own pocket, find donations, or make it yourself. I wasn’t able to work out feeding my VBS volunteers a full dinner each night, but I always had waters, sodas, and snacks available. I also brought in lunch and dinner for the team that helped decorate and tear down VBS.
5. Provide Encouragement
Encouragement can be given in a group setting, but is most effective when done on an individual basis. Every night I would go around to the different small group rooms and color teams to encourage different leaders. I looked for opportunities to compliment them on their leadership and share positive comments from parents and kids about their area. We all need to hear that someone sees that we are doing a good job and making a difference.
6. Lead By Example
This could be the hardest, but most important way to keep your volunteers energized all week. No matter how excited and passionate you might be about VBS, even the strongest of leaders will start to get tired and question their sanity by day 4. Your volunteers need to see your excitement and passion about being there for the kids, not how tired you are. If you walk in yawning and dragging your heels, it will bring down the whole team. Show your team that you are on the front lines with them, willing to do anything you would expect them to do.