by Jones Armstrong
For a director or coordinator of a Sunday school ministry, holding a Volunteer Team Meeting for all the teachers, shepherds, and other adult volunteers can seem like an added stress to an already overloaded volunteer team. They may wonder: Is it realistic to ask volunteers to attend another meeting, in addition to their hours of teaching and prep work? Is it really worth it to plan time for this?
In my experience, stressed and overwhelmed volunteers are precisely the ones who can benefit the most from a Volunteer Team Meeting. Holding a meeting once a month, or even once a quarter offers space for volunteers to receive help or ideas for lessons, troubleshooting for difficult situations, and spiritual support from the director and each other. Opening with a spiritual check-in—How have you connected with God lately?—reminds everyone that it is our own spiritual growth that fuels our ministry and enables us to share God’s love with others. Spiritually connecting as a team creates a supportive environment so that volunteers know they can count on help in hard times. Having your team pair into prayer partners or pray for the person to the left/right is a simple way to build spiritual connectedness.
Volunteer Team Meetings also can be a time to intentionally consider the experiences of the children in the program. Are there children whose families are going through a difficult time? Are there children with disabilities learning a story about healing? Or are there children who are adopted learning a story about family? Are there two children who have been having trouble getting along, or is there a clique forming that excludes others? How can the team support the children as they learn, and encourage them to grow in their faith, individually and as a group? Taking time to discuss the needs of the children and to pray for them helps the volunteers engage in ministry more effectively. Some teams create a bulletin board with pictures of all the children in their ministry. This tool can be a helpful reference when doing class check-ins.
Volunteer Team Meetings are also a place for the volunteers to engage the Scriptures together on their own. How do they read the stories in this unit? What is God speaking to them in these passages? What do they find hard about the story, or what questions do they have? When volunteers sit with the stories themselves, reading them deeply and slowly, the stories sink into their hearts. They then are able to model for the children that depth of faithful engagement with the Scriptures. Older children may have some of the same questions the volunteers have about the story! A simple way to read the story together is to try lectio divina with the Scripture, and/or to sample some questions or activities from the lessons together.
Volunteer Team Meetings aren’t just another planning time. They can be very life-giving and spiritually supportive spaces for volunteers who are doing the wonderful and exhausting work of ministering with children.