4 Great Reasons to Have Volunteer Coaches

I've focused my writing recently on issues that mostly relate to parenting, so I'm going to shift gears a little and discuss a subject that affects Children's Ministry programming in churches.  I'm going to write about a volunteer structure that we utilized and honed in our own Children's Ministry.  We have volunteer leaders that we call "Coaches."

First off, I want to be clear that most of the ideas that we put together are not entirely innovative.  Even before I joined the church staff, there was already a position called "Administrators," who scheduled substitutes for children's small groups (classes).  And we borrowed the title "Coaches" from Community Christian Church, a multi-site church in the Chicago area.  (You can purchase their download-able Coaching Guidebook.)

So, we took these and other principles, and decided to enhance what we were doing, for several reasons:
  1. Organization and uniformity.  Previously, we were only using Administrators over volunteers in classes (nursery, preschool, elementary).  We realized there was potential to develop parallel roles in our Big Group and Hospitality teams.  And on two of our campuses, we even have Coaches over our Special Needs ministry.
  2. Develop leaders of leaders.  In order to help our ministry develop and grow along with our church, we knew that we had to delegate and empower others to take on more leadership responsibilities. These Coaches are not only ministers, but equippers
  3. Relieve the burden on the staff.  In an ideal world, we could hire as many people as we wanted, but we know this is almost never possible.  Volunteer Coaches take on a huge role, allowing our staff to focus on other areas.  They have done work that most churches pay people for.
  4. Make a big ministry feel small.  Each of the children's staff could possibly be responsible for 100-200 volunteers.  Instead of having volunteers feel like they were just one out of 100, we wanted to bring about a more intimate setting.  By having a Coach over a team of about 10-18 volunteers, each person would feel more connected to others and to the vision.  As a pastor, there was no way for me to know each of our 700+ volunteers in Children's Ministry.  But I could know and pour into the staff and Coaches, and they could do the same for their teams.

    Most of our Coaches have been women, especially married women with children.  This role has given dozens of women (many of whom are stay-at-home moms) in our church a great avenue to use their God-given leadership, shepherding, and administrative skills.  But we have also had men serve as coaches, as well as single women.  Don't limit yourself to thinking of a specific demographic. 

    image courtesy of bigevil600 via sxc.hu
    Key characteristics of a Coach:
    • Good manager of time during the week.  Scheduling and following up with people outside of the weekend services are critical.
    • Organization and administrative skills.
    • Desire to help lead and develop other volunteers.
    • Desire to encourage others to use their God-given gifts and time.
    • Familiar with the responsibilities of those they are leading.

    Of course, not many people excel in all these characteristics.  But one of the joys for me has been seeing how people with different personalities and skill sets have all served as Coaches.  The important thing is to maximize on the Coaches' strengths, while helping them to manage around their weaker areas. 

    Keep in mind that this type of structure is not just applicable for churches and children's ministries, but any type of organization that is volunteer-dependent and where leadership development is a goal.

    I'd love to hear your questions and comments.

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    1. Great article. I haven't really looked at it exactly like this, but as the leader of a smaller, but growing ministry this is the kind of thing that I like to start thinking about now. Many may feel that this article doesn't apply to them because they aren't dealing with 700 volunteers. But, as a pastor or children's ministry director I think we need to constantly be looking for people to take over in areas that we might currently be leading. As we grown leaders and then hand leadership over to them, then it allows us to focus on other things that either can't be handed off, or at least aren't ready to be.

      The other thing that I see in this what Jethro taught Moses about leadership. No matter how large your ministry is, there comes a point when you can no longer directly handle all of the issues. If we try to, then we end up with people, as you mentioned, that just feel like 1 of 100. Breaking it down into managable numbers not only allows for the development of new/additional leadership, but also allows for your volunteers to continue to feel connected.

      Thanks for sharing this. I am adding you to my GoogleReader and I look forward to reading more from you in the future.

    2. Thanks for the comments, and you're right, Matt. I probably should have talked more about how this could work for a smaller church. But we did start making progress towards this when we had 200 volunteers, not 700. I was more trying to highlight the principles, since each specific case may warrant different applications.

      I love your illustration of Jethro & Moses.

    3. This is a really good post. There is as much ministry in developing people as in heading up a children's ministry. I have recommended this post to several others. As always, good stuff Joey! - Amy