Welcome everyone.  Pat Cimo has agreed to join us today to discuss “Developing and Caring for Adult Volunteers”.  Pat and Sue Miller are currently the co-directors of the Promiseland Ministry at Willow Creek Community Church.  Pat has been with Promiseland for over 14 years and brings  tremendous insight and experience with regard to volunteer recruitment and development.


And, don’t forget,  we are prepared to give away one LIVE THE ADVENTURE curriculum kit at the conclusion of the “chat”


Pat’s ready to address some of your most challenging volunteer issues, so … let’s chat with Pat.


Pat says :  Hello everyone.  It’s good to be here.


POWERZ1 asks: “What are your most successful ways of motivating volunteers to participate in training events?”


Pat answers:


When we have a new volunteer begin serving in Promiseland, we have found the best training strategy to be pairing them up with an existing volunteer who is already in the role the new volunteer will be in.


This type of “hands on” training has helped our new volunteers better understand their role because they can ask questions of what they are seeing and we can “vision cast” and train in the moment.


 Before we began this strategy, we make sure the following pieces were in place:


  1. We identified our strongest volunteer in each role.


  1. We personally asked these strong volunteers if they would be a “trainer” for us and told them what we saw in them that prompted us to ask.


  1. We clearly explained how we wanted them to “train” by giving them one aspect of their position to “model” each week.


  1. Someone is scheduled to “follow-up” with the new volunteer each week to make sure he/she understood what they learned.


Sharon asks, “What is the first step toward assigning a Coach to a group of volunteers?  We have about 75 volunteers and tried to get them connected to a Coach and it didn’t happen.  Should we make someone not currently involved in our ministry The Coach?  Is being a Coach all they do?


Pat  answers:


You asked some great questions!


We have found that is it NOT the best strategy to find Coaches outside of Promiseland.


People will follow a leader who is beyond them in their skill, walk with Christ, and understanding of what is going on in the room.


If you appoint someone as “Coach” who has never worked with children or who doesn’t have the understanding of how the service hour works etc., then we have found that the other adults on the team become frustrated.


Sometimes, adults on our teams have served as a Coach in another ministry and we are careful to let them co-lead a kids small group, attend huddles, etc before we have them lead the adults.


I’ve found that our best coaches were once Small Group Leaders in our ministry. 


Typically, our teams will have 1 Coach who has 2-3 “Apprentice Coaches”.  These apprentices might also be leading a kids small group as well as shepherding 1 or 2 adult volunteers on the team.


 The 1 adult Coach’s focus is on shepherding and leading the apprentices on their team.


Whenever you start this model, remember to:


  1. Identify and recruit an adult coach who is faithful, available & teachable by God and others.


  1. Look for the adult on the team who seems to be the one who remembers the birthdays of other team members or who the volunteers seem to talk to about their week.


  1. Vision cast to the adult what you see in him/her and the impact they could have if they took on the role of Coach.


  1. Help this adult lead prayer times or a simple team gathering before or after the service.


  1. Gather the whole team and vision cast to them with regard to the role their Coach will have and announce their appointment as Coach.


Sometimes we forget to transition our ideas.  We need to allow our volunteers to “process”, ask questions, and embrace the change. 


 Tim asks, “ I have several of my key leaders excited about introducing both the large and small group strategy into our program, but we find ourselves asking , “What Next?”?, Do you have any suggestions as to how we can mobilize our volunteers and involve them to go along with our excitement?


Pat answers:


Great Vision Casting Tim!  Pulling in your key leaders in the very beginning is a great strategy because they can help you vision cast in the circles they are in.


 I would recommend a great book called “Managing Transitions” by William Bridges.  It is clear, easy to follow, and offers great steps for CHANGE.

Continue gathering with your key leaders to pray and think together.  At the end of your meetings, communicate a closure statement that includes all that you have discussed and agreed upon.  Identify some “next steps”.


Start by going to ONE team at a time with your key volunteers to vision cast.


In Promiseland, we piloted the large group/small group strategy in one grade level at a time.  We put a lot of emphasis on the quality of the large group portion and the content of the small group lesson, so ..  we ended up with a strong/creative program, but less community among the adults than we wanted or they DESERVED.  Implementing the leadership structure with a Coach etc revolutionized our ministry.


Sherry asks, “The teachers in my Children’s Ministry are so used to being “islands unto themselves” when it comes to ministry – how can I best start to cultivate a “culture” of caring among them … and not just your typical Sunday morning coffee and donuts!


Pat’s answer:


I noticed you used “teacher” in your description of your volunteers.  Several years ago, we moved away from the term, “teacher” for a few reasons:


  1. It was an intimidating term – Most people have the vision of a teacher being super knowledgeable etc…  We needed A LOT of volunteers and very few people would come forward to help if they thought they had to TEACH.


  1. When we think of a teacher, we often think of rather autonomous individuals in charge of a classroom.


  1. They really weren’t being asked to TEACH. We found the term Small Group Leader to be less intimidating and more accurate with regard to what they would be asked to do.


It sounds like YOU have a vision for community in your ministry.  You might want to  develop a mission statement for your ministry that includes the desire to bring about community among your volunteers.  Continue to cast the vision by using your mission statement to evaluate everything you do and hopefully you’ll find your volunteers enjoying relational depth as well as coffee and donuts.


Arthur, from South Africa asks, “On our volunteer team, we have a key player, a lady who is always available, has caught the vision for our childrens ministry, and who is extremely dedicated to her task.  She is going through a rough patch emotionally right now and is still carrying baggage from a divorce situation.  She is undergoing counseling.  Currently, she is unwilling to take part in any community building activities She says she has a problem with games, etc in a group and is not willing to give it a try. I really do not want to lose a key player and I would also like for her to be a part of the real community we are beginning to develop.


Pat Answers:


Hi Arthur and Tracey!  It is so great to hear from you – all the way from South Africa!

Once again, you leadership and tender hearts are shining.  It seems like your volunteer’s heart is tender as well and not ready to trust.  It also seems like she is not ready for “group community”.  Is there a female adult in your ministry that is older than her .. or a woman who might have gone through a similar situation that can counsel or shepherd her personally?  Maybe you can include her in any meetings you have where you discuss tasks as a group … and have her shepherding happen with that mentor.  Eventually, she might be able to trust and open up.


Trail123 asks, “How do you reassure long time Sunday School teachers that the children will grasp the message of the lessons without workbooks, take home papers and crafts?  I think they have been a mainstay in Sunday School for so long that they seem like a MUST to some.


Pat’s answer:


We faced this issue head-on about 10 years ago.


For the first 15 or so years of ministry, Promiseland did not have a mission statement or strategic plan.  The adults at Willow Creek were experiencing innovative, creative, and relevant programming and because it seemed that nobody knew exactly how to provide this for kids, Promiseland sort of evolved to be more traditional than non-traditional and made use of a lot of the same resources most other churches were using.


We had meetings as a staff, with key leaders, and ultimately all the volunteers in the ministry.  Our mission statement was in place, and we went to all these circles to determine what we would need to do (and NOT do) in order to carry out the vision of laying a spiritual foundation that would lead children to God through Jesus Christ.

Eventually, all that we would do and not do sorted itself into various continuums or polarities.  Creative vs Routine, Fun vs Boring, Child Centered vs Adult Centered

Accepting vs Alienating etc etc etc


We had discussions about how much easier it is to put out a word search puzzle instead of the messy painting with apples and chocolate syrup.  Let’s face it – Child Centered is A LOT more work and mess than Adult Centered and effective ministry with kids is a lot more work than easy ministry.  Workbooks, take-home papers, and crafts are not BAD – we all just need to make sure that the activities we choose to do reflect the type of ministry we set out to do.


Diane asks:   Coaches and Small Group Leaders …. How are they similar and/or different?”


Pat Answers:


Both roles focus on shepherding, but WHO they are shepherding is what makes them different.  The Coach’s primary focus is on shepherding the Adult Small Group Leaders.  The Small Group Leader’s focus is on shepherding the kids.


Tim asks, “  I know with Bill Hybels, you have a Senior Pastor who embraces the children’s programs.  Do you have any insight into how to kindle that interest?

Our senior pastor does not seem to even like being around children and youth.


Pat Answers:


You senior pastor might not prefer to be around children and youth, but I’m pretty sure he likes being informed.  I would suggest that you inform you pastor weekly, (notice I did not say weakly) about the significant things happening and the additional goals you have for children in your church. There is an audio tape available of teaching session that Sue Miller and I did with Bill Hybels .  It is entitled “Defining Moments” (tape #DF9803) and we discuss why it is critical for the ministries for children and adults to work hand in hand. If kids don’t have the strong experience of being cared for and shepherded on the weekend, their parents will wonder if it is time to look for another church. 


Yvonne Asks:  “How do you develop community if people won’t come to meetings, team times or even show up on time on Sunday?”


Pat answers:


Many times, people are afraid to go deeper in their commitment because the don’t understand what will be expected of them with the limited time they can give.  The also will need to “get something” from their experience.  Community with other adults while being able to focus on one task that they are gifted and skilled to do, will bring your volunteers asking for more.


Mrsw Asks:  “Do you have training/encouragement events where you gather with all the Promiseland volunteers?


Pat Answers:


The only ALL PROMISELAND events we do for volunteers are encouraging events.  Lately, we have found it most effective to offer these events twice a year – A “Kick Off” in the Fall and a “Celebration: in the Spring.  Most recently, we have scheduled them to include a dinner and program before New Community (our mid-week) service. We use these events to generate enthusiasm and vision cast as well as simply let the volunteers know how important they are to the mission of Promiseland and our church.


Thanks for joining us today for our “Chat with Pat”.  We do have a WINNER!  Kris Schneider of Menasha, Wisconsin has won the Live the Adventure Summer Curriculum kit.  Congratulations Kris!  Our next chat will is scheduled for July 12 and will feature Nancy Raney, The Promiseland Product Director for the Willow Creek Association. She’ll lead a discussion entitled, “Diving Into the Promiseland Curriculum”.  We hope to see you next time!