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Nursery Lessons: A Better Way of Recruiting Volunteers

by Kim Mitchel

Kim Mitchell Recently we have been focused on revitalizing the nursery at our church. We put in rigorous safety measures. We organized a committee to support the nursery’s vision. We assigned a greeter position to the front door of the nursery and tried like crazy to recruit people to help rock babies. Every step was successful except for one — recruiting volunteers. We tried everything. We asked. We begged. We set out sign-up lists. We made bulletin announcements. We used our new projection screens and the monthly newsletter. Nothing worked.

Then I took a leadership class and learned about valuing the history of the church and using it as a bridge toward change. I also learned about beginning with a presumption of grace instead of judgment. I took this to heart, and the next Sunday I asked the pastor if I could do an information talk for the congregation. “Just an announcement,” I said.

That day I wore overalls and a plaid shirt since I was to do a lesson with the children on the parable of the sower. What better way to talk about this parable than to dress the part of the farmer! When I stood in front of the congregation, my clothing caught them off guard. I told them why I was wearing the clothes and then told them that thinking about the seeds in the lesson had me thinking about seeds in general. I then said how proud I was to be serving in a congregation that fifty years ago planted seeds of faith in our children and had always placed children first in the life of the congregation.

I reported to them that despite the recession, our church was still keeping up with the expanding needs of a growing children’s ministry. Then I rehearsed all the new things we had accomplished related to the nursery, knowing that they surely would want to know because of their long-standing love for and commitment to children. And I reminded them that all this happened because of the seeds many of them had planted so long ago.

I asked them a question. For young families, what is the first entry point into the church? They all said “the nursery.” Well, aren’t we proud to have such a tradition of caring for our babies!

They were then invited to stop by and see what wonderful things were happening in the nursery. They could even hold a baby or two. That afternoon the nursery was buzzing with people! They crowded in to get a glimpse of their new nursery that continued their longstanding love of children. Instead of judging them for not volunteering, I assumed instead that they really cared about the history and the nursery. Funny thing. They did.

Recruiting volunteers still requires work, but the context has changed. Now there is awareness and pride where before was obligation. And that makes all the difference both for those who recruit and those who say “yes” to this opportunity for ministry.

Kim Mitchel is director of Christian education at Gaithersburg Presbyterian Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

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