Editor’s note: Today, we continue the series titled “Ask Karen.” CTA’s volunteer expert, Karen Kogler, will answer one of the most pressing volunteer-related questions facing church leaders in 2017. If you have a question you’d like to ask Karen, just post it in the comments section!

Question: We have started planning our VBS event for this summer. Recruiting volunteers for the program has been a real headache in the past! The program is Monday–Friday from 8 a.m. to noon. Do you have any tips for recruitment?

Answer: I can give you recruitment tips and teach you all the basics of recruitment, but recruiting for a daytime VBS is still a daunting task. Few adults are available during the day, and those who aren’t at work have other interests or want a break from the kids. Plus, VBS attendance may be up since more parents are working and need summer activities for their children.

These realities cause headaches for you and many others. They also fuel feelings of resentment in long-time VBS volunteers, now probably getting older, toward the younger generations who, in their eyes, are not stepping up to sustain cherished ministries. The anxiety and tension can create an “us (the faithful volunteers) versus them (those who won’t step up)” mentality. There’s a real fear that church ministries, and perhaps the church itself, will die.

I’m not being melodramatic. I hear this tension and fear from many long-time church members regarding many cherished ministries, not just VBS. The truth is that the world, the culture all around us, is changing under our feet and the rate of change is only increasing. We, and all our ministries, are affected by the world we live in.

But we don’t need to fear. God continues to offer peace, hope, and joy through Jesus. And, he continues to command us to make disciples. So it’s not hopeless, even when there aren’t enough volunteers. But things may need to change. Here are three questions to help us find our way.

  1. Are we recruiting thoroughly? It takes more than announcements in church publications to recruit well. It takes many (many!) person-to-person “asks,” after a thorough search for the right people to ask. You can read more here: Want More Volunteers? Invite Them.
  2. Can we adapt, or revamp, the ministry? Some churches have the skilled volunteers (teachers, musicians, drama leaders) work with large groups, allowing other volunteers to simply lead small groups of kids from place to place. Others are trying an evening VBS or an evening VBS for kids and parents together. Still others are building a Christ-centered full-day camp, with salaried staff paid for by fees.
  3. Look at the people and needs in your community. What is God calling you to do there? Is it to focus on teaching children? If so, what means might best reach them? Or is he calling you to focus on seniors or young professionals, or the homeless, or the jobless or . . .? At the same time, look at the resources God has given uniquely to your church—the skills, interests, and passions of your people. They are among your greatest—and least examined!—resources, and will help determine your church’s ministry plan.

God gives us every resource needed to do what he calls us to do. As you work through the challenge of VBS recruitment, you’re modeling a good and productive struggle we all need to undertake as we bring God’s important truths to our changing world.


You are welcome to copy this article for one-time use when you include this credit line and receive no monetary benefit from it: © 2017 CTA, Inc. Used with permission.

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