This blog was written by Jill Vogel, a member of the INCM Blog Team.
Churches need babies and grandparents.
But what are the barriers to them being in the same room together?
Many older congregation members would love to rock a new baby member of your church but just cannot imagine doing it.
With the getting up and crawling down of playtime, or the worry of tripping on scattered toys, engaging seniors in serving kids can feel challenging.
However, there are ways to integrate seniors into your ministry, it just takes asking some questions and making a few adjustments.
When I first started in ministry one piece of advice that I grabbed ahold of early on was to get on my knees and look at my classrooms from the perspective of the kids I was serving.
The idea was we tend to put things at our adult level when they should instead be at the kids’ eye level.
Does what the kids first see invite them in and tell them that the room is fun?
I want to challenge you to do the same from a volunteer’s perspective.
If we want to encourage older or differently mobile volunteers to join our ministry, we need them to be able to picture themselves in our classrooms.
How does your classroom environment look?
Here are 6 questions you can ask to help your older leaders participate in serving kids.
1. Does the furniture only fit little ones?
I was walking down the hallway talking with a potential volunteer that had served when her children were young and wanted to re-engage.
But as she looked in the preschool room, she said she didn’t think she could serve again.
She couldn’t stand for a long period, couldn’t sit in the chairs geared for preschoolers, and floor sitting wasn’t an option.
“That’s for the young,” she commented.
The solution was to bring in a comfy armchair that she used for storytime, and the kids loved sitting around her as she taught the lesson.
We found an adult-size chair that was the same color as the small chairs so she could join the kids at the table for art or snack time.
I made sure I teamed her with someone who could sit on the floor, so the kids had someone to join them.
Can you add any pieces of furniture to a classroom for leaders with more limited mobility?
2. Is the room crowded?
Bookcases. Bins of toys. Play tool benches.
The room for preschool had way too much in it.
All of these items can be obstacles for a senior leader to get to a kid or around a room.
We streamlined the room to have only the necessary furniture.
We also noticed that the kids would bring out all the toys and scatter them all over making it hard to maneuver around the room.
So, we set up play zones.
These were areas where kids knew they could bring out and scatter the toys but gave them some boundaries.
Parents loved it as they noticed the kids weren’t scattering their toys at home.
We also brought out theme toys to be used in the classroom that day.
When something arrived to be used it became new again, and we had fewer toys.
What items can you remove to make the room more maneuverable? What zones can you create to keep toys together?
3. Are adults included in the mix or on the sidelines?
I have noticed that we often put our adult chairs along the perimeter of the classroom.
Make sure adult chairs are part of your classroom.
Your volunteers will sit where the chairs that fit them are.
We want our volunteers to feel they are a part of the group and be able to engage with the kids, so arrange the furniture accordingly.
Can you place a few more adult-sized chairs or stools in the classrooms where they are serving kids?
4. Do they see themselves in your classrooms?
We all love to have pictures of the kids in action in our classrooms and hallways.
Make sure to also have pictures of your volunteers in action showing a wide range of ages of volunteers.
It’s a great place to walk with a potential volunteer and discuss being part of your team.
Don’t forget a picture of a grandmother doing storytime with those kids at her feet.
When we see ourselves in pictures, we’re more likely to think that we can do what we see.
And this is the same for the grandmas and grandpas of your congregation.
What visuals can you add to your ministry representing older volunteers?
5. How many steps are there to the restroom?
Classroom location can be important for our seniors.
A fellow children’s ministry director shared with me that she was talking to her team about moving classrooms around.
When one of her volunteers told her that she would no longer be able to serve, she followed up with a private conversation.
She learned that her volunteer needed to be close to an adult restroom.
We don’t always think of these things as a hindrance for a leader, but they matter.
What limitations can you remove by having a conversation?
6. What sidekick can you pair up with your senior volunteer?
You may get to a point in your ministry where you’ve got some strong talent in the wings.
No matter the age of the leader, a good leader can support or lead in a classroom.
A few weeks ago, I watched as a veteran 70-year-old volunteer was paired up with two competent middle school classroom assistants.
The senior leader took the lead, while the younger leaders assisted with classroom management, played on the floor with the kids, and quickly helped to transition from circle time to table time.
They made a great team – and everyone had a great experience.
Make sure you pair up effective, supportive volunteers with your senior volunteers.
This can alleviate the overwhelm of a busy classroom and help seniors to have a very positive experience with kids.
What leader can you pair up with your older leader for a great leadership combo?
It’s your turn!
These are just a few ideas.
Chances are, there are seniors in your church that would love to serve kids in your ministry, but they are worried they aren’t up for the task.
What can control in the environment to help older leaders serve kids without barriers?
Grab your team and see what changes you need to make so someone older, yet new, can see themselves serving kids in your ministry.
You might be surprised who joins your ministry team this next recruitment push.
Jill Vogel is a 20-year veteran in Children’s ministry, who knew she would serve in ministry from an early age. She loves watching things grow, whether in her garden or a child’s faith. An avid learner, she is constantly taking classes, listening to podcasts, or reading. As a new grandparent, she’s helping other grandparents realize the spiritual influence they have on the kids they love. She has been married to the love of her life, Kent, for almost 40 years. They enjoy listening to music, holding hands, and watching the sunset wherever they are.