This post was written by Melissa Hendrickson, a member of the INCM Blog Team.
When volunteers serve in children’s ministry they grow in a variety of ways.
Sometimes their lives can be transformed by serving kids.
A New Volunteer
A while back I had a college student show up at my classroom door after church one week. She asked if we could talk and let me know she was interested in helping with the kids. She told me that she didn’t think she’d be that good at it and was pretty nervous about it, but she thought it might be an area where she could help out.
I didn’t know her very well. We had only met in passing. But we talked for a bit and over the next several weeks I prepared her to begin volunteering the following month.
In the Classroom
On the first day that she was scheduled to serve she arrived with a coffee in one hand and her lesson plan in the other. I could tell she was nervous, but she had a smile on her face and was ready to give it a shot.
I introduced her to the children that were there, and they sat down to play a game together. She listened to them talk about their week and she asked questions about their life. They liked her instantly.
Each month when she would show up to serve, she was a little more relaxed. She was building relationships with the children and they looked forward to seeing her. They gave her nicknames, had dance parties, and respected her leadership.
As she grew more confident, I began to give her more responsibility. She started preparing and leading parts of the lesson, and she was great at it.
After several months I felt confident she was ready to be the primary teacher with a team of her own. I asked her what she thought about this idea, but she was hesitant. She felt unsure about how to handle the classroom management piece of the equation.
So we set a plan in place to work on that skill.
Outside of the Classroom
She and I began meeting regularly for coffee. I got to hear about her story and began to understand the background she had come from.
Her experience in her church and in her school involved a lot of shouting. When people were in trouble their teachers screamed at them.
So when she was serving in our community she kept waiting for the screaming. A child would act out in some way and she would cringe a little, expecting a harsh correction.
And yet, that never came.
An Investment of Time
It took several years for her to move beyond what she had known to be true growing up, and replace it with a different model.
She began to have confidence when she would offer correction, knowing that her words offered hope and not harm.
Knowledge is Power
During the years she served, she was working on her undergraduate degree and eventually her graduate degree.
She was studying to become a counselor.
She began to see the correlation between what she was studying and how she was showing up in the classroom. Over time her compassion grew, and when she looked back at her first days in the classroom she would smile, recognizing what had once been terrifying was now life-giving.
All of our volunteers show up for different reasons, and each of them brings to the table stories from before we ever met them.
Investing in these volunteers takes time, and there really isn’t any guarantee about what the results will be from one person to the next.
But, when we have the privilege of watching a volunteer transform before our eyes – into a strong, confident, and compassionate leader – it is a beautiful reminder that God is at work behind the scenes, and we have been invited to see what he will do in peoples’ lives.
Melissa Hendrickson has served children and their families for the past 26 years. She recently founded holyformed.org and is writing and teaching on Spiritual Formation. Melissa has been married for 21 years and has two sons. The oldest is in college, and the youngest is in high school. Melissa loves to read a good book, enjoys a nice cup of Rooibos tea, and always looks forward to traveling with her family.