Sunday Morning Strategies: Train Volunteers

train your volunteersWelcome back to our series of “Sunday Morning Strategies” for accommodating children of divorce, children from single parent homes and children from other modern family types in your Sunday morning children’s ministry. In today’s installment, we’re going to talk about the absolute necessity of training your volunteers so they will be prepared to deal with these kids.

As those who work with kids on a regular basis, we need to be in a position to react to, and deal with, those circumstances that are likely to occur in the lives of some of the kids in your ministry. As I thought back on some of my most uncomfortable moments I’ve experienced personally in children’s ministry, I realized that they were uncomfortable primarily because I was unprepared for the situations to come up. Given the circumstances involved (one was a child who had a grandparent die, and the other was when a child told me they had spent the day before helping Dad to move out of the house), I should have been better prepared. Since then, the same or similar circumstances have presented themselves multiple times. The only difference was that I was better prepared for the conversation. They are never easy conversations, but they can be made less uncomfortable with adequate training.

As leaders in children’s ministry, it is our responsibility to make sure that our volunteers are not caught off guard by these conversations and that they are equipped to speak into these kids lives no matter what circumstances they may find themselves in. Particularly in a large group/small group format where the small group leaders consistently speaks into the lives of the kids in their group, they need to understand and appreciate what the child of divorce and child from a single-parent home is going through.

Here are some ideas for how to train your volunteers to help them to minister to children of divorce and children from single-parent homes:

  • Make the basics part of your initial volunteer training. Share the statistics about divorce and children’s living arrangements with your volunteers so that they will have an appreciation for how rampant the issue is. Much of that information can be found right here on Hope4HurtingKids.com.
  • Continue to train your volunteers on a regular basis (at least annually) on the impacts of divorce and separation on kids. Teach them about the emotions these kids experience and how best to deal with them.
  • Role play with your volunteers in training to discuss how they would react to children sharing news about changes in their families.
  • Provide resources like the My Feelings Workbook, Draw Your Emotions and other resources found here and on sites like IAmAChildofDivorce.com that your leaders can utilize or provide to parents in ministering to these kids.
  • Teach your leaders techniques like the GAP Method for dealing with fear, the RACE against anger or breathing techniques for dealing with stress. You never know when these techniques might be helpful in dealing with kids from divorced or single-parent homes.
  • Teach your volunteers about the difference between empathy and sympathy and teach them how to empathize with children of divorce and the situation they find themselves in.
  • Remind volunteers about the importance of using inclusive language and not making children from single-parent homes feel left out by using ordinary phrases like “check with your mom and dad.”
  • Educate your volunteers on how children of divorce may react differently to common biblical stories like the prodigal son or the time Jesus was left at the temple.
  • Encourage your volunteers to volunteer for a divorce recovery group like Divorce Care 4 Kids or the Big D.
  • Remind your volunteers that in dealing with difficult children in your ministry, there may be something more underlying the behavior.
  • If possible, send your volunteers to a children’s ministry conference and encourage them to sit in on a workshop on ministering to children of divorce.

This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on Divorce Ministry 4 Kids on May 15, 2013.

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Written by Wayne Stocks

Wayne is the founder and executive director of Hope 4 Hurting Kids. He is a happily married father of four kids with a passion for helping young people who are going through rough times. In addition to Hope 4 Hurting Kids, Wayne previously started I Am A Child of Divorce and Divorce Ministry 4 Kids to help kids who are dealing with the disruption of their parents’ relationship. These are now part of Hope 4 Hurting Kids. Wayne speaks frequently at conferences and churches on issues related to helping kids learn to deal with difficult emotions and life in modern families.

Wayne lives with his wife, three youngest kids, three dogs and an insane collection of his kids’ other pets outside of Columbus, Ohio. In addition to his work with Hope 4 Hurting Kids, Wayne is a partner in a local consulting firm, an avid reader, coaches his son’s soccer team and is a proud supporter of Leicester City Football Club (and yes, for those in know, his affinity for the club does predate the 2016 championship).

You can reach Wayne at wayne@hope4hurtingkids.com.