Recruiting Volunteers & Buddies
Question: “How do you find a buddy for a special needs participant? Should we request volunteers and buddies in the Sunday bulletin or should we approach them personally?”
Absolutely use the Sunday bulletin or weekly newsletter to recruit special needs focused volunteers! You might consider running a blurb as follows:
The children’s ministry is recruiting buddies to shadow individuals who need an extra hand participating in their age appropriate activities. Volunteers may serve weekly or on a rotating basis. Interested adults and teens should contact ___________ for more information.
Churches may use teens as buddies and that is a topic we will address further in a forthcoming post. If the child needs a helper for successful inclusion in the large group (typical environments), then using a younger teen may be appropriate as adult supervision is always nearby. If the child requires intense one-on-one attention and often outside the larger group, consider using only adults or especially responsible older teens. Be sure to create a system that works within the confines of your church’s safety policies (i.e. 2-person rule).
You may contact people individually to discuss becoming a buddy. This is especially wise as it relates to teens (See the article Using Teens as Special Needs Buddies). And while approaching professionals (teachers, therapists, etc) is always good, keep in mind that many of them need recharge time through the weekend in order to stay emotionally fresh for their weekday job. The good thing about running an “ad” or blurb in a church-wide publication is that you may spark the interest of someone not already involved in the children’s ministry. Very often adults who have been touched in the past by a person with disability emerge to support a church’s interest in special needs ministry.
By the way, the best book I’ve read on recruiting, training and inspiring volunteers is Jim Wideman’s book Volunteers that Stick (Group 2004). This book is a must-read for every special needs ministry champion who wants to create a volunteer-rich program!
– Amy Fenton Lee
Note: Amy’s CPC Breakout “Building the Team” (Breakout Session #1, 109) addressed special needs volunteer best practices. To order an audio of this one-hour workshop, go to http://www.incm.org/images/PDF/SanDiegocpc10orderform.pdf