Helping Hands


Whatever you do, do it from the heart for the Lord  – Colossians 3:23

Anyone in ministry with children knows there is always a lot to do and many needs! To help get the whole congregation involved, I developed a “Helping Hands” area on my central bulletin board. It covers three major needs: preparation, special materials, and volunteers.

To brand the area, I created a logo using the same colors and Original Surfer font used in the logo for Epworth United Methodist Church Family Ministries (did I mentioned I started a new position this summer?!). In the center of the Helping Hands area is a brief and easy to follow explanation to help adults choose a way to serve: help at home, help by giving, and onsite help.

In my experience, people want to help in ministry with children, but don’t necessarily have the time or ability to help directly with programs. Thankfully, helping with preparation can be done by just about anyone and happen anywhere, which inspired “Help from Home.” Instead of signing up for some nebulous project, I print direction cards onto 4×6 blank index cards so volunteers know exactly what to expect from the project. Each card is labeled with a specific work bag, which are conveniently located for pickup. Inside the work bag (I use heavy duty storage bags 3/$1 from the dollar tree, which are a sturdy plastic with a ziplock close and handles and have held up wonderfully through multiple uses) are all the materials needed to complete the prep project. And, I do mean, ALL the materials right down to scissors or pencils, or whatever else is needed. I also include a sample inside the work bag to accompany the step by step directions.

For special materials (you know, all those things not covered in the budget!), I created “Help by Giving.” By using a circle shape, these tags stand out from the others. After printing onto card stock, I use my 2.5″ circle paper punch (probably one of the best investments I ever made!) to make quick work of the cutting. On each tag I include the item and quantity needed. If the item is specific to an online retailer, like Oriental Trading or Amazon, then I include the product number and retailer as well. In my experience, church members love to donate items to help supplement and support programs. Another tip to encourage donations is to display the price range so folks know what to expect – I rarely ask for anything over $10 and usually the items are closer to $5.

And of course, the need for adult volunteers. There are so many ways to get volunteers signed up and organized. I love using Signup Genius but I’ve found that some congregations, especially those still developing digital communications, need paper and pen. To meet this need, I use a spreadsheet titled “Onsite Help.” I try to give the most needed information (role, time commitment, and a brief description) and request back the information I need (name and email — I really prefer email to phone numbers for ease of sending one blanket message to every volunteer). I attach the spreadsheet to a clipboard, which hangs on the bulletin board via a small binder ring on a large push pin.

That is my “Helping Hands” system! I hope it inspires you to think of a way to get others involved in ministry with children and families and keep everything running smoothly.



Advent 1A

Day: Advent 1

Lectionary Passage: Matthew 24:36-44

Scripture Focus: Matthew 24:42-44

Object: A  long “to-do list” and a marker

Preparation: Tape together several sheets of paper so that you make one very long “to-do list.” Then, roll the paper up so that you can dramatically unroll it during the sermon.

Wow, there is a lot to get done before Christmas! Look at all this stuff that I have to do… (unroll the list) put up the Christmas tree, hang lights outside, bake cookies, send cards, go caroling…. it goes on forever and ever. But, what’s this? Here at the very bottom of my list… it says: “Prepare for the Birth of Jesus.”

That’s exactly what our Bible passage for today says, too. It tells us that we have to prepare for Jesus’ coming so that we don’t miss it. All of us have got to get ready for Jesus’ birth! I bet we can do that by coming to worship every week even though this is a very busy time of year. And, I think we can prepare at home by reading or listening to Bible stories about Jesus and praying. If we do those things, I know we’ll be prepared for Jesus’ birth.

But, I want to do one more thing… (get your marker ready). I want to move this item from the bottom of my list to the very top because it is the most important thing I’ll do this Christmas. (Rewrite “Prepare for the Birth of Jesus” at the top of the list) There, now my “to-do list” is in order and I can get started on the right foot.

Let’s pray: God, help us to remember that the most important thing we will do all Christmas is to prepare for the birth of your Son. Help us to not get caught up in other things, but to make preparing for Jesus Christ our number one item!