Have you ever gotten a panic stricken call on Saturday evening asking if you would substitute for a volunteer who had become ill at the last minute? Or perhaps someone grabbed you as you walked in the door to church and asked you to substitute for a teacher that had car trouble?
You may have been handed a teacher’s manual or a tv was brought into the room with whatever old videos your church still owns. You and the children survived and you may have even managed to teach them a bit of Bible. Or perhaps you and the students all left the room frazzled with nothing being accomplished much at all. Either way, was it the very best use of the time we have to minister to the children we serve?
And let’s not forget about the poor person tasked with finding a replacement at the last minute for a volunteer. Chances are great that he or she spent quite a bit of time on the telephone, emailing or pulling people aside before someone agreed to help. Often the person who finally agrees has not been screened and has had no training and experience other than being alive and present at the needed time.
There’s a much better way to handle these substitute needs. Why not create a substitute team and schedule the members for specific weeks? The great thing about a substitute team is that because a volunteer is usually only on call once or twice every few months, your professional teachers are much more likely to agree to participate. Many of them don’t volunteer on a regular basis because their weekly classroom is their ministry and they like having a full break on the weekends.
Knowing that most times they won’t be called at all and will at most teach a couple of times a year, will encourage these reluctant volunteers to participate. They are especially prepared to go in at the last minute and teach a quality lesson with very little preparation.
To make life even easier for everyone, have an assigned substitute lesson for each week. Whether it’s on a website or on the schedule itself, substitutes can make at least minimal preparation for their assigned weeks in case they are called to step in to a class and teach. Depending on their experience, you may want to provide an entire lesson for them to use that includes activity ideas, questions and more. Instead of handing it to them as they walk into the class to substitute, they will have the lesson three months in advance in case they need to use it.
Having a substitute teacher team with a schedule and preassigned lessons sounds like such a simple thing. It feels as if it wouldn’t really make that much difference. Trust me though, it does. People are even more likely to volunteer to teach for the longer stints knowing they won’t be forced to find their own substitutes if they have to go out of town or are sick. Substitutes are prepared and ready to serve if needed. Ministry leaders aren’t running around frazzled at the last minute trying to find needed help.
Ministry leaders will have to do some extra work in the beginning to find their initial volunteer substitutes, but after that it’s merely a scheduling task. Try developing your own substitute team and see what happens. You might just find it solves a lot of the ministry issues you were having.