Directors have so many responsibilities for their ESL Ministry. But many times, we neglect the most important ones. It seems like your first responsibility should be to the students, but actually it isn’t. Your first responsibility is to your volunteers. Without those volunteers you would not have an ESL Ministry!! I hope that you consider yourself a team rather than a top down organization. And truly your team should become like a family within the larger church family. Here are a few suggestions/ideas:
- Get to know your team. Who is their spouse? What is their job? Is there a current crisis in their lives? It may not seem like it but truly you are a shepherd of sorts. God has given you this group of people to love and serve. Just as your teachers should be regularly praying for their students, you should be praying by name individually for all your volunteers.
- You should communicate with your team regularly. It is always good to have a quick team meeting right before your classes each week in which you pray and share important information about your ESL Ministry. In addition, a weekly e-mail filled with encouragement and maybe a story you heard from one of the teachers is great. Provide a team roster with the names and contact information for volunteers so that they can communicate with each other easier outside of the classroom.
- You should show appreciation to your team. It is your job to be at class a little early and stay a little late. Hopefully by the time your volunteers arrive you have done your portion of the set up and have time to walk around and talk to many of your volunteers as they are setting up their classrooms. Get to know them and let them get to know you. Encourage them. Let them know that you recognize that they are sacrificing their own time to lesson plan and build relationships with students. Send appreciation cards out at least once a year. Take the time to publicly show appreciation for your team at a student event (i.e. Thanksgiving Party).
P.S. A note about appreciation.
None of us should be doing this for the applause of men. We should all be doing it for the Lord. However, the Biblical example is still to appreciate and thank people for the good work that they are doing. Just read through Paul’s letters to see how he overflowed with thankfulness and gratitude for those serving in the churches.
- Have team parties. The volunteers need a time away from your ESL Classes to get to know each other and become a support to each other – not just in ideas of how to teach – but in life in general.
- Include them in decision making. Ask their opinions. Listen to their concerns. They need to know they are an important part of this ministry. They need to have “ownership” of this ministry. If they don’t have a team mindset and a sense of ownership, it is easier for them to miss classes and even quit.
- Model for them the behavior you hope to see. If you hope they will develop relationships with students outside of class, then they need to see you do that first. If you want them to open their home in hospitality to their students, then they need to see you open your home to them first. If you want them to be organized and lesson plan well, then you need to be organized in your part of the ministry.
I realize that all of this can be daunting. After all you are most likely a volunteer too. (I hope the staff of the church is showing you the appreciation that they should!) Just remember you are not doing this alone. The Holy Spirit is right there with you. And if you seek God first, then all of the above things will get done easier and quicker.