In children's ministry, you often hear about ratios of volunteers to kids, specifically in each room. That is important, but it's not what I'm writing about in this post. If you are interested in that, most churches use something like:
Infants – 1:2
Crawlers – 1:3
2 yr olds – 1:4
3-5yr olds – 1:6 or maybe as much as 1:8
Elementary – 1:10
Healthy Ratio of Volunteers to Kids/Students
The thoughts I want to share in this post are about something I've observed in terms of how many volunteers are needed to have a healthy ratio of volunteers to kids/students in order to lead the ministry well. This isn't about how many volunteers are specifically with kids and students each week, but rather a ratio of how many total volunteers you have to how many kids and students you have on average.
- This is largely just based on my observations, though this survey you can participate in and get the results will give you data from over 500 churches.
- Every church is different, so ratios can't easily be compared. For instance, we run one weekly environment for kids and students. We do some events for both, and trips for students, but we don't have multiple weekly environments. If you do, you would need more volunteers than we do.
- How frequent volunteers serve also matters. A huge percentage of our volunteers serve weekly, so if a church has most of it's volunteers serving bi-weekly they need twice as many. The survey linked above asks about that and factors it in to the equation.
With those in mind, here are my thoughts.
Volunteer Ratio for Kids – 1:2
I have found that a good ratio for children's ministry for us is to have at least one volunteer for every 2 kids. So, if we had 300 kids attending on average we should have 150 volunteers. Now, again, that doesn't mean 150 serving that week. Just 150 total.
We made a huge push for volunteers over the last few months and we're in the best spot we've ever been. Our ratio right now is 2:3, as in 2 volunteers to every 3 kids. Hopefully, that will not last long as we hope to reach more people from now through summer. The volunteer equation speaks to the cause/effect of that.
Volunteer Ratio for Students – 1:3
In student ministry, I have found a good minimum ratio is to have one volunteer for every 3 students. So, if we had 100 students we would want at least 33 volunteers. In our student ministry, almost every volunteer is weekly, so that ratio would be even higher if they weren't. To lead small well, that number is definitely a minimum. Right now we're actually at 1:2, but I know from working with other churches that the vast majority of student ministries run more like 1:5, one volunteer for every 5 students.
This is a great post. It helps add some clarity, always good to compare to what other churches see as volunteer trends. Thanks for gathering the information.
What’s interesting to note is that these numbers can scale quite a bit in larger churches. A fully staffed nursery/preschool may include 3-4 volunteers in each room and 1 volunteer for every 8-12 elementary kids. I’ve found that I can have 100 or more kids on a weekend and not really feel it. I can have 2 extra kids per room at our main campus (which we wouldn’t really feel) and be nearly 100 kids higher than normal (although growth is never that uniform). This is good stuff. I may have some more questions for you shortly!
I’d love to see what other churches experience too, since this is mostly based on observation. It should scale once you have some experience in it, but like you referenced, we run into problems when the growth isn’t uniform. I’m sure others experience that with multiple services that aren’t balanced like we do.