How to Tell Someone They Can't Serve in Your Children's Ministry

This past weekend I sat down with someone who wanted to serve in our children's ministry.

I knew going into the conversation that he would not be able to serve at this time.  His heart was in the right place...but his background check wasn't.

This is an example of something you will face if you have an on-boarding process for volunteers.  If you don't have a process in place, please, please, please do so for the safety of the kids in your ministry.  You can see our process at this link.

So when the background check or another part of the process produces a red flag, how do you lead this difficult conversation?

Affirm the person as a part of your church family.
Start off by sharing with them how much you love them and that you are thankful they are part of your church family.  Share with them how much you appreciate them wanting to serve.

Explain that a red flag popped up while taking them through the process.  Share with them what it was.  (examples...a drug use conviction a year ago, reference call information, application answers, etc.)

Ask them to share about the "red flag."  
It's important to allow them to explain what happened.  This is not so they can talk you into letting them serve, but to hear their heart and journey so you can help them move forward.

Explain the "why" of the process. 
Share that it's nothing personal against them, but rather a system you have in place to ensure the safety and security of the children.  Share that you go the second mile to accomplish this hence you have very high standards in place.

Be a pastor.
More than likely they are going to feel either angry, hurt, sad, or guilty.  They may even question if you want them to be part of the church family.

This is such a key time in the conversation.  Again, affirm how much you love them.  Share with them how thankful you are that they are part of the church family. 

Provide them with next steps.
Don't leave them hanging.  This is one of the most critical times of the conversation.  God is giving you the opportunity to help this person grow in their relationship with Him.

Give them next steps they can take to continue to grow spiritually.  Perhaps it's a class or program they can be part of.  Perhaps it's another ministry in the church they can serve in that doesn't require high serving standards.

Follow up and help them get connected.

Let them know "no" now doesn't mean "no" indefinitely. 
Share with them that when the red flag is removed you'd like to have them as part of the team one day. (example - if you have a 2 year wait process for someone who had a drug conviction)

The exception to this would be someone who has abused a child.  That would be a permament red flag to serve in children's ministry for us.

Final thoughts...
As I walked through this process with the person this past weekend, there were tears in his eyes.  He went down a rough path with some addictions but is now headed in the right direction.  I was able to connect him with the recovery ministry in our church where he can be surrounded by people who will help him grow and provide him with a place to serve.

And one day...a few years down the road...I look forward to seeing him spiritually healthy and serving in our children's ministry.