We have all had those moments when we think we have everything ready for an upcoming service when all of the sudden it seems the plague has hit the children's department and all of your volunteers call in sick at the last minute. Ok, it probably wasn't all of them, but it sure seemed like it at the time. Those times can be incredibly stressful, but hopefully you will find the following tips helpful to make those services a bit less problematic.
First: Always have a back up plan
Have an idea of what you will do in the instances that someone calls in sick. For example, if my Preschool teacher calls in sick, I know that I will simply bring the preschool in to my regular children's church service. I may need to add an extra activity or modify a game so they can play, but it is a workable fix in a pinch. The Sunday School teachers know that if a teacher doesn't show up, they may have kids who are a grade older or younger than their normal classes for that one Sunday. It's not a perfect plan, but it works when unforeseen incidents occur. Plan for your own department, what is your "Plan B" for when a volunteer is sick.
Second: Have a back up lesson ready for each area
There are lots of "one time" lessons that fit in any time of the year. Pick one you like and put it together as if someone other than you were going to lead it. Make sure that it has any craft supplies, copies, or object lesson items with it. Then set it aside in a folder or a box (depending on how much stuff is needed for the lesson) that can be easily pulled out if you wake up some Sunday and you are the one who is ill. It doesn't have to be fancy, but it should be complete. Then you can call up one of your volunteers and say, "Fran, I'm horribly ill this morning. Would you and Nancy fill in for me? The lesson is all ready and in the box labeled IF PASTOR IS ILL next to the filing cabinet in my office. Everything you need is in the box. Thank you so much." If you have volunteers who lead concurrent services with yours (preschool, preteen, etc), ask them to put together a similar box for their own services that can be pulled out if they are ill or called away for some other emergency.
Third: Have a list of substitutes you can call
Not everyone is willing to be a consistent volunteer in the children's department, but there are probably a few people in your church who help with special events and would be willing to substitute in emergencies. In my church, all volunteers need to have background checks and go through a child abuse prevention training course. Because that is the case, we can not just ask anyone to fill in. So, having a list of names who have been through the training and are already background checked is a huge blessing. Many of those who have taken the training to be a part of a special event (like Vacation Bible School or Camp) are also very willing to step in if I need them in a pinch.
It's never easy when we get those last minute calls telling us that someone will be gone, but with a little preparation, those calls don't have to be quite as scary to deal with.
Until next week!