Involving the WHOLE Church in Children's Ministry: The Ladder Model

As the director of Riviera Baptist Church's Children’s Ministry, I am tasked with finding volunteers that are able to help with the program. However, a common conundrum that faces leaders of small churches is having enough bodies to provide care and leadership for their Sunday School or other children’s programs.

There are several parts to the participation problem:

  • People who are willing but not able (either through old age or inexperience and training)

  • People who are able but not willing (due to other life commitments, etc.)

  • People are neither willing nor able to be a classroom or program teacher

So what, then, do we do?

In taking Administration and Church Growth from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary as taught by Dr. Joe Flegal, I was introduced to the Ladder Model, which works well to incorporate more helpers into your program as well as to train up new leaders. I will do my best to explain it here -- and show you how you can apply it to your church!

Each rung on the ladder has a name and a job description. Rungs can be climbed in either direction, or maintained. The concept is that the top of the ladder is the job with the most experience and the most responsibility; the bottommost job requires the least amount of experience and responsibility.

In the Ladder Model that Riviera uses, the director is the topmost rung. They are in charge of making decisions with programs, training and recruiting volunteers, and managing behavior and the church-provided budget for the program.

As the top rung position, the job also requires that they train and maintain the members who are working at the jobs on the lower rungs of the ladder. It is the job of the director to make sure all of those working the jobs know what is expected of them, when it is expected of them, and how they can move along the ladder if the position they are currently in is not working.

Many churches don’t have a director, but rather a coordinator, a deacon or a chairperson who is in charge of making the decisions for the Children’s and/or Sunday School department. Often, there is just one person in this position, but sometimes there may be a committee or a team. This model can still be used with this type of church leadership.

The bottommost rung at Riviera is the check-in helper. This person can be assigned to one Sunday a week. Their job is to greet and direct kids where they need to go.

The other key point to the ladder is time frame. One of the things we try to do at Riviera is to make sure that the time frame for volunteers to serve is clear. There are many people who would love to serve, but not for an extended period of time, so we try to include this in the job description.

The time frame at Riviera is no longer than a quarter and no less than 1 weekend a month. This process allows for less burnout, as well as provides an opportunity for those who are hesitant to help to try it out -- without making a long-term commitment. For example, our classroom teachers are asked for a commitment of between one month and one quarter, while our check-in volunteers are only required for one Sunday a month.

If you have any questions about our model or how to implement it in your church, you can contact Michelle Goetzinger, our Children’s Ministries Director, at

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Each week, one of the members of the RBC staff write a short blog about their area of ministry or a devotional about one of their favorite passages of Scripture. Check in with us each week to see what our church leaders have to say about their walks with the Lord! New posts appear every Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. PST. 

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