“What tips do you have for planning the new club year?” That’s the question we posed to three Pioneer Clubs coordinators recently, in hopes their thoughts could benefit you as you move into fall. Check out these suggestions from Lera Hesselbirg, director of children’s ministry, First Alliance Church, Franklin, NC; Jill Phillips, club coordinator, Covenant Love Family Church, Fayettesville, NC; and Betsy Elam, director of children’s ministries, First Presbyterian Church, Prattville, AL.


Recruiting

  • We’re an all-boys club so we have all men leaders. The men are usually timid about being leaders. I start by bringing them in for an activity, like woodworking or safety. That way they only have to come in twice a year and they get their feet wet. Then I ask them about being leaders. Once they get over their timidness, they find the kids are a blessing to them. —Jill
  • I’m passionate about Pioneer Clubs, and when people feel that, they get excited to be a part of it. —Betsy

Training

  • We have a 1½-2 hour workshop for training before the club year begins. We start with dinner—if you feed them, they will come! While they finish eating, I start talking. We cover: club-year calendar, order of units we’ll use, how a club meeting works, what’s expected of leaders and assistant leaders, club discipline and how to lead a child to Christ. Then we have a question-and-answer time. —Lera
  • This is the easiest program I’ve ever done. I tell my club leaders to take the books and start at the beginning! I teach them that they can spend a few hours once a month planning four weeks of meetings at a time. “Write in the books!” I say. Take notes so you know just what you’re going to do. A yellow highlighter means one thing and a blue highlighter means something else. “Don’t save your book for next year,” I say. “We’ll buy new ones.” —Betsy
  • Before club starts, we have a 4-hour training time. The pastor starts it off with training for all the church volunteers together. Then we break for lunch in our own groups and go over the child abuse policy. Next, club leaders break up into their club groups and plan the first three units they’ll use. I also take time to sit down with them personally and explain how the books work. —Jill

Supporting Leaders

  • Each club leader gets a Rubbermaid tub of basic materials that will be called for over and over in the curriculum: scissors, construction paper, glue sticks, yarn, hole punch and so on. Leaders keep their leader book and kids handbook in there and carry the tub between home and club. That way they always have supplies at hand if they’re preparing for an activity so they don’t have to go shopping. They love that—they feel like you’re thinking of them. —Lera
  • We send teaching tips to leaders all through the year. We email them or we leave them by the club room doors. —Lera
  • At least every other unit, we leave leaders a treat, like a candy bar, with a little note copied out of the book Treat ’Em Right. (Coordinators could make their own notes, too.) It means a ton. “Hey, they thought about me this week!” —Lera

Kickoff Ideas

  • We have a big night and tons of fun. We invite everyone in the church and have pony rides, a bouncy house and cookout. It’s a good way to bring in people from the community. We have flyers and club books out for people to look over. Beforehand we send home flyers with church people and encourage them to bring a friend. In front of the church we post a club sign with red and blue balloons for the first month before club to remind people it’s starting. —Betsy
  • We’re going to have the club age-groups rotate to different classrooms for our kickoff meeting. They’ll all start in their own club room and get acquainted with their leaders and their handbook. Parents come, too, and fill out a volunteer form: “Are you willing to volunteer? What skills do you have?” In the next classroom we’ll do a relay race to familiarize kids with the club uniform. In the next classroom, they’ll learn the Pioneer Clubs facts listed in the handbook, like the club colors and the club song. Next is a snack room. Then it’s back to their club rooms to make a bookmark that they’ll use to mark their handbooks. —Jill

Discipline

  • Each club has a set of rules—the fewer, the better. We send a parent letter home at the beginning of club explaining the rules and consequences. If a discipline situation is too much for a leader to handle, the first step is that the child gets to “walk with the coordinators.” My assistant and I walk around to all the club rooms during club time helping out and getting supplies. This is boring for the child! The next step is that the child needs to take a week off club. Fortunately we haven’t had to use that for several years. —Lera