How to Host a Pizza Pit Stop
If you’re a ministry leader, there’s one thing about you that I know for sure.
You are hosting events and meetings for your volunteers.
Training events. Appreciation events. Orientation meetings. Planning meetings. And everything in between.
Here’s another thing that I know without a doubt. No matter what event you’re hosting, it falls into one of these two categories.
CATEGORY I: impersonal, talking-head, information-heavy, shut-up-and-listen, you-have-no-say-about-the-topics types of events.
CATEGORY II: interactive, energizing, everyone-gets-to-know-everyone, participant-driven, learning-with-and-from-each-other events.
Now, imagine that you are a volunteer in your ministry.
Which of these two events would you choose to go to?
The one where you’re a passive observer, or the one where you’re an active participant?
The leader-driven, data-rich event, or the participant-driven and participation-rich one?
Personally, I would choose the latter one. And I am pretty sure most of your volunteers would do the same.
In this article, I will share about a Category II event that my team and I host for our church’s children’s ministry volunteers. We call it Pizza Pit Stop.
The best way to describe this event and its function is by taking a deeper look at what a pit stop is.
In auto racing, a pit stop is when the driver pulls the car into the pit so that the pit crew can attend to it during the race. They replace tires, refuel, repair damaged wings, or make other modifications to the car to change the down-force and improve performance.
A pit stop is always a brief but extremely necessary interruption. It’s the place where race cars pause for fuel and service in the middle of an event. It’s the equivalent of a health check-up. Every driver knows those pit stops can make the difference between winning or losing.
Just like a race car needs a pit stop to keep it running smoothly, you need to perform regular checkups on your ministry health.
In children’s ministry, a pit stop is when you and your crew step back and stop working, like the driver stops driving, and assess and address any issues that need to be fixed so you can get back to work and achieve your objectives.
I am not exaggerating when I say that this event is the lifeblood of our children’s ministry.
It’s a time when KidMin staff and volunteers come together as a team to identify problems and fix them fast!
What I love about our pit stops is that they are engaging, informative, personal, and results-driven. They energize our volunteers to develop their understanding of what is required of them personally and collectively for the children’s ministry to thrive.
They provide a deeper level of learning and connections that many traditional meetings and events lack. And they result in renewed energy and commitment.
I hope that as I describe our most recent Pizza Pit Stop, it will give you a clear road map to creating meaningful and memorable pit stops in your ministry setting.
PIZZA PIT STOP FACTS
Pizza Pit Stop: what is it?
Pizza Pit Stop is a time when children’s ministry volunteers gather to accomplish two things:
Reflect and celebrate what God is doing in the lives of our children.
Evaluate and discuss how things have been so far, compare notes between the 1st and 2nd service team in each age group, and decide if anything could be improved.
Pizza Pit Stop: when is it?
We always host Pizza Pit Stop on the last Sunday in October. There are two reasons for this specific date:
Eight Sundays have passed since the beginning of the school year. This means that our volunteers have had plenty of time to figure out the process and their specific roles and get to know the children and other teammates. They also have had enough time to notice areas of concern that need to be addressed, and ways God has been working through and around them that should be celebrated.
Twenty-eight Sundays left until the end of the school year. This means that the road ahead is still long and now is the time to bring up concerns, discuss challenges, and figure out solutions to the things that haven’t worked so well. Now is the time to smooth out all the wrinkles and make sure that everyone on your volunteer team is set up for success.
Pizza Pit Stop: tell me more!
We always host Pizza Pit Stop on a Sunday. This way all our volunteers are already in the church, and they don’t need to make a special trip on a separate date to attend this event.
We always provide childcare. Many of our volunteers are parents. Instead of adding the stress of figuring out what to do with the children, we encourage them to bring their children along. We set up a separate room with lunch, board games, fun activities, and a short video. We also invite volunteers from other ministries to help us provide child care while we host our event.
We provide good food and plenty of it. Since we host Pizza Pit Stop after church, everyone is hungry. And what’s the best way to love on someone who’s hungry? Feed them, of course! We designate 30 minutes to the meal time, and it’s counted as part of the event. It’s half an hour of unstructured, informal time where people sit around the tables—sharing food, stories, and lives.
It’s 90 minutes long! It’s Sunday afternoon. Everyone has had a full morning. 90 minutes is all we need to accomplish the goals we set for this meeting.
We start and finish on time. Sticking to the schedule, honoring our word, and guarding their time is the easiest way to show respect to our volunteers.
We sit people at the tables according to the age group they serve. We have two Sunday services which means we have two separate teams working with the same age group. So, everyone who serves three-year-olds gets to sit around the same table, everyone who serves first graders gets to sit around the same table, and so on. For some of them, it’s the first time that they meet people that work with the same age group of children.
We engage the collective wisdom of those present. Everyone is sitting face-to-face and talking to each other. Pizza Pit Stop is all about peer-to-peer interaction. As a ministry leader and event host, I focus on two primary things: a) setting up a warm, welcoming environment; b) setting a general direction for the discussions that happen around the tables. I just set the stage for honest and productive conversations to take place, and then I fade into background.
THE REAL-LIFE PIZZA PIT STOP
For the most recent Pizza Pit Stop, we chose the golden buzzer theme. It’s based on a popular talent show competition America’s Got Talent. Golden Buzzer is when one of the judges sees something absolutely remarkable in the person performing on stage. So, they press the golden buzzer and catapult the performer straight into the finals.
It’s always a very powerful and emotional moment. Here’s a video clip that I used at the beginning of the Pizza Pit Stop. It was a great way to introduce the concept of a golden buzzer and set the stage for the rest of the event.
After the video, I invited one of the KidMin staff members to come to the stage and share a golden buzzer moment from her own childhood, a time when someone noticed her, and made her feel extremely special and loved.
Note: Our original plan was for all three KidMin staff members to share our golden buzzer stories. However, because it looked like we may run out of time, we decided that only one story would be shared. Caring for our volunteers’ time was more important than sticking to the plan, so two stories got cut out.
After the video and the real-life story from our Early Childhood Coordinator, I projected the first slide and asked the people to share their golden buzzer stories.
This is where the magic started to happen. People began to share their stories. Emotions were stirred. Hearts were moved.
After a few minutes of sharing, I projected the next slide.
I explained that when Jesus was on earth, He had a golden buzzer ministry.
He celebrated the ones who were despised.
He welcomed the ones who were rejected.
He saw beauty and dignity, and a bright future where others only saw ugliness, shame, and hopeless defeat.
To the leper, He gave His touch.
To the defiled tax collector, He gave His righteousness.
To the Samaritan woman, He gave living water.
To the woman caught in adultery, He gave mercy.
To the thief on the cross, He gave paradise.
Golden buzzer, after golden buzzer, after golden buzzer.
And now it’s our turn to see the children that come into our classroom through His eyes. To celebrate them. To honor, cherish, and love them. To point out the treasure God placed inside each of them.
I encouraged each table to discuss and come up with specific ways they can press a golden buzzer and celebrate their students.
A lively discussion followed, and they wrote all their answers inside the Take Away Sheet. Here’s what it looked like.
The Take Away Sheet outlines all the questions that our volunteers discussed during the event. Eight questions in total. On average, they were given 5 minutes per each question.
Each table chose a scribe who recorded all the answers.
In the last five minutes of the event, each table spent praying for their children and for God’s beautiful dreams to unfold in their lives.
We finished at 1:59 PM, one minute ahead of schedule.
Hosting a Pizza Pit Stop event is just the beginning. Now that we have gathered our volunteers’ input on critical questions, it’s time for action.
This means that my team and I will process what each team wrote in their Take Away Sheet and…
Create a collective action plan for each of the departments (early childhood, early elementary, and upper elementary). We will email it to all our volunteers as a reminder of what they came up with.
Contact a volunteer leader in each group and start identifying 2-3 action steps that their team could take right away to address some of the issues that were brought up.
This kind of follow-up communicates to our volunteers that we heard them and that we will be working together with them to make our children’s ministry the best it can be.
At this point some of you might be thinking: It sounds like you had a great event, but how many of your volunteers actually showed up to attend it?
Well, we invited 115 people, and 59 attended the event (not including the 18 children). So just a little bit more than half of everyone who was invited.
I don’t know about you, but I think this could count as success. 50% of volunteers is a critical mass that will make good things happen.
Here is how I handled communication leading up to the event.
Initial invitation 30 days before the event
Subject: Pizza Pit Stop
Hello Team KidMin!
I would like to invite you to a Pizza Pit Stop meeting on Sunday, October 27.
Place: Lower Level 110
Time: 12:30 – 2 PM
People: All shepherds (Jr. + adult) serving children ages 3 yr. old—4th grade.
Food: Pizza, drinks, and treats.
Childcare: Child supervision and activities will be provided in the LL 111 classroom across the hall.
What’s it all about? TWO THINGS!
It’s a chance for us to reflect and celebrate what God is doing in the lives of our children.
It’s also a chance to evaluate and discuss how things have been so far, compare notes between the 1st and 2nd service team in each age group, and decide if anything could be improved.
PASTOR DEMA’S GUARANTEE:
It will be fun and fast-paced.
No long speeches from the front.
A lot of interaction around the tables.
Would you please take a moment to click on the following link and fill out the RSVP form? [link taken out on purpose]
Final reminder 7 days before the event
Subject: You wouldn’t want to miss this
Because you serve in children's ministry, I would love for you to be at Pizza Pit Stop this Sunday.
This will be a time for you to sit face-to-face with other folks who serve in the same age group as you... eat pizza... tell stories... dream big dreams for our kids... and pray for them.
If you haven't done so yet, would you please click on this link and register for this event?
You're welcome to bring along your children. (Be sure to register them as well.)
We will start at 12:30 PM sharp in the Lower Level 110 and we will be done at 2 PM.
Please make every effort to be there. IT WILL BE FUN!
Looking forward to seeing you on Sunday.
Text reminder 1 day before the event
Hey KidMin friend! I am looking forward to seeing you this Sunday at Pizza Pit Stop. Lower Level 110 at 12:30 PM. It will be fun (and tasty!) Pastor Dema
INTERESTED TO HOST YOUR OWN PIZZA PIT STOP?
Download your event kit today and start planning it!
This event kit includes:
Email and text templates
Take Away Sheet template
Table assignments cards
Extra tips and ideas not included in this blog post