Just like pie comes in a variety of forms, so does effective volunteer training. Each method described below uses the ingredients of prepare, inspire, and equip to reach volunteers in a variety of levels, formats, and times.

Pumpkin Pie – Annual Training

Much like we typically eat pumpkin pie once a year at Thanksgiving, your annual training is the special once-a-year training for your entire volunteer team. For rookie and veteran volunteers alike, this training happens every year, typically at the start of the school year, and it is the chance to prepare, inspire, and equip your team for the year ahead. It should include an overview of the ministry, an explanation of curriculum and teaching resources, explanation of policies, procedures, and expectations, child protection policies, discipline guidelines, child development, and vision casting. This annual volunteer training is a vital part of your ministry, but it can be difficult to pull off with excellence. It’s hard to get all of your volunteers in the same room at the same time, and even if you do that, how do you make a somewhat tedious conversation more exciting and informative for your entire team? Here are 8 tips for hosting an all-star volunteer training.

By creating an annual volunteer training with these elements, I nearly doubled my annual volunteer training attendance. We went from *maybe* half of the volunteers showing up the first year (which meant A LOT of one-on-one trainings for me later) to only 4 out of 85 volunteers missing the scheduled event by the second year. I even had one volunteer say our training prepared her better as a volunteer than her teacher orientation did for her job at a local high school. Annual training helps everyone start the year on the same page, and it positions your teams for successful ministry. (Need help planning your annual volunteer training? We can help! Check out our Calling All Superheroes Training Resouce or the Put Me In Coach Training Resource for complete, 1-hour annual training sessions to host for your volunteer team.)

Apple Pie – Hands-on Training

The apple pie is a traditional classic, and hands-on training is the traditional, classic way a volunteer learns when they begin serving. This initial experiential training is for brand new volunteers, whether they start in the middle of the year or during your scheduled annual training. This training allows volunteers to apply the ideas, tools, and methods they have learned in real-life ministry situations. I like to connect a new volunteer with a key leader or seasoned veteran and encourage them to shadow another volunteer before taking on responsibilities of their own. Hands-on training and shadowing help new volunteers get a taste for their role in action and helps make sure no one bites off more than they can chew.

Key Lime Pie – Ongoing Training

Key lime pie offers a fresh, citrusy flavor with each bite, much like ongoing training helps your volunteers stay fresh while serving in your ministry. Provide ongoing training for your volunteer team through monthly or weekly meetings at the beginning of their scheduled time to serve. Use these meetings to pray for the morning, celebrate volunteers of the month, and make any last-minute announcements or changes to the morning. You can also provide ongoing training by sharing blog posts, articles, or podcasts in a Volunteer Facebook Group or on the church’s website (more on digital training next). This may also look like thank-you notes, coffee dates, or quarterly appreciation gifts. Most ongoing training is short and sweet, giving volunteers little reminders throughout the year of their initial or annual training.

Cherry Turnover – Digital Training

The cherry turnover is like pie on-the-go, and you can often just eat it with your hands. Similarly, digital training provides training for volunteers at their fingertips no matter where they are. Whether you use texts, emails, vlogs, blog posts, or social media, take advantage of our digital world to connect with your volunteers. One of the ways I connected digitally with my volunteers (especially since we were a mobile church and had no permanent space) was through a Volunteer Facebook Group. The Volunteer Facebook Group was a secret group, meaning volunteers could request permission to join, but only I (the Children’s Ministry Director) could approve their request. All posts in this group were private and only seen by members of the group. Volunteers could request to join the Facebook Group after training. We used this secret group to ask for subs/switching weeks of service, share news or funny stories from time with our kids, make announcements about upcoming events, celebrate our volunteers of the month, and have fun together (the meme game was strong). Tapping into digital resources allows you to train your volunteers even when you’re not with them in person, showing your respect for their busy schedules and lives outside of your ministry.

You wouldn’t want to eat only pumpkin pie for the rest of your life, and your volunteers need more than just their annual training. Incorporating hands-on training, ongoing training, and digital training allows you to prepare, inspire, and equip your teams all year long. So grab your mixer, roll out your dough, and PIE your volunteers in the face with effective training that leads to effective ministry.


This post is an excerpt from my chapter in the latest KidMin Nation book – Rock Stars: Inspiring a Team of Unstoppable Volunteers. Order your own copy of the book here.

This post is part of our Admin April: Volunteers series, a month full of resources, strategies, and tips for leading your volunteer team well. See the full month’s offerings and ideas here.

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