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?
You want your volunteer training to do three things: train your volunteers in the basics, inspire them with the importance of their role, and equip them to be rockstar leaders. To accomplish these three goals and host an all-star volunteer training, use these 8 tips…
- Don’t call it a “meeting.” You probably aren’t super excited about attending meetings, and your volunteers aren’t either. Whether you call it a training session, a convention, a conference, a summit, a rally, or even a gathering, what you call your training event will subliminally influence a volunteer’s attitude about attending. (This idea applies to kids and families too.)
- Give it a theme! You’re in children’s ministry, so this is right in your wheelhouse. Just like you would for a game night, a holiday event, or VBS, give your volunteer training a theme (think baseball, jungle-themed, underwater, Western, etc). Then carry that theme throughout the entire training – in the words you say, the graphics you use, the ideas you share, and the food you serve.
- Speaking of food… serve food at your volunteer training, even if it’s just a Brownie Bite. It’s a great way to show appreciation for your volunteers from the very beginning. If you feed them, they will come.
- Make training mandatory. Communicate up front that attending training is required for all volunteers (new and old) who want to serve in your ministry. “Mandatory” may seem intense, but the roles your volunteers play are too significant to just hope they read all your emails on their own. People attend training for their jobs, their sports teams, and other leadership roles, so why should children’s ministry be any different? If anyone does have to miss because of a last-minute issue or a simple mistake (life happens), schedule a time to meet with them separately and go over the details with them one-on-one.
- If you expect everyone to be there, you have to give them plenty of notice. I tried to release our volunteer training dates 3 months before the event, even if I knew nothing else about it yet. When people have enough notice, there’s less chance they’ll have to miss it.
- Make it as easy as possible to attend. Pick dates and times when volunteers are already at the church (we had ours right before Sunday service for this reason). Provide childcare for the event by recruiting a few youth to attend both sessions – once as a trainee and once as a babysitter. Do everything you can to eliminate any excuses a volunteer may have for missing training.
- Offer two identical training dates and let volunteers choose one to attend. If they can’t make the first option, chances are they can attend the second. You have to host the event twice, but this helps ensure all of your volunteers receive the training they need. I noticed that attendance was about 50/50 between each option, and I liked having the smaller group so they could ask questions if necessary.
- Make it fun! Along with theming the event, provide opportunities for fun and prizes too! Give out raffle prizes and incorporate some surprises. This will help keep the volunteers on their toes and fight off the boredom after you’ve had to talk about Planning Center Online for 10 minutes. When volunteers enjoy training, they actually want to attend and pay attention.
Using these tips, I nearly doubled my 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 training prepared her better as a volunteer than her teacher orientation did for her job at a local high school. Talk about a compliment!