Effective volunteer training will PIE your volunteers in the face. And I’m not talking about a whipped cream pie (although that could be fun). Effective volunteer training will prepare them, inspire them, and equip them to serve to the best of their ability based on their God-given talents and gifts. No matter what type of training you’re doing, you can incorporate these three ingredients to make your training more effective.
Your volunteer training should prepare your volunteers to lead. That means sharing the nuts and bolts of the ministry, the safety policies, the expectations of a good volunteer, etc. What do volunteers need to know to serve and lead well? This element of training can be long and tedious, but I make it bite-sized and easier to digest by making a “top 10″ list of the main expectations I want my volunteers to know or by creating and distributing job descriptions for each role. (Free download of this top 10 list coming next week!)
I compile this top 10 list and the job descriptions in a volunteer handbook like this one. Other information I put in the volunteer handbook includes the ministry mission statement, specific information on each age group or class, and detailed safety policies and procedures. This volunteer handbook is printed and handed out at each annual training, gets emailed to each volunteer after training, and lives online permanently on the church’s website and in a Volunteer Facebook Group. The handbook is updated each year and even includes volunteer contact information and serving teams so volunteers can find subs for themselves on weeks they are unable to serve.
Whether you create a volunteer handbook or use another form of communication, preparing volunteers gives them the details of what to expect from you and what’s expected of them when they serve in your ministry. Effective volunteer training will include this aspect of training and help your volunteers feel confident and comfortable as they step into their roles as leaders.
In addition to giving them the general details of the ministry, you have to communicate to volunteers the why behind their service. Though second on the list, this aspect of volunteer training is probably the most important. This piece of the pie is what will motivate your volunteers to come back week after week and will help prevent volunteer burnout. Make it known how important their roles as children’s ministry leaders are. Inspire their hearts and ignite a passion for serving children. Tap into the emotional side of serving and share the wins from your ministry in the last year. Show your appreciation for them often.
Share information about the 4/14 Window. Compassion International has an excellent “Introduction to the 4/14 Window” video that I’ve used in some of my training events in the past. Talk about some of the statistics from the Barna Group about how children are susceptible to the truth of the gospel: By the time a child is nine years old, their basic moral foundation has solidified. By age thirteen (by the time they graduate from the children’s ministry), they have formed their basic beliefs about God, the reliability of the Bible, the existence of an afterlife, and who Jesus is. Your volunteers influence a child’s foundational faith beliefs, and they should understand the gravity and honor of their position.
Then take it beyond statistics and make it personal for your team. Share pictures from past events while you are talking about these statistics to help volunteers put a face to a number. Share stories or specific examples of how God moved in the lives of the children in your ministry over the past year and remind volunteers that they play a part in a child’s story of faith. Record a video of a child sharing their testimony or ask a child to speak at your training and share their faith in person.
Whether they’re rocking a baby and telling them about Jesus, leading the kids through a Bible game, or helping a preteen answer a tough question about God, your volunteers are making an impact on a child’s life that will have life-long and eternal effects. Your volunteers have a personal impact on a child and a global effect on the future. In children’s ministry, we have the opportunity to engage kids’ hearts and expose them to the gospel when they are most open to it. The time and effort volunteers give on a Sunday morning or a Wednesday night helps to change kids’ lives and soften their hearts toward God. And volunteers need to be reminded of this. Often.
Inspire your volunteers with the importance of their role and remind them consistently of their purpose, both at annual trainings and throughout the year. Highlighting why they serve not only increases volunteer retention but heightens volunteer passion and effectiveness too.
While preparing volunteers covers more general ministry information, equipping them becomes more personal to each unique volunteer. This aspect of training digs deeper into the specifics of their individual role and provides them with the tools they need to accomplish a particular ministry function or task. That means training them on the specific curriculum they will use, providing child development information for the age group they will serve, and going over any tools or policies they need (like diaper changing procedures or how to use the projector in their classroom). Your greeter team will require different training than your nursery team, who will need different training from your preteen team. Equipping may look like separate emails for each team or special time(s) during annual training where the teams meet individually. Providing targeted training for different ministry areas sets up your volunteers for success when they serve.
Equipping volunteers not only relates to their specific roles within the ministry but also addresses the individual gifts of each unique volunteer. Are your volunteers serving in a position where their gifts will thrive or are they just filling a hole? To help our volunteers serve to the best of their abilities, we have to know them. We have to recognize their personal strengths and passions. For those of you with teams of 100+ volunteers, that can seem daunting, but I encourage you to tap into your key leaders as relationship-builders too. Every volunteer should feel known by a key leader in your ministry, whether that is you or someone else, so you can equip them according to their unique gifts. Equipping volunteers provides the information, tools, and specific coaching they need to be successful in your ministry.
Effective volunteer training should prepare your volunteers with the basics, inspire them with the importance of their role, and equip them to be rockstar leaders in their unique position.
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.