As church leaders, one of our primary roles is to “equip volunteers to do the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). In fact, I would argue that this is our job description! To do this, however, it’s important that we understand some key elements of the training & equipping process. Here are a few that come to mind:
7 Things We Need To Understand About Training Volunteers:
1. Volunteers are typically not as passionate about ministry as we are.
And that’s ok! We live and breath ministry. It’s our job that we focus on all week long. In some sense, weekend services are “game day” for us.
Not so much for our volunteers. They work just as hard, are consumed just as much and invest as passionately all week long – in something else.
So being trained for children’s ministry is secondary to them. And that’s ok.
2. Volunteers are as busy as we are.
I’ve had the “it’s all about me” syndrome when it comes to having a busy schedule, and many ministry leaders I come across seem to have the same issue. We think we’re busier than anyone else. But we’re not. We might be busy, but so is everyone else. And – after 25 years in ministry – I can easily conclude that people are more busy than ever. And that’s not just with items on their calendar, but also things that consume their brain. Social and other forms of media take a mind-boggling amount of time to keep up with, and many people are completely consumed by them, making them feel that much more “busy”.
3. Volunteers will not accept training in the same way.
Not everyone will attend your annual training event. Not everyone will read the newsletter you send out. Not everyone will “like” your Children’s Ministry Facebook page. Not everyone will want to sit down at coffee with you and their team to chat about the class.
We’re all different and accept information differently. That’s why we need to have many different avenues to deliver training.
4. Volunteers will not participate in training the same way.
Confession: when I’m in a workshop and the trainer wants my table to play a silly game…I HATE it! I’m an introvert. I’ve learned to dive in and act the part, but I dread every second and can’t wait to sit back down and start filling in the blanks again. But I know that active learning is the best way to learn for most people. So I appreciate it when a trainer offer a variety of teaching methods within the same session.
When we’re doing training, our expectations of how people respond have to be realistic. That’s yet another reason why our ministries ought to be built on relationships. When we really know people, the way they respond won’t be as much of a surprise and, in fact, we’ll understand that maybe we are getting through even though they slipped out the back for that game portion of our training class.
5.Volunteers need a reason to engage with training.
Busy people who aren’t living and breathing ministry have a lot of other options for their Saturday morning. If they give up time to come to a training event and aren’t engaged . . . well, good luck getting them to come to another one. Even though I don’t like the interactive learning part as much as others might, I know it’s important and I dislike even more someone who is up there droning on in a boring and unengaging manner. We’ve got to find what works with our team when it comes to engaging them appropriately with the content we need them to learn.
6. Volunteers like food and free stuff.
I hesitated to add this to the list because, well, it kind of makes our volunteers seem shallow – but it’s true! Just like you and me, volunteers like to be fed and they like to be given stuff. The conclusion I’ve come to, however, is that it’s not really about the food. And it’s not really about the free stuff. It’s about our efforts to offer them something they enjoy and like. Plain and simple, people like to be pampered and appreciate it when someone in our role does that for them.
7. Volunteers want to be trained.
In spite of all the challenges to actually getting them trained, I’ve learned that the vast majority actually do want to be trained! No one wants to fail, and if they are giving their time and effort to ministry, they do want to do it right – and they need to be trained in order for that to happen. If this is true, then make your training:
- Easy to access (offer it through multiple avenues)
- To the point – no single training should take long to complete
- Immediately applicable (go light on theory and heavy on practical application)
- Engaging – enjoyable to participate in
- Beneficial – feed them, give them gifts and offer practical tools to use this week in their ministry