5 Essentials for Your Volunteers #4 – Provide Training!

Lynda Freeman —  February 13, 2012

Last week I said, “There certainly are a lot of things we need to give our volunteers, but for the next few weeks, I’m going to share my top five essentials for us to give our volunteers.” Then I posted about the #5 essential thing for us to give our volunteers . . . give them resources! Today I want to take a few moments to consider the #4 essential thing for us to give our volunteers, training!

I know, I can practically hear you groaning as you think about volunteer training. I understand it can be very difficult to get volunteers to show up at training opportunities, everyone is certainly busy, but training is essential if we are going to be effective in our ministry.

For thirteen years I worked for Kregel Bookstores as their church resource and curriculum consultant and I worked for Gospel Light for five years as a consultant and for Group for five years as a consultant. Over these years I provided training for literally hundreds of churches. Sometimes when I arrived at a church for their volunteer training I would find there were only two or three volunteers who showed up – a very frustrating thing for the person who planned the training. At other churches I’d find every seat filled with volunteers! So what was the difference? How do some churches struggle to get their volunteers to attend while others do not seem to face the same challenge? Consider the following . . .

  • if we apologize for our training opportunities and talk/act as though we know our volunteers will not want to attend . . . they won’t.
  • if we do not have a vision and plan for our training opportunities, our volunteers will not associate any value to the training and won’t attend.
  • if we do not promote our training and remind our volunteers, they will not attend.

If however we approach our training opportunities with excitement, our volunteers will at least be curious! Consider the following . . .

  • promote your training opportunities with posters, mailings, emails, personal announcements and by having your department heads/leaders also contact the volunteers who serve in their areas
  • decorate the room where you have your training – this will add to the atmosphere and excitement
  • most certainly provide food – not just cookies and a beverage, but provide a decent “spread”! For example, if you are having a training in the morning, provide a breakfast – not just donuts! Or, if you are having a training in the evening, ask non-volunteers in your church to make and donate their best desert which serves six people, then lay out a ” buffet” of amazing desserts! Your volunteers will notice this!
  • choose topics which address concerns of your volunteers – classroom discipline, how to lead a child to Christ, how to be effective in engaging children in conversation in small groups, how to get the most out of your curriculum . . . as your volunteers for the top five topics they would most appreciate receiving training for and then provide training for those topics!
  • use training as an opportunity to fellowship, build ministry teams and pray for one another
  • hold up training as essential – make sure your volunteers know how many trainings you will plan in a year and let them know they are mandatory for anyone who wants to serve in the children’s ministry
  • schedule two trainings for each topic and allow volunteers to choose which training time best fits with their schedule
  • provide child care – screen providers
  • invite guest speakers – check with the publisher of your curriculum as they may have someone they could send for free or for a small fee to lead your training or check with area churches and see if another children’s director would be willing to lead a training at your church if you reciprocated and led a training at their church!

Whatever you do, commit to providing training for your volunteers this year because it is essential. If we want our volunteers to be successful in their ministry, we need to provide the tools they need and training is an essential tool!

Next week I’ll look at the #3 essential thing we need to provide for our volunteers, support and encouragement!

Lynda Freeman

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Lynda has been married to Dave for 30 years . . . they met on a volcano in Northern California! Lynda took one look at Dave and thought, “We will get married!” And so they did! They have two grown children, Tiffany (26) and Dave (25), a daughter-in-law, Jackie (26) and two grandsons; Josiah (3) and the newly arrived Caleb – they are the delight of her life! Lynda lives in West Michigan and has served in children’s ministry for 40 years . . . she started with a Wednesday night class for four year olds when she was 10 . . . and has led ministries in churches with 100 people, 1600 people and several in-between. Children’s ministry is the passion of Lynda’s heart – she wants volunteers to love serving and children to love being there so they can learn to know and walk with Jesus all their lives! Lynda worked as a consultant for Gospel Light, Group and Zonderkidz/Big Idea/Willow Creek and worked as the Church Resource Consultant for Kregel Bookstores for 13 years providing training and answering questions for churches throughout West Michigan. She has written for Children’s Ministry Magazine and Your Church Magazine, wrote some of the preschool lessons for Big Idea’s VeggieConnections curriculum, was a contributing author for Group’s Humongous Book of Bible Skits for Children’s Ministry and wrote the Connections to Christ portion of the Manners that Matter curriculum from Maralee McKee. Eight years ago Lynda was diagnosed with MS, Lupus and a few other auto-immune illnesses and can no longer work “hands-on” with children . . . the stairs at her church are best avoided. However, Lynda consults with and advises her church and writes their curriculum, kidz Connection. She also writes a blog – About the Children’s Department - and is developing a series of children’s books and a resource on praying the Scripture! For fun, Lynda writes a blog for grandmas- grandma’s cookie jar (www.grandmascookiejar.net ) . . . well, grandpas, moms and dads are welcome to read it, too! You will find her on Twitter, Facebook and CM Connect .

3 responses to 5 Essentials for Your Volunteers #4 – Provide Training!

  1. A great list of ideas. We learned some of these along the way (like having multiple sessions, so the volunteers can pick what works best); wish I had this post 5 years ago!

    Another thing we did is recruit other volunteers (not just the top-level) to have a part of the training. It could be explaining safety procedures, go over a curriculum lesson, or whatever. It took a burden off of us to cover anything, gave these volunteers more ownership, and it provided an opportunity for those “in the trenches” to share their wisdom.

  2. A very thorough & well written article Lynda…looking forward to the next one!