Church leaders often confuse “talking” with “training.” We tell people what they should do, and think that’s enough….but it’s not.
You can’t explain to a volunteer how to work with kids and expect that volunteer to be able to automatically do it. That’s like telling someone about pole vaulting and thinking they’ll be able to just go out and do it.
No, I’m not a pole-vaulter. I’m not made for flight, if you get my drift. The only way I’d clear a pole hanging fifteen feet in the air (world-class pole-vaulters go even higher that that) is if you shot me out of a cannon.
But I’ve seen pictures of people pole-vaulting, and it doesn’t look all that hard. You pick up a big stick, run toward the pole, shove the stick in a hole, and then sort of spring up over the pole. Assuming you remembered to put a mat on the other side so there’s a soft landing, it doesn’t seem too tough. I can explain it to you in about thirty seconds.
But that doesn’t mean I can do it.
Looks can be deceiving can’t they? People who make things look easy usually do that because they’ve trained hard to master a skill. They’ve prepared and practiced until something hard comes naturally.
That’s what I want for my children’s ministry volunteers. I want them to be so prepared that when a discipline issue arises, they don’t have to stop and think about what to do, they know what to do. It’s automatic, because they’re trained.
I want that for my volunteers because it means kids will have a great adult leader, but there’s another reason, too: When someone is good at something, they tend to stick with it.
It’s a fact of life: It’s harder to quit something you do well.
If you want an excellent children’s ministry, give your volunteer staff excellent training. There’s no shortcut. And you’ve got to continually provide training—not try to do it all at once in an orientation or a single class.
Here are some ways to deliver volunteer training:
- Coach system – Assign each volunteer a mentor, or coach, to help them learn the skills necessary for their job.
- Educational materials – Make it a habit to pass around article, books, and anything else that gets your volunteers thinking. Encourage volunteers to read articles and ask, “How can I apply this to my ministry?”
- Seminars – Many half day workshops are less expensive than a full-blown conference, in another city. Look to see what’s being offered in your area, or partner with a Christian college, or publishing company, to host a workshop event.
- CD’s and Videos – Provide volunteers with training tools they can use at home, or in the car. Many services now offer online training where you can email professionally created, entertaining and motivating, videos for specific skills and leadership development.
Isn’t this what you want for your volunteers? For them to know what to do, what not to do, and what to do when something throws a curveball at them? That’s my definition of a perfectly trained volunteer.
[Editor’s Note: Excerpted from Jim’s book, Children’s Ministry Volunteers That Stick.]