Training Your Own Volunteers
When you hear the word “training,” what comes to mind? A large conference? A Saturday workshop? Bringing in a professional to train your team? These are all excellent options, but in most situations they can only happen once a year…if that.
What do we do if we would like to train and equip our ministry team more than just once in a great while?
As the leader of a ministry, you can make training and equipping a regular occurrence… and a fun one, at that. Our adult leaders (paid and/or volunteer) can always use a steady dose of youth culture updates, ministry tips and helps. It’s up to you how often you want to do this. Some leaders make training times a regular part of a weekly leader meeting; others make it a monthly thing. I prefer a monthly time of training and equipping combined with fellowship and teambuilding.
A few years ago when I had a team of volunteers working with my campus outreach ministry, we made it a priority to get together once a month around food. I found that all my volunteers enjoyed two things: food and socializing. So I decided to provide both, with a little dash of training and equipping. My budget was small so we just did a potluck dinner at a different house each month. My volunteers seemed eager to host it at their house each time. All of us would bring various food dishes and we would spend the first hour just eating and enjoying each other’s company.
Once we finished eating, I usually led a teambuilding activity, much like the ones we provide on our Team Builders page now. After the team builder I spend a little time teaching them about youth culture or sharpening our ministry skills. Some of the key topics I covered each year were evangelism, leading small groups, connecting with kids, or even balancing discipline with grace.
I encourage you to make training and equipping a regular part of your ministry. The kids you are reaching deserve it.
The Top 5 Training Methods You Can Do Yourself
The following training and equipping ideas are some of the easiest, cheapest, and yet most effective training methods you can make a regular part of your ministry calendar.
- Article Discussion
Training your leaders can be as simple as handing out an article and discussing it as a team. At your weekly or monthly gathering, hand everyone a copy of an article, instructing them to take 5 minutes and read it right there (because often, if you send it to our team in advance, some won’t read it). After they take a few minutes to read it, ask five or six questions about the article.
For example: you could just use our most recent YOUTH CULTURE WINDOW article that we provide each week (in the magnifying glass on the front page). Use our “printer friendly” function and print out copies of the article for everyone. Take this article for example. After they read this article about “texting,” you could talk about texting as a tool. You could ask:
- How many of you text the kids you work with right now? Someone share a time that this really opened doors for conversation.
- What are some ways that we could use texting to communicate with kids better?
- What are some ways that we might need to be careful when it comes to texting kids?
If you wanted, you could even share a little bit about your goals of CONNECTING with kids and how texting can be a tool to do that.
One nice aspect of this training method is the minimal amount of prep time required. You just need to 1) find an article and read it, and 2) prepare five or six questions. The less you talk, the better. This method is more “facilitating” than training. You might also learn quite a bit from the knowledge and experience shared by your ministry team.
- Skill Sharpening
Youth ministry isn’t always easy. Our adult leaders often need training in some of the basic but essential skills like evangelism, discipleship, leading small groups and connecting with kids. We can train them in these vital skills.
For many of us, this begs the question: what training material am I going to use?
Glad you asked.
Our free “Help My Leaders” Training Tools page provides you with much of what you need to train your adult leaders. With each training, we provide a complete script, a corresponding PowerPoint presentation and a ready-made activity to go along with it. Just download the PowerPoint, print out the script and familiarize yourself with it… and you’re ready to go. Add personal stories and examples to make the training your own.
Some of you might be ready to start developing training material on your own using many of the skills and tips that you have learned over the years. Try this. Brainstorm “The Five Ways to Make Kids Feel Heard in Your Small Group.” Or, reverse it and train how NOT to do something- that’s always a fun way to teach. Brainstorm “The 5 Ways to Surely Destroy Your Small Group!” You can put these on PowerPoint if you want, or just teach them without media. Make sure you use lots of stories and examples.
After a few years of youth ministry experience, you may find that you have a lot to offer your adult leaders.
- The Debrief
The concept is simple: meet together as a leadership team after a given venue and talk about what you all liked… and disliked. Sunday morning, small groups, a special event… all of the above. Always include a quick debrief about it. If possible, do these “on the spot.” Obviously some larger events might leave people exhausted immediately after. Wait a day or so for this debrief. But the sooner the better.
- Big Picture Planning
Once or twice a year it’s good to get together with all your adult leaders and plan out the annual calendar. This not only creates ownership of your various ministry venues, this keeps everybody informed about the plans for the full year.
This article expands on how to plan ahead in our youth ministries.
- Leadership Retreat
Once a year it’s nice to provide a retreat for all of your adult leaders. A retreat like this provides opportunities for fellowship, team building, training and equipping.
Every year I always took my ministry team up to my cousin’s ranch for a weekend. Since my cousin’s place was free (900 acres in the middle of wide open spaces- horseback riding, quads… you name it), this weekend only cost me gas and food. The result? My leaders came back as one team, equipped and ready for the year ahead.
Some people plan times of worship and sharing on these weekends. When I had a small team comprised of myself and twelve volunteers, I incorporated a slot of time for each person to share their testimony during the weekend. This was one of my favorite times, hearing my volunteers share their story to the rest of the team.
Don’t overplan the activities at these weekends. Plan plenty of hangout time. The number one goal for a weekend like this should be fellowship. Plan some “teambuilding” activities and some training, but make “bonding” your priority.
Don’t Miss the Opportunity
Don’t underestimate the importance of equipping our volunteers for ministry. You have the resources to do this (I know you do… because we’ve given them to you!). It’s up to you to make the time.
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Bullying Breakthrough; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on TheSource4YM.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.