Training volunteers is one of the greatest responsibilities we have in ministry. It’s also one of the greatest challenges. How to we go about making sure our volunteers have what they need to do the ministry God has called them to without overwhelming them? Here are five ways to train your volunteers without putting a strain on you:
1. Daily Prayer
You can make a group on Facebook and pray for a few people each day. Or print a roster and pray for a few volunteers till you’ve prayed for everyone at the end of the month. Our elementary ministry makes prayer request cards available each weekend in their team meetings. Their volunteers know if they ever have something specific they’d like our staff to pray for they can simply fill out a card and turn it in. It doesn’t need to take a long time, but making 5 – 10 minutes to pray for your volunteers will make a world of impact in their lives.
2. Weekly Email
Every week your volunteers should be getting some kind of communication piece from you. In it you should include something affirming, info about what’s coming up, and some short devotional or training piece (there’s so much good stuff out there you don’t need to create this from scratch). Doesn’t matter if you send an email, e-newsletter, Facebook DM, or a Carrier Pigeon (although that could get messy and expensive). Here’s more about how to do this.
3. Monthly Podcast
Each month I put together a short (2 – 5 minutes) training video. In that video I’ll do some quick training on how to lead a child to Christ, dealing with conflict, helping a child who is distracted, etc. I film it on my office computer, upload it to YouTube, and email the link to our volunteers. They’re easy, free, and helpful to our team. Here’s a sample of one I did a few months ago:
4. Tri-Annual Gatherings
Three times a year is when we get all our volunteers together. In January/February our individual ministries meet separately to do specific training as it relates to their area of focus (special needs, early childhood, elementary, etc.)
In August everyone meets together for food, games, and vision casting for the upcoming school year.
In late November/early December we’ll have a Christmas Party with all our teams together (no training). The frequency and focus of the times we meet together ensures most of our volunteers actually come to these gatherings, knowing when we do meet (which isn’t often) it’s worth their time.
5. Periodic Check-ins from a Coach
Far and away the best training is to have a volunteer assigned to oversee a small group of volunteers (8 – 10). As you and your staff pour into coaches, your coaches are pouring into your volunteers, who in turn pour into kids and families.
Since you can’t (and shouldn’t even try to) be everywhere you need to have people you trust in places you can’t be. That doesn’t mean you can’t every connect with a volunteer who isn’t “assigned to you.” You should definitely do that from time to time whether that’s an encouraging note, cheering them on at something they’re performing at, grabbing lunch, coffee, or a text letting them know you’re praying for them. It just means the responsibility for doing all of this for everyone doesn’t fall on you.
What are some of the best ways you’ve been able to train your volunteers?