1. Rewards (Food)
I know what you may be thinking, but we can’t train people if they don’t show up. Sometimes an invitation to training with some M&M’s attached can make all the difference. Our volunteers give of their time, their talents, their energy to serve. Training can be an opportunity for you to show them how much you appreciate them. Receive them well. One way to do this is by feeding them a nice meal during the training and perhaps giving them the latest children’s ministry book or resource. Although they may have come for lunch, the hope is they will leave encouraged and equipped.
2. Schedule During Services
Many of our volunteers have families, which means things like work, school, and sports compete for their time. If you can schedule your training during a service time, it almost always boosts attendance. It offers childcare and an opportunity to attend without taking away from the rest of their week. This means you may have to do the training a couple of times. Although that can be hard, it’s an opportunity to serve your team in a way that communicates how much you value them and the sacrifice of time they make for your church.
3. Make it Worth Their Time
We have all sat through meetings that we wish were just emails. Don’t have a training just to have a training. Bring something of value to your team, make it worth their time. This means preparing ahead of time, creating an agenda, gathering resources, etc. Preparation can help this time together to be a valuable way to make our teams run more effectively and efficiently. Allow time for them to ask questions and commit to answering them. Although you may not have all the answers in the moment, you can make the commitment to finding out the answers and following up. The goal is for them to walk away from the time together with a sense that they are a valuable part of a team that is making an eternal impact.
4. Worship and Prayer
The teams that volunteer for children’s ministry often skip services or get interrupted. They can have a hard time focusing when they are thinking through their lessons. Worship and prayer are an important part of helping your team fill back up, so they aren’t trying to pour from an empty cup. Including some of these sacred elements can help your team to remember the reasons they are serving in the first place. Children’s ministry isn’t about being a good citizen or community member. It’s about answering the call to minister to children. Use the training time to remind them of that.
5. No Longer than an Hour
With all the things that need to happen at a training, it can be tempting to take up an entire morning or evening. However, people start to check out after about an hour, so try to pack as much as you can into that hour. This means starting on time and ending on time. Your team will be much more likely to attend future trainings if they know they can rely on you respecting their time. This may mean you have to send out an email with some follow-up information or resources, but most people prefer that to a longer meeting. You can do it!
6. Check-in Weekly with Forms
General housekeeping items like ordering more supplies or reminders for the week can tend to take up a lot of time during trainings. If that is the only time your team sees you or communicates with you, the tendency will be for them to take advantage of that time to share what’s on their mind or heart. The challenge is that you, as the leader, have to lead them into the things that God has led you to share. One way to combat this is with a weekly service report. This can just be a simple form that you leave in each ministry setting for the team members to fill out after the service. Things like materials needed, prayer requests, concerns, or even a note to have you contact them can all be included on the form. In cases where you are running multiple services or multiple classrooms, this can be a safety net to make sure things don’t slip through the cracks.
7. Emergent Training
A benefit of check-in forms and frequent communication with your team is that you can keep your pulse on what is emerging as a training need. Biting in the toddler room? Bullying in big kids? Difficulty during check-in and check-out? Now you have your agenda for your trainings. While there should always be an element of vision casting in your trainings, don’t overlook the need for practical reviews of best practices when caring for children.
8. Small-Group Training
Sometimes it’s helpful to cater a training for the team members of a specific age group. For example, addressing the needs, both spiritually and physically, for the nursery may not apply to those serving with the pre-teens. By planning training for specific teams, it helps to communicate value to your team and that you hear them. This also keeps other team members from feeling like the training doesn’t apply to them.
9. Training Without a Training
The ability to use things like social media and iPhones means that it is possible to host a very effective training without having to actually host a training. You can record the training and post it to a private Facebook page, or even host a private zoom event. Attendance for these kinds of training is typically higher than in-person trainings because it can be done in a more convenient way. This doesn’t replace the value of a face-to-face meeting, but it can be a great way to supplement them.
10. Quarterly Events with a Training Component
Hosting events specifically for your team is a great way to show you care about them. Think outside the box. Summer BBQs or a Friendsgiving, followed up by a short training can be a fun way to engage your team with both appreciation and training. Added Bonus? Arrange for childcare during the training portion.
11. Annual Retreat
Retreats can be a powerful time to not only share the vision and train your leaders but to really hear their hearts and minister to them. These types of events can help change a casual volunteer into a committed leader. These take time, planning, and funding, but the investment can last for years.
12. Enlist the Leadership
At least once a year, it is important to invite senior leadership into your trainings. This does two things. First, it communicates to the leadership that you are working to support the vision of the house. Your role is supportive of the calling that God has placed on the church to serve the community. Second, it communicates to your team that you as a leader have the support of the senior leadership. This helps everyone to realize we are all playing on the same team, with the goal of winning kids to Jesus.
Rachael Groll can be found training volunteers as she serves in her church in Pennsylvania. You can keep up with her at her website, shehears.org