By Kimberly Wells
In order to impact the lives of children in our care, teachers are of utmost importance. Whether your church defines them as volunteers, leaders, investors, Sunday School teachers, or Small group leaders, they will have more time invested one on one with children in your ministry than almost anyone else in the church itself. Training them and empowering them to lead is vital to the success of any children’s ministry. Sometimes, when you hear “training” you may think of long meetings, boring lectures, and mints as the only source of sustenance. It does not have to be that way! Training can be the most fun, engaging, and uplifting time gathering with your leaders once or twice a year. When thinking of a training event, make sure to make the area inviting, filled with colors or your children’s ministry theme, and food (because who doesn’t like a good excuse for food?) Use the resources below to make this a can’t miss event for your team.
- Policy Manuals.
This is the first and possibly most important when it comes to training your teachers. Every area that serves children should have some type of policies and procedures in place to protect them and the children they serve. This could be anything from a sample class schedule, cell phone and social media policies, bathroom or diapering procedures, safety measures, and things specific to your classroom context. An overview of your curriculum is also helpful to add. If your church does not have these in place, begin to write them! Think through how a normal class day would go and things that need to be in place to ensure safety, fun, and excellence. For some tips, if needed, check out this article from Lifeway Research.
- Ministry Safe.
MinistrySafe is a program churches can purchase and send links to every volunteer or leader for Child Protection Training. They provide “a complete Child Safety System designed to reduce the risk of child sexual abuse.” This is a comprehensive system that provides video, text, and quizzes. Child Protection Training needs to be a requirement for all volunteers that work with children as we are called to protect them and their families. In all of the fun we have in our classrooms, we cannot forget the responsibility we have to keep our kids safe. For those that have not yet done a child protection course, this is a great resource.
- Association or denominational training
An easy option to find training resources is to access your denomination or association training. If you have an organization your church is a part of, a quick email or phone call to see about the training resources they offer can be extremely helpful. Some organizations have staff that can even come to your location to do hands-on training with your workers.
- Wholly Kids by Lifeway
Wholly Kids is a resource book created by kids ministers for kids ministries. This is one
of the best go-to resources to train out of, but also have on hand to give to Sunday School teachers and parents. You can use this resource to target specific age groups you are training or give an overview of the age range your ministry encompasses. Inside you will find sections that identify the Levels of Biblical Learning and the physical, emotional, social, and mental characteristics of each age group. It also includes personality traits of children (introverts, boys vs girls, socioeconomic status) that can help build a foundation for your training. This resource also includes ways to decorate your classrooms, even down to the size of chair needed in each class. This book is by far the best in looking at the holistic child and can really help all volunteers and leaders know how to address any personality type or level that will enter their classes each week.
Do you have a way that your ministry shares the Gospel each week in a concise, easy to understand way? If not, this resource is for you! This resource comes in poster or booklet form. Produced by Lifeway, it goes over five steps, accompanied with Scripture, to understand what Jesus did for us. The order: God Rules, We Sinned, God Provided, Jesus Gives, We Respond. Each one has an image that can correspond with hand motions you can use to train your volunteers so they are ready at any time to share the Gospel with the kids they will see each week.
David Rausch, the creator of Go Curriculum, presents a cohesive, free, training book for small group leaders. They also have one available for large group leaders as well. This resource will help you, the ministry leader, guide your leaders and volunteers to new heights in leadership. Everything is lined out systematically that could encompass your entire Sunday School training with one booklet. The two-minute trainer goes over the preparation side of leading small groups by knowing the kid-friendly language and personality types, keeping kids engaged and safe, helping kids navigate the Bible, prayer, and response to what they are learning, and finally dealing with difficult kids and situations you may face. This encompasses almost everything you will need for the seasoned small group leader and the one that is serving with you for the very first time.
This book by Reggie Joiner at Orange will lead small group leaders through a comprehensive way to view the kids and families they are ministering to. They will be able to understand Orange’s philosophy that combines family and the church. After each section, there is an opportunity to journal and think through how they can apply what they are learning. If budget allows, you can purchase these for each small group leader and walk with them in a consistent training pattern over several weeks.
- Curriculum Training Elements
Another resource you can use is the curriculum you are choosing for your ministry. Several have training included either by video, book, or slides that you can access to
make sure your leaders are ready to teach the curriculum you have chosen. For those switching curriculum, it is vital that your small group leaders are ready and trained for all the idiosyncrasies your curriculum may have. At a minimum, make sure you are giving a full scope & sequence, going over the big points of the lessons, where they can find supplies, and any edits you may add will be extremely beneficial to any small group leader that attends your training.
- Group’s trainer: Discipline Pocket Guides
Group Publishing has created an awesome pocket guide that all leaders can use for either discipline in the classroom. In the discipline pocket guide, Group tackles some of the most difficult situations teachers may face in the classroom and how to handle it in a God-honoring way. It includes time-saving lessons, confidence-boosting information, solutions for discipline issues, and new ideas all in a pocket guide that can easily fit in their binders or Bible.
- Group’s trainer: Special Needs Pocket Guides
Similar to the discipline pocket guide, Group also offers one target to children with special needs. This guide will give confidence and tools for people working with special needs children. It identifies 10 diagnosed learning disabilities, suggested ways to meet those needs, ways to partner with parents, and surveys to help create action plans for special needs students. This is a great resource for the volunteers that might not have extensive experience in working with special needs students and will give them the confidence that they, too, can help every student in their class succeed.
Lifeway has multiple curriculum options, children’s camps, and an online store, but their training resources are so helpful! Even if you may not use any of their curriculum options, the training portion of lifeway kids has several resources that can help you in training your leaders well. They have resources about reopening your ministry in a pandemic, VBS strategies, and 10 strategies for an unshakeable children’s ministry. These can provide a great base as you set vision and policies for your children’s ministry and Sunday School training events.
- David C Cook: MinistrySpark
Ministry Spark is a great website full of articles and options to help build your Sunday School training. An awesome addition to this website is their webinar section. Some of them you can use to show at training or use to help you with ideas to create the best
training possible. In the article section, there is a specific tab for volunteers, where you will find a lot of resources to help engage your volunteers, not just in training, but throughout the year.
- Lessons from Nehemiah
Last, but certainly not least, is to look to the life of Nehemiah. We can learn a lot from him as we look to train and lead the volunteer teams we serve. First, Nehemiah was
prayerful. Next, he trusted that God had a plan as he went back to rebuild the wall in Jerusalem. Once he arrived, he empowered people to serve where he assigned them at their ability level. He then equipped them by giving them building tools and fighting tools to be prepared for any attack they may face. Finally, Nehemiah was ready when discouragement would come by keeping his focus on what God had called him to do. Spend some time prior to your Sunday School training reading the book of Nehemiah and using his example to equip and train your volunteers.
Sunday School training does not have to be overwhelming or boring; it can be impactful and fun! Use this time to empower, instill vision, and equip your leaders to be ready for the life-changing impact they will have as they lead children each week.