by Cynthia Crane and Keith Johnson
Creative training approaches that can happen in hallways, over the internet or phone lines, or any old place.
You've just finished one of the greatest summers in children's ministry history! Now it's time for you to kick off a new school year, plan a Halloween alternative, get ready for a Christmas musical, recruit volunteers, sort curriculum, get the newsletter out, put the bulk mailing dates on the calendar, reserve rooms, coordinate child care, and train volunteers. So much to do...so little time. Let's talk about the ever-present need to train volunteers.
When can you fit that in? The world tells our team members that a packed calendar is a sign of success. When will they fit in training? Besides, training events sound optional; do people really have to go to those—every time?
When can you train? On Saturday...no, that's soccer-baseball-water-ski-family day.
Okay, how about Sunday? Pleeease! Today alone three teachers needed subs at the last minute; next week the kids are singing in big church...Sundays are jammed!
Could you schedule it during the week? Wait! Miss Debbie can't come on Mondays because she's at Weigh Down Workshop; the Campbells can't come on Tuesdays because that's ballet night.
Sound familiar? Time-crunched families and volunteers are the norm today. So maybe training doesn't always have to be a set time, place, or agenda. Instead you can sneak in training when your volunteers least expect it. The following guerrilla training ideas can refocus your time, energize your team, and mobilize your teachers to remain faithful to their calling!
1. E-Team—You don't have time to meet personally with each volunteer. So create an "E-Team" that'll be in charge of encouraging and equipping others. Meet with your E-Team to develop a quarterly game plan so everyone on your team receives encouragement. Use these criteria to select your E-Team members: creative, supportive, sensitive to people in need, and detail-oriented.
2. Coffee Break—Do you have someone who struggles more than most with the lesson? Meet with that person one-on-one at a coffee shop and share several ideas for a successful Sunday school class time. Help him or her design four to six weeks worth of totally awesome lessons! Follow up with this person each week to ask about how a specific lesson went.
3. Success Stories—Use play-by-play videos or digital photos each Sunday to show great things that are happening in classrooms. You can play the video as children arrive, or post the photos in hallways. Volunteers will not only learn from one another, but they'll be encouraged to see they share similar challenges with others.
4. Party Time—Throw a planning party for your teachers to celebrate individual successes and the things people are doing right. It's the ultimate volunteer training because they'll learn from each other.
5. Snack Time—Bring in leaders from other churches on Sunday morning to mingle with your team during a continental breakfast or coffee break. Your guests can ask your volunteers questions to help you assess who's struggling (because sometimes they won't tell you) and what's working (because sometimes we get home-blind and don't see all the good things).
6. Conferences—Send teachers to a conference and make sure they drive together. Their discussions before and after the event are sometimes even richer than the conference itself. It's especially helpful for conference attendees to wrestle together with how they'll apply what they learned.
7. Tag-Team Training—Match new recruits with experienced volunteers for one class. Then have the new recruits share what they've learned. This is a great way to get your veteran teachers-who may feel they can't learn anymore-to learn how to transfer their years of knowledge relationally.
8. NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) Day—Give your Sunday school teachers a day off to visit another church, then have them report what they saw. Because most teachers have families that they'd bring with them, include the stories of children in those reports. Print the reports in your monthly newsletter or weekly teaching tip sheet. Or simply have your "scouts" tell their stories to your other volunteers at a coffee meeting or planning committee.
9. Task Force—Do the above assignment but with a twist. Assign volunteers different ministry aspects to research, then have them share what they learn. Empower them to make the difference!
10. Prayer—Organize prayer groups with no more than six people. As your volunteers pray together, they'll also encourage one another and share helpful training insights.
11. Testimony Night—A night to honor kids turns into kids giving testimonies about specific volunteers who've changed their lives. Take photos to put in your newsletter, and add specifics that'll help your volunteers see the big picture. It's important for your volunteers to see the results of their labor in the hearts of changed lives.
12. Online Tutor—Send an e-mail with some great websites that have ideas you know your volunteers can use. Or send your volunteers to childrensministry.com's Children's Ministry Magazine Live Training Institute. Your volunteers can read one of 22 brief tutorials and then answer three questions related to the topic. Push one button, and they fire off an e-mail to you to let you know they've completed a training piece.
13. E-mail Training Tips—Send out a weekly teacher's tip sheet via e-mail! Let your teachers know that you're praying for them. List prayer requests, birthdays, anniversaries, and helpful hints. A good way to do this and solicit some discussion is to offer a "problem of the week" where people can e-mail a solution. Post answers in your next newsletter.
14. Book Club—Many volunteers love to learn on their own. Their best approach to instruction is self-discovery. So give the same book to three different volunteers, and have them each share the top three things they found in it with each other during a coffee discussion.
15. Book Review—Read through a book with your volunteers and share how it touches each of you.
Cynthia Crane is a children's pastor in Huntington Beach, CA. Keith Johnson is the field services manager for Group Publishing, Inc., leading more than 200 REAL learning specialists to provide training and consultation to churches.
© 2001 Children's Ministry Magazine. Used by permission.