Training Your Own Volunteers

pictureIf you’re a ministry leader, what do you do to keep you leaders sharp?

It didn’t take long for me to discover that all my volunteers enjoyed two things: food and socializing. So I decided to provide both, by gathering all my volunteers together once a month for dinner, 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. We would spend the first hour just eating and enjoying each other’s company. Once we finished eating, I spent a little time teaching them about youth culture or sharpening their ministry skills.

So what kind of training can we offer our volunteers without having to bring in a professional?

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.

1. Article Discussion
Training your leaders can be as simple as handing out an article and discussing it as a team. Just grab an article from your favorite youth ministry magazine or blog and print it out for everyone. At your weekly or monthly gathering, hand everyone a copy, instructing them to take 5 minutes to 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 (always featured on the front page of TheSource4YM.com). Use our “printer friendly” function and print out copies of the article for everyone. Take this 2014 article on Selfies for example. After your team reads this article, you could ask:

    • How many of our kids take selfies?
    • How many of us take selfies?
    • What are some of the different motives behind “selfies” today?
    • What are some of the struggles we are seeing with self esteem in our group?
    • What can we do about it?

Look for articles that address issues your kids are encountering or skills your team needs to practice. And always use these training opportunities to encourage leaders to connect with kids and be a positive mentor in their lives.

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.

2. 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 you garner a few years of youth ministry experience, you may find that you have a lot to offer your adult leaders.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

HERE’S A QUICK VIDEO OF JONATHAN TEACHING THESE PRINCIPLES

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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This entry was posted in Discussion Ideas, Leadership, Speaking/Training, Youth Ministry Philosophy, Youth Ministry Planning. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Training Your Own Volunteers

  1. colin cheang says:

    We are based in Malaysia and the burden is to increase God kingdom with Japanese christian. This is not only challenging in Japan but also in Malaysia.
    Harvest is plenty but servants are few esoecially committed Japanese youth. We are praying for committed youth leaders ; worship leader and committed volunteers.

    Your work encouraged me but we need help in the areas mentioned above.

    God bless