No Train, No Gain: How to Train Volunteers
Does your employer train new hires? If you became a Red Cross disaster relief volunteer, would you expect to receive training? Do you expect most teenagers to get drivers' ed training before getting a driver's license?
Training is taken for granted in many areas. But does your church train its Sunday school teachers? Board and committee members? Ushers? Most churches do not, because "Everyone already knows how to do that!" But even though teens have watched people drive all their lives, even though employers hire people with skills and experience, and even though you may have helped another organization with disaster relief, training is still expected and appreciated.
Training tells me how a task is done here, what the expectations are, how the equipment/schedule/procedures work here, and how this task relates to others at this church. In addition, training builds relationships between people, gives me opportunity to ask questions, and tells me how this task fits in my church's overall purpose.
One size does not fit all when it comes to training. Training reflects differing ministries and people's differing schedules and learning styles.
- can be scheduled and planned or 'on demand'
- is for both new and for long-term volunteers
- can be led by leaders or by fellow participants
- communicates new material and/or reinforces previous material
- can be combined with fellowship or appreciation activities
- should be fun!
Training can be carried out through:
- written instructions
- a buddy system
- group instruction
- one-on-one instruction
- information and assessments you place on your website
- books, magazines, articles
- audio or video recordings
Training can cross the boundaries of specific ministries. Conflict management skills and communication skills are useful training topics for many ministries, and also for life. Faith-sharing is a key skill for all volunteers, because in all our tasks we want to be alert for opportunities for sharing the Gospel Training builds church leaders and "grows" people with leadership potential. Don't overlook training leaders in skills for working with volunteers: positive recruiting, effective delegating and supervising, and also in how to train other volunteers!
The challenge is to help each ministry, and the church as a whole, determine the how, when and what of their specific training. Various methods might be tried, and trainings might be changed, but if the importance of training is emphasized from the top down, and the topic revisited and people held accountable, good practices will become expected and eventually taken for granted.
Training benefits the volunteer, but it benefits the church as a whole even more. It:
- reduces conflict and prevents problems
- builds teamwork and unity
- increases retention of volunteers
- improves results, advancing the church's mission and God's kingdom
Every ministry of the church, in its own fashion, participates in the church's work of bringing God's grace through Word and Sacrament to the people God loves, especially those people who don't know of that grace. Training is an investment in people in those ministries, people whose tasks are more eternally significant than any other.
Use the Training Volunteers Worksheet to begin thinking about training at your church.
Collective wisdom: Send your training experiences and ideas to Karen@theequipper.org and they'll be posted on the website.