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Creative Volunteer Training

Kidsplace UnscriptedOne of the things I’ve struggled with over the years of working with volunteer leaders, has been how I could train my volunteers (leaders, partners, whatever you call them at your church) without stopping down their schedules for afternoons at a time.   My experience tells me that when holding a training meeting those people that most need the training don’t show up.   It’s a strange phenomenon actually.   (If you’re that volunteer that has missed the last dozen training meetings at your church, then consider yourself the person I’m talking about!)

I’ve also tried emails, but I found that most of them were not reading the emails all the way to the end.   How do I know this?   Because I got sneaky and started hiding messages at the bottom of the email offering Starbucks, Sonic Drive-In, and Smoothie King incentives to those first 5 people to respond to my email.   When nobody but your wife responds, something isn’t getting through to the people!

Over the past few months, I’ve tried something quite different.   Different for me anyways.   I’ve been sending training videos out to a portion of our Sunday Morning volunteer team.   The videos are rarely longer than 4-5 minutes and are filmed in various locations around the church.   I’ve been testing it out specifically with  the team that serves during our largest gathering of Elementary children; at the 4th service on Sunday.   In total this team represents 13 people, so it’s not a small team; but it’s not too large that we don’t all know each other.   (That being said, I could use an additional 13 leaders, if you know what I mean.)

Here are some of the things that these silly training videos have allowed me to do:

  1. The videos have opened up opportunity for more “fellowship only”   time.   My team loves to hang out, and now when we gather we simply want to hang out.   No agenda, no training, no meeting; just good old fashioned fellowship time!
  2. I’ve worked hard to not let the videos become stale and tired.   I’ve attempted to make them personal, by being funny and letting my mistakes just stay on the finished product.   I’m going for informal, not formal.   I fill it with titles that poke fun at my mistakes and my looks.    I’m not afraid to laugh at my own expense, so it comes naturally.
  3. I’ve used the videos to push upcoming events, and remind my leaders about   things I’ve reminded them about 100 times before.   Repetition is the key to good promotion!
  4. I’ve taken requests from the leaders about what small group leading training tips they need.   I’ve gotten great ideas for topics.   For example, I’ve covered how to get kids to open up and talk, how to control an unruly group, how to pray with children, and how to adjust small group materials to different age groups.

Now for the obligatory disclaimers:

I still see us doing some in-person training down the line, and when we do I hope that I can make it worth their time and energy to attend.   I don’t see myself offering a in-house training more than twice a year.   (I’m settled on maybe once a year.)   I also email the links to the videos through Constant Contact, so that I can see who has opened and watched the videos.   I’ve even gone to some leaders that never opened them, and inquired about why they are not watching the training.

Now in all honesty, you’d have to talk to one of my leaders to gauge how worthwhile they’ve really been.   If you can find them and get them to open up, then do share!   The feedback that I’ve gotten is that they like them, and I keep getting requests for more.

I’m sharing a few of my videos here, but the rest are at VIMEO.   It’s quite amazing what you can do with a camcorder and iMovie these days, huh?

So how do you get information to your volunteers?  What have you tried with success?

Would something like this work for you?

Jonathan Cliff is married to his wife Starr and they together live out their days with two sons and a daughter. Jonathan serves as one of the Pastors at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee; where he works with leaders throughout the city to help develop Christian community that leads to deep and meaningful spiritual friendships. His journey has been an adventurous one, having served in the local church for 15 years in family ministry developing leaders, building environments for kids and students to belong, and encouraging parents to take big spiritual steps with their families.

4 Comments

  1. Kenny · August 24, 2009

    So I was watching the first video and kept wondering, are his glasses crooked? Then you started trying to fix them. Ha!

    Love the videos though! Good stuff!

    Kenny
    .-= Kenny ´s last blog ..Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-08-23 =-.

  2. john mullis · August 26, 2009

    I’m going to take this idea to the BANK with my team. Thanks! I kiss your feet, littlepastor man. oh my golly gosh.

  3. john mullis · August 26, 2009

    oh. one more thing. re:emails to leaders and 1st 5 responders get something.
    i’ve tried that approach and the feedback i received was that people didn’t respond because they didn’t want to seem greedy. every once in a while i’ll do a ‘test’ in a similar way, but i’ll just ask them to reply and let me know they got the email. i actually get a way better response when i don’t offer anything.
    that’s my experience and i’m sticking to it.
    john