What's the difference between training that inspires and
training that simply fills time? When volunteers are actively
involved in learning, they're enriched. When volunteers interact
with other volunteers over a topic that improves their success in
the classroom NEXT WEEK, they're enriched. When volunteers are
consistently shown a better way through meaningful, life-changing
training, we keep them longer, we stretch them wider, and we feed
them deeper than the average commitment they sign up for.
The following are triumphant teacher-training plans
that'll enable you to do all of the above.
SERVICE WITH A SMILE
Help your volunteers understand how to serve parents.
1.Before the Meeting-Create chaos in your room by
overturning chairs and dumping papers on the floor. As volunteers
arrive, busy yourself with last-minute preparations.
(Option: For this meeting, you could invite a trainer from a
company known for its superior customer service. Have the person
train for the first 15 minutes as if training a group of sales
2. Royal Service-(You'll need royal-sounding
music, "maids," and food on silver platters.) Say, "We're going to
talk today about transferring good customer-service principles from
the business world to serving parents. In the book The Nordstrom
Way, the authors convey the 'secrets' to successful customer
service. Let's experience these."
Play royal-sounding music as maids come in, straighten up your
room, and serve food on silver platters.
After everyone is served, ask, "How did you feel when you
arrived and found the room all messed up? How did you feel as our
maids waited on us?"
Say, "The first principle of customer service is to value the
nobility of good service. We want parents to feel like royalty when
we serve them."
3. It's a Zoo-(For every five people, you'll need
the same set of five animal noises written on separate paper
slips.) Give each person a different animal noise slip. Have people
close their eyes and make their animal noises. People with the same
animal noises must find each other and form a group.
When everyone is together, have people open their eyes to
discover their new groups. Say, "The second customer-service
principle is to find and bond with customers. And the third
principle is to serve and keep those customers. So from now on in
this meeting, you'll stick with this group. To get to know each
other better, have a seat and take turns telling each other about
the best or worst customer service you've ever received."
4. Race Time-(You'll need dry spaghetti and
gumdrops.) Give each group an equal amount of spaghetti and
gumdrops. Say, "At the opposite end of the room, each group will
build the tallest possible structure using these supplies. Each
group will choose one person to be their builder. The builders
can't act independently. They must take only one direction at a
time from their groups, such as 'stick all the spaghetti into a
gumdrop.' Then the builders must run to the other side, perform the
direction, and return to their groups for the next step. Don't
think on your own, builders, you must go back to your groups for
Play this game for five minutes. Afterward, have each
group discuss these questions: "How easy or difficult was it to
build your structure with the rules I gave you? Builders, how did
you feel about having to get directions for each step?"
Say, "The fourth principle of excellent customer service
is to give front-line people freedom to make decisions. How is this
game like or unlike when front-line people are not empowered to
make decisions? What decisions have you been empowered to make in
your ministry to parents and children?"
5. What's My Line?-(For each group you'll
need the two questions below written on newsprint and a marker.
You'll also need a copy of the "Oops! Situations" listed at right,
cut apart.) Say, "It's important to value people with our words and
actions-even if we're confronted with difficult people. But what
does that look like in our ministry, in our church, in our lives?
The following five situations actually happened to real children's
ministry volunteers. I'll give each group a different situation.
Answer these questions on the newsprint for your group's situation:
What would you say or do first to diffuse the situation? What
could've been done to avoid this situation?"
Allow time for discussion, then bring groups back together
and have them report to each other. As a closing prayer, pray
Philippians 2:1-4 for your volunteers.
THE GOOD SHEPHERDS
Use this meeting to minister to a wonderful group of highly
committed volunteers-those people who shepherd other leaders in
your ministry. Give your leaders the encouragement they need to
faithfully feed their flock!
1. A SCAR IS BORN-Say, "Show us a scar that we
can see and explain the 'story' behind it."
After everyone has shared, say, "Being a shepherd involves
binding up the wounds of the people we minister to. Every day, we
minister to people who have hidden scars that we must bind up with
2. A SHEPHERD IS...-(You'll need newsprint,
markers, and masking tape.) Form four groups. A group can be two or
more people. Give each group a marker and a sheet of newsprint.
Say, "Work together to write as many words as you can that describe
what you think of when you hear the word 'shepherd.'"
Have groups tape their newsprint to the wall.
3. WHAT A BABE-(You'll need a TV/VCR and a Babe video
cued to 40:57-before the farmer says "Get 'em up, pig.") Say, "God
wants to use you to shepherd his people. It doesn't matter whether
you think you're a natural born shepherd or not. God can use
anyone. Watch this movie that'll help illustrate what I mean.
"Show the video clip (from the start cue to 44:12-the farmer
scratches his head in disbelief).
4. A SHEPHERD'S LIFE-(You'll need a Bible for each
group.) Say, "Let's take a look at what the Bible tells us a
Assign each group one of these passages to read and study: John
10:1-18; Psalm 23; Ezekiel 34:1-31; and Isaiah 40:11, Matthew
9:36-38, and John 21:15-17.
Say, "From your passages, list any new words that you'd add to
your shepherd lists."
After the new words are added, ask: "What new things did you learn
5. A HEALING SALVE-(You'll need giant adhesive
bandages and fine-tipped markers.)
Give each person a giant adhesive bandage and a
fine-tipped marker. Form a circle, and have people each unwrap
their adhesive bandage and write their name on it. Say, "Think of
the ways you've seen each other be 'salve' to wounds in the adults
and children in our ministry. Write those ways on each person's
adhesive bandage as we pass them around the circle."
When people receive their adhesive bandages, close in a prayer of
thanks for all the ways God has used these shepherds to take care
of the adults and children in your ministry.
SITUATION 1-A parent drops off her angry fourth-grader. He hits
another child. By the end of the class, you're frustrated and you
confront the parent about the behavior. Amid tears, she explains
that her ex-husband came to her house earlier that morning and
yelled at her and her son.
SITUATION 2-A new mother arrives at your nursery four weeks after
the birth of her baby. This is her second child, and her first
child died shortly after birth. One of the other volunteers doesn't
know this and aggressively tries to enlist the new mom to work in
SITUATION 3-A single parent is late picking up his child because
he was having coffee with his girlfriend and the time just slipped
away. The child is in tears because it's after 9 p.m., and this
isn't the first time this has happened.
SITUATION 4-A couple is offended by an Easter lesson that used a
black egg to represent sin. The couple immediately writes a letter
SITUATION 5-After a roller skating party with the
elementary kids, you return to your church. Within minutes, a
parent arrives and wants to know where her son is. You left her son
at the skating rink.
To prepare for this meeting, check out these resources.
"Go, Team, Go!" (July/ August 1998) and "Good Intentions"
(November/December 1998) by Christine Yount in Children's Ministry
"Age-Level Insights: Faith Sharing" by Ivy Beckwith
(January/February 1998) and "3 New Gospel Presentations"
(March/April 1997) in Children's Ministry Magazine.
SHARING FAITH IN CHRIST
Equip your volunteers to capably share their faith in Christ with
1. Stick 'Em Up-(You'll need Post-it self-stick
notes, tape, and newsprint.) As people arrive, give them each a
Post-it note. Tape three sheets of newsprint to the wall. Label the
first one "children," the second "youth," and the third "adult."
Have your volunteers place their Post-it notes on the sheet listing
the age span when they believed in Christ as their Savior. Note the
age that most people became Christians. Then say, "Eighty-five
percent of people who receive Jesus Christ do so between the ages
of 4 and 14."
Ask, "Why do you think more people believe in Christ between these
ages than at other ages?"
Say, "Turn to a partner and discuss this question: Why did you
place your faith in Christ at the age that you did?"
Allow time. Then ask for reports. Say, "I'd like to hear what you
Say, "Children's hearts are receptive to God. They need someone to
explain the gospel to them and what they need to do."
2. Softened Hearts-(You'll need wax, thick
string, duct tape, large paper clips, cardboard circles that'll fit
the end of a toilet paper roll, empty toilet paper rolls, camping
stoves, and old metal pots.) Give each person some wax, a thick
piece of string, a large paper clip, an empty toilet paper roll, a
cardboard circle, and duct tape. Ventilate your room, and turn on
your camping stoves.
Say, "The process of a child believing in Christ is like
melting and molding the wax you've been given. Imagine that the wax
in your hand is the soul of a child and the paper roll represents
Jesus Christ whom all Christians are to conform to."
Ask, "How can you get the wax into the mold? How is that process
like or unlike our hearts softening to Christ?"
Have people melt their wax in the pots.
Say, "Our lives weren't meant to remain melted, unusable, and
without form. God wants us to be conformed to the image of
Have volunteers each tape their string to a cardboard
circle and tape the circle to the bottom of the toilet paper roll,
dropping the string down through the center of the roll. Have
volunteers each attach the loose end of the string to the large
paper clip so the paper clip is at the open end of the toilet paper
roll with the string pulled taut. Now, have them each pour the wax
into their paper roll until they have about 2 inches of wax in the
When everyone's finished, ask, "If you were to remove the
candle from the mold before it's ready, What would
happen? What helps to mold a child's faith?"
Say, "It's important not to get bogged down in theology when
talking to a child about believing in Jesus. The simple approach
should consist of the following points:
• God loves us and created us to love him.
• Our sin keeps us from God.
• God provided his own Son to forgive our sin.
• We must believe in Jesus to be forgiven.
• If we believe, we become a "forever friend" of God.
Give each volunteer a copy of the "Child Evangelism Tips"
box below. Have them silently read through the tips. Then deal with
any questions they may have.
3. Little Light of Mine-(You'll need
matches and candles from the previous activity.) Have volunteers
peel away their cardboard molds to reveal their candles. Have
people light their candles. Then say, "God will use your life to
shine before kids so they can see Christ and want him for
themselves. Let your light shine!"
Sing "This Little Light of Mine" and close in prayer.
Keith Johnson is a former children's pastor who is currently a
church consultant for Group Publishing, Inc.
CHILD EVANGELISM TIPS
When talking to a child about the gospel, follow these tips.
1. Use concrete terminology. Avoid "ask Jesus into your heart."
Instead, emphasize that God wants to "become our heavenly
2. Don't talk about heaven. While that is the reward for those who
are "in Christ Jesus," it unnecessarily creates fear in young
children because they don't want to go where their parents are not,
and they certainly don't desire to go all by themselves. As they
grow in Christ, they'll come to understand heaven in a more
3. Ask questions. Ask open-ended (not "yes" or "no") questions so
you truly understand the child's grasp of what you're saying.
4. Celebrate each child's decision. If the angels in
heaven get totally fired up, shouldn't you?
5. Memorialize the occasion. Write the date in the child's Bible,
or give the child a new Bible.
6. Train the child. Follow up the decision with special
instruction designed to help the child grow in faith.
10 CROWD PLEASERS
Want to know how to get more people to turn out for training? Try
1. Feed the flock. You might not want to serve an entire dinner,
but finger foods should be in abundant supply.
2. Give door prizes! LuAnne Oklobzija, children's pastor at Eagle
Brook Church in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, gives out gift
certificates for restaurants, video rentals, and even The Home
3. Advertise your topic, not your meeting. "Quarterly
Teacher-Training" just doesn't seem to excite the volunteers as
much as "Active Kids in a Lively Classroom." Be specific.
4. Give start and end times. This helps people plan around your
meeting and keeps you on schedule.
5. Child care is a must. Even if people don't use it, just
offering it will eliminate that inevitable excuse not to attend.
And feed the kids too.
6. Budget for training. Don't skimp on training. Plan for
the frequency and type of training you'll do.
7. Specialize training. There are some topics that'll appeal to
your midweek elementary volunteer as well as your once-a-month
nursery volunteer. But, the fact is, not every training opportunity
will meet everyone's needs.
8. Let someone else do it. Take your volunteers to a Children's
Ministry Magazine Live! workshop in the spring or to a ministry
convention. For a list of conventions, see the Children's Ministry
Sourcebook (published by Children's Ministry Magazine,
9. Don't give up. Keep trying different times and new approaches.
Celebrate the people who come.
10. Ban the name "Teacher Training." Not all your volunteers are
teachers, and not all your training is for those with a title. Try
a new name such as "Volunteer Enrichment," "Shepherd's Training,"
or even "Children's Ministry Meeting."