Maybe training doesn’t always need to be an event. Here
are ways to sneak in training when your volunteers least expect
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
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!
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- Testimony Night — A night to honor kids turns
in to 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.
- Online Tutor — Send an email with some great
Web sites 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 email to you to let
you know they’ve completed a training piece.
- Email Training Tips — Send out a weekly
teacher’s tip sheet via email! 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
email a solution. Post answers in your next newsletter.
- 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.
- Book Review — Read through a book with your
volunteers and share how it touches each of you.
by Carolyn Teague
Good questions serve as the hinges that open the door to
people’s deepest thoughts about their faith. The right questions
asked in the right spirit can force that door to swing even wider
to a broader, deeper faith. And they can keep that door from
slamming shut — sometimes for months or years.
Here’s a sampling of the questions I ask to stimulate people’s
faith. (I keep a list of questions in my daily planner just in case
I run dry.)
- How do you keep a heart desperate to know God and be like
- What makes you hate sin?
- What do you do that motivates others?
- If someone other than God could’ve heard you pray today, what
would he or she find that’s really important to you today?
- What are one or two things you know now that you wish you’d
known when you first started following God?
- What did God use in your life to make you a leader? Was it your
background? other people? your gifts?
- What do you most desire to learn in the future?
- What aspects of living for God are the most difficult for
- If I could look at the markings in your Bible, which Scriptures
would I find have consistently mattered to you?
- What are some areas you wish you’d received more help with in
your spiritual growth?
- What’s your picture of who Jesus is?
- Could you describe for me the God you believe in?
- When are you most tempted to let others’ approval be more
important to you than God’s?
- What is the best imaginable thing you could do to make God
smile (that is, if God has teeth)?
- Why did Jesus often contrast fear and faith?
- When you think of Jesus, do you think of furniture (because he
was a carpenter)? What do you think of?
The key to asking faith questions is patience. I’m learning I
must be patient while my questions echo in people’s hearts. I’ll
only know their deeper, holier, stronger, better thoughts if I wait
for them. And unless I respect and listen to their changing
perceptions, I contribute to the silence of their spiritual growth.
A question goes a long way when it comes to helping people express
Cynthia Crane is a children’s pastor in Huntington Beach,
California. Keith Johnson is the author of Take-Out Training for
Teachers (Group). Please keep in mind that phone numbers,
addresses, and prices are subject to change.