Have you scheduled training only to have no one show up? Training can be tough—so use these no-fail tips to get volunteers to attend.
“Why do we need another meeting? I’m just too busy.”
“I’ve been teaching Sunday school for years. Why should I come to teacher training meetings?”
“The biggest obstacle to training is the time people have for it,” says Barbara Bolton, curriculum consultant and resource specialist in Ohio. But there is hope. Bolton says, “Most people want to do what they do as well as they can.” And that’s where volunteer training comes in.
So how do you get volunteers to training meetings? Check out these expert trainers’ ideas.
Volunteer Training Basics
Use these fundamentals in your volunteer training.
- Communicate training expectations upfront. “When we first talk to somebody about being involved in children’s ministries,” says Earl Radford, children’s minister in California, “we talk to them about our training programs. We require that they attend at least two training sessions a year.” Radford’s teachers must also attend a membership class and a foundations of Christian doctrine class.
- Realize that not everyone will come every time. It’s very difficult to get 100 percent attendance at volunteer training meetings. Radford realized “that I wasn’t going to get everybody at the volunteer training meetings. I couldn’t take that personally.”
- Choose the time yourself. Don’t take a vote. “Don’t change your schedule for any reason because people will say, ‘I didn’t know when the meeting was,’ ” says Judy Wortley, author of The Training Remedy.
- Make training interesting. Do your homework about how to be a stronger leader while keeping the volunteers you’ve worked so hard to recruit.
- Find out what volunteers’ needs are. “Survey the teachers somehow to discover what it is that they feel they need training in,” says Bolton. And make the meeting time interesting. Bolton suggests, “Have a pretty high level of involvement so they’re not just sitting and listening.” Form small groups for active discussion and problem solving.
- Build a team relationship. Acquaint teachers with what other teachers in other grades are doing. “If someone works with preschool, he or she doesn’t have a clue what’s going on in 5th grade,” says Wortley.
- Love your volunteers. Volunteers want to be appreciated. “If you don’t love them, you’ll lose your volunteers,” says Wortley.
- Use experienced volunteers as leaders. If your seasoned volunteers can’t see why they should come to training, tell them how important their role modeling is to less-experienced volunteers. Have them lead a part of the training, and they’ll want to come.
- Start and end on time. Provide child care. Meet in a relaxed atmosphere such as someone’s home. Distribute an agenda ahead of time. Record the meeting to preserve the contents for people who can’t make it.