Getting volunteers to attend meetings can be a
challenge, but one you can overcome. Here are training events that
volunteers will love attending!
When volunteers sign up to teach Sunday school, they picture
themselves standing tall, Bibles in hand, guiding young lives
toward Jesus. Shapers of eternal destiny. Leading the charge
against darkness and evil. On the front lines.
They do not picture themselves parked in a church basement,
pencils in hand, attending quarterly training meetings.
So getting volunteers to meetings and seminars may be a
challenge, but one you can overcome. All it takes is proper
planning, a personal invitation, relentless promotion, and training
events that make a difference!
Here's how to get all your volunteers out for your next training
- Go first class. Training is not the place to cut
corners. You don't need flash and fireworks, but show volunteers
they're worth the investment by providing first-rate refreshments,
a comfortable setting, and an event that provides take-home items
- Use an event theme. The best theme is one that ties in
to the content of your event. Be creative-your enthusiasm is
contagious! Look for something that'll intrigue your volunteers,
snag their curiosity, and promise fun. For example, use themes such
as Children's Safari, It's a Jungle out There, or Born Outside of
the U.S.A. Just imagine all the things you could do with those
- Deliver the goods. Fun gets volunteers out for
training sessions once-volunteers will return only if you provide
quality content. See the "Worth-My-Time Meetings" box for
suggestions on how to deliver what volunteers want most. And
remember: Volunteers will forgive almost anything except wasting
their time. Have something worth hearing before you hold a training
And with all that in mind, here are a handful of event ideas to
Training for Teachers
52 engaging training sessions draw the most out of your
teachers with principles they can apply immediately...
Too Many Hats
Your volunteers live frantic lives, juggling roles that often
leave them frustrated. Let them know you understand. Several weeks
before your training session, deliver a hat from a garage sale or
novelty shop to each volunteer-one you encourage them to wear to
your event. Include the agenda and an invitation to your Too Many
- Training content: Possibilities include time
management tools, class management techniques, or priority and goal
- Activity: Provide fabric scraps, glue, scissors, and
construction paper. Have volunteers decorate their hats in a way
that reflects the roles in life they find most challenging. Have
pairs pray for each other.
- Hint: Have extra hats on hand for those who forget to
Do all your volunteers feel important...and involved? Teachers
who've been off in their rooms for months may feel isolated,
drained, and out of the loop. Develop a team spirit, and invite
evaluation with this training event.
Gift-wrap individual pieces of a paper quilt pattern and deliver
one piece to each volunteer. With each piece, include an agenda and
encourage teachers to color and bring their quilt piece to your
- Training content: Focus on team-building, the body of
Christ, or the importance of various children and adults in the
Christian education process.
- Activity: When volunteers arrive, have them patch
their quilt together. Have quilt pieces with the same design
determine small groups for a later discussion/prayer time.
- Hint: Have duplicate pieces. If everyone doesn't show
up, you'll still be able to complete the puzzle.
Come As You Are
Call your volunteers at various times of the day-at the office,
over the weekend, near bedtime-and invite them to your event. The
catch: They must come precisely as they're dressed when you make
phone contact with them. With few exceptions, this will be
possible. Award prizes for the most unusual attire, most relaxed,
most formal, and the one that took the most courage to wear.
- Training content: Stress the importance of accepting
individual children as they are, various learning styles, or team
teachers' complementary gifts.
- Activity: In small groups, ask volunteers to guess
when and where group members were when phone contact was made.
Report great stories to the larger group.
- Hint: Be flexible if necessary in enforcing your
Here are three suggestions gleaned from the business world to
make your training meetings more effective.
- Include meetings in job descriptions. Are quarterly or
monthly meetings part of the job? Tell prospective teachers up
front-so meetings aren't a schedule-busting surprise later.
- Distribute agendas before the meeting. Decide what you
want to accomplish. Ask, "what problem will this training meeting
help my volunteers solve?" Focus your meeting and stick to the
agenda. Bonus: You'll clearly think through the meeting in advance,
and volunteers will know you're prepared and serious.
- Watch the fundamentals. Begin and end on time. Provide
dependable child-care. Serve good refreshments. Consider offering
door prizes as a surprise. Schedule meetings at a convenient time,
or offer two alternatives-a weekday evening and Saturday afternoon,
for instance. Don't "guilt" volunteers into attending. Talk up
benefits of attendance and what attendees will get for their
investment of time.
Mikal Keefer is a Sunday school teacher in Colorado. Please
keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject