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 event.
- 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 and surprises.
- 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 themes!
- 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 event.
And with all that in mind, here are a handful of event ideas to consider.
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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 Hats event.
- Training content: Possibilities include time management tools, class management techniques, or priority and goal setting help.
- 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 bring theirs.
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 event.
- 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 rule!
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 to change.