Training Events No Volunteer Can Resist

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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!

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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.

Pieced Together

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!

Worth-my-time Meetings

Here are three suggestions gleaned from the business world to
make your training meetings more effective.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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