Rethink How to Train Your Team


Forget meetings no one comes to! Here are 10 out-of-the-box ways to train your volunteers.

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The last time you had a training meeting, how many seats were empty? More than were filled? You may feel all alone in your training meetings, but you’re not alone when it comes to your peers. Children’s ministers report that one of the toughest challenges to training volunteers is getting them to actually attend training.

It’s easy for leaders to resort to the comfortable old training meeting—you know, the kind you have to bribe volunteers to attend by offering lunch, gifts, and a high-dollar guest speaker. And even with all the bells and whistles, only a handful will actually show up.

The reason they’re not coming isn’t you—you really are a likable person with great information to share. Really! It’s because the volunteer landscape has shifted. It’s time to step out of the old, reliable training meeting and shake up how you communicate with your volunteers. Try these innovative, time-saving ideas to get your volunteers to actively participate in training—and apply what they learn.

1. Podcasts
What it is: A video or audio file accessible over the Internet.
How to do it: Videotape or record your training sessions, then upload them to your ministry’s Web site (for podcast providers, go to,, or Or do a podcast search (visit or for easy searches) on specific topics already offered online, and then provide a link to the specialized training you want your volunteers to view. You can also offer a wide range of topics for volunteers to customize training according to their needs or interests.
Why it works: Volunteers train on their own time. Simply keep track of their podcast training through a site login feature or an email verification at the end of the podcast that lets you know who’s completed the training. Volunteers appreciate the ability to view training at their convenience and learn about the topics they’re interested in.

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2. Observations
What it is: Watch your volunteers in action and give immediate feedback.
How to do it: Set up a rotation schedule and observe your volunteers in the classroom. Use a specific checklist of qualities and skills you’re looking for as you observe. At the following informal review, highlight successes first, then point out areas for growth. Do this at least once per quarter, setting aside a 10- to 15-minute review time with the volunteer following your observation.
Why it works: By observing your volunteers, you provide immediate feedback on what’s going well and customize training to meet their specific areas for growth—all with one-on-one attention.

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