People are busy! It is hard enough to get people to volunteer, so how can we ask them to serve every week? Weekends are busy with family commitments, or time to relax and sleep in. Volunteering weekly will be the most rewarding for volunteers but how can we get them to understand that?
Have you read The Formula for Building Great Volunteer Teams? This book has moved into the position of “Top 5 Must Have” books for Kids Ministry. It is LOADED with information.
My friend Dale Hudson is the author of this amazing book. This guy has tons of Kids Ministry Experience and really knows his stuff when it comes to kids, volunteers, recruiting, training and motivating. His blog is loaded with resources and ideas on many different kids ministry related topics. He has a humble spirit and an amazing servant’s heart. I have visited the church many times where he was on staff as the Kids Ministry Director and my kids loved being in the kids program there. He is an international conference speaker and trainer, and I have learned so much from this guy and his experience. He is the author of several kids ministry books, and his most recent, The Formula for Building Great Volunteer Teams is one of my favourites.
When people sign up to volunteer in our Kids Rooms, we want to equip them with all the info they need to get started, and do their job well. It can be a little overwhelming for a new volunteer to try to remember everything, so we created some booklets for each room that give them the basics to get started.
Sometimes I like to show my volunteers a video clip to illustrate a point. Despicable Me is a great movie that shows an example of Gru doing a not so great job as a dad, and then later, a much better job as a dad. This illustration can be used when it comes to volunteers in Kids Ministry. These two Despicable Me video clips illustrate how volunteers can own their role instead of rent it.
Every year we have a volunteer training event in September. We review the safety stuff as well as the vision and values. It’s a chance for new volunteers to learn the basics and returning volunteers to be reminded about why we do what we do. At this event we review our Volunteer Training Handbook. This book outlines our safety policies as well as the need to know info for our Kids Volunteers.
This weekend we had our annual Kids Ministry Volunteer Training Event. Here’s what we did:
Promotion – Start months ahead with a few “save the date” emails. Then 3 weeks before the event, send emails weekly, and get your leaders from each room to email their teams of volunteers. Put posters of the event up in kids ministry spaces. Get people to sign up online.
Theme – Choose a theme that is fun! This year we went with a Transformers theme and focused on moving beyond Supervision (of kids) to Transformation (in their lives)
Set up – Have the room decorated, set up & stuff on people’s chairs like training manuals & chocolates when they arrive. The first impression when they arrive will be a great one if you have everything ready to go & you pay attention to detail.
Food – Definitely include food. It’s even better if you can get your food to match your theme!
Fun – Include a game or event that is just plain fun. Because we had a transformers theme, 5 volunteers had to try to transform the transformer toy from a robot into a vehicle. Game music & cheering help to bring energy to the game.
Prizes – Door prizes are a great way to go. People love to win things. Get as many as your budget will allow. Ask for donations if you have a limited budget.
Have people talk other than you – We had a discussion panel of volunteers. I sent them questions ahead of time so they were prepared with their answers. It was so great to have them talk about stuff that I usually say. It was very powerful coming from them.
Power Point & Video – Keep things visual whenever possible. Media helps to keep people’s attention. Video clips bring variety and can help drive your point home. I used a video clip of Bill Hybels, “Coffee with God“. It helped to illustrate about the life transformation that can happen when you spend time with God.
Motivation Talk – Remind people why we do what we do. Tell stories. Show videos.
Neighbour discussion – To help break up a longer time of “sit and listen”, have volunteers turn to their neighbour & tell each other one thing they just learned from what was just talked about.
Take Home – Have them write down (on a card that you make ahead of time) one thing they can do to improve what they are doing & tell them to take it home & put it in a place where they will see it on a regular basis to remind them.
Appreciation Video – a few weeks before the event get video footage of as many volunteers in action as possible. Edit it together & add some music & play it at the end of your main session.
Breakout Groups – Give people a chance to chat about their own area of ministry with their team. The last hour of our training event is spent in ministry specific groups all over our building. They chat about things that are specific to where they serve.
If you want things to run smoothly in Kids Ministry, it’s probably a good idea to spend some time training your team of volunteers. However, usually when you mention the word training, people’s schedules suddenly fill up quickly. Here are some tips that can help you be successful at creating a training event that people will want to come to:
#1. Value people’s time. Limit the amount of events that you ask them to come to. I hold an annual training event for all of my volunteers. I strongly encourage them to attend, but that’s the only ‘training event’ that I ask them to attend all year.
#2. Go Big or Go Home. If you are going to take the time to put together a training event, then make it FUN! – Choose a theme & run with it. Pinterest has zillions of ideas on every theme possible. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Cardboard, paint & paper can go a long way to make your decor look spectacular. Door prizes are always fun for people because they like winning things. Take home bags with some resources, notepaper, a pen & a few candies are another good idea to include.
#3. Have a schedule and stick to it. Include things like a main session, workshops, guest speakers, discussion panels & team building time.
#4. Food. You have to have food. If possible get your food to match your theme. Once again, visit Pinterest.
#5. Make it motivational. Somewhere in your schedule you need to include a motivational talk. Remind people why they do what they do. Remind them that they are making a difference. Use stories &/or video to help illustrate this.
#6. Make it practical. Give people some ‘how-to’s’ and some ideas that they can implement in their roles. Post cards with websites for more info, or a guest speaker, or a top 10 list are great ways to do this.
#7. Give people a chance to talk. The last thing you want to do is talk AT people the whole time. Get them to turn to their neighbour and share one idea or story. Do some round table discussion. Give them time to get into groups of 3 or 4 to share ideas.
#8. Help them discover action steps. Be sure to include times throughout your event when they can pause and WRITE DOWN one thing they can do to improve what they do in Kids Ministry.
#9. Include a ‘more information’ option. Some people might be willing to learn more! Be sure to include some books, videos, websites & blog posts that might be beneficial to them if they want to learn more.
#10. Celebrate the wins! I love to include a video or slideshow of the volunteers in action. It helps people see that they are not alone and there is a whole team of people who are serving along with them. Be sure to take lots of video clips & pics in the weeks leading up to your event so you can catch your current volunteers in action! Add some funky music & you have a celebration presentation!!
I have started reading this book. Disney U. It’s loaded with great information.
Disney believes that if they treat their employees (aka Cast Members) well, then they will in turn treat their customers (aka guests) well.
One of the things that Disney does with their new cast members is send them to Disney University for orientation. During this process, they teach them about the history of Disney and what it takes to help cast members have a great experience. They take the time to invest in their cast members and paint the picture of what they want them to do. They believe if the cast members are having a great experience working at Disney, then that will transfer into how well they do their job & the guests will have a great experience.
Light bulb moment. Invest in your volunteers. Work hard to help them have a great experience & enjoy what they do. It will have a ripple effect & ministry to children & families will be better because of your investment in volunteers.
How well do you train your new kids ministry volunteers? Do you welcome them with a smile & then put them right to work? At Creekside, we start with an online program that takes about 7 minutes to complete. Volunteers can do this initial orientation training on their own time when it is most convenient for them. We also use a buddy system to partner new volunteers with experienced ones. In the fall we have a big volunteer training event that we pull all the stops out for. We want them to enjoy the training & enjoy what they do when they are volunteering on our Kids Ministry team.
How do you train your new volunteers?
If you haven’t read this book, you should get it. Lots to learn from it.
Kids Kount Publishing has created some videos to help train Kids Ministry Staff & Volunteers. Each video is 3 minutes or less, and is available online for free. No subscription, so signing up…just click on the video & press play! Here are some of the topics they cover:
Understanding Grade Schoolers
Tips for Directors, Leaders & Coaches
Skill training for Large Group Teachers & Small Group Leaders
Kids Ministry Space
Each of these sections has several videos to choose from. Forward the link to your volunteers & help them sharpen their skills by watching these training videos online.
Once a year I host a Kids Ministry Training Event for all my Kids Ministry Volunteers. I do it “conference style” with Main Sessions and Workshops. I work hard to create a fun event that people enjoy coming to so that they will want to come to the next training event. This particular event was a Monster Mash. Complete with decor, food, & music, we played on the Monster Mash theme. I chose this theme partly because I was planning to use some video clips from a training event that Sue Miller did at a Promiseland Conference many years ago. You can read about the Ministry Monsters in her book, “Making Your Children’s Ministry the Best Hour of Every Kid’s Week”.
When putting together a training event, be sure to remember the following:
Make it Fun – If it’s not fun, people won’t come back. Decor, music & door prizes help.
Make it Count – Everything should be intentional and time well spent.
Make sure there is Food – If you provide food, people like that.
Make it Motivational – Always include a talk that reminds people WHY we do what we do.
Make it Practical – People want to learn something that they can implement as they volunteer with you.
Provide a take home – I give each volunteer a reuseable bag & stock it with helpful print material, a pen & paper & candy. (usually chocolate is involved)
What do you do for training events with your volunteers?
This book is on my top 10 for favorite Kids Ministry books! It’s loaded with ideas. Aaron Reynolds is a creative writer and story teller, and he shares his experience in this book so that people can do a better job of bringing the Bible to life through story telling. It’s a must have on your Kids Ministry book shelf. Here’s a breakdown of the table of contents:
Creating an Atmosphere of Excellence – memorizing, practicing, and evaluating
Fabulous Techniques for Transformational Teaching – a bunch of great stuff in this section
Power Tools of Creativity – 20 Ways to Teach the Bible Creatively
Teaching Evaluation Form – a sample form to evaluate your teaching
Personal Development Plan for Teachers – a tool to help teachers grow
A Training Guide for Ministry Leaders – How to use the book to train your teachers
I teach 2 Children’s Ministry courses at Emmanuel Bible College in Kitchener, Ontario. One of the classes was on the topic of leadership. I used this team building activity to demonstrate how important communication skills are when leading a team. The students were able to pull all kinds of valuable lessons from this exercise. Here’s how it works:
Team: works best with 4-6 people in a group
Supplies: Duct Tape, a marker, a piece of paper & blindfolds
Prep: cut long strips of duct tape (one for each person on the team) and attach one end to the marker. This video at the end of this post illustrates how to do this.
Directions: Designate one person on the team to be the leader. Everyone else on the team puts on a blindfold.
Give the leader a simple picture that you want their team to draw. (e.g. happy face) Don’t tell or show the picture to anyone but the leader.
Each person on the team holds one of the duct tape strips, and together, they try to get the marker to move to draw the object.The leader must give instructions to their team to get them to draw the picture while blindfolded.
After you lead your team through this activity, ask them what they learned from this.
When new volunteers come to volunteer in Kids Ministry it’s important to make them feel welcome and give them details about what they need to do. Crossroads Church has a sign posted in their Kids Rooms that reminds the current volunteers what they should do when a new volunteer arrives in the room to serve.
Greet them – Saying hello when they arrive lets them know that they are valued and you are happy to have them there!
Make Introductions – Help them get connected by introducing them to the rest of the team.
Give them the 411 – Let them know what is going to happen that day, and what you need them to do.
Action! – Connect them with an experienced volunteer and help them jump right in.
Any Questions? – Ask them if they have any questions.
What do you do to help your volunteers on their first day in Kids Ministry?