Training is tough. With busy schedules and high volunteer turn over, training can feel like a never-ending battle. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, I’m going to walk you through a simple plan to help you create a sustainable volunteer training program for your church.
The Struggle Is Real
Before we dive into the plan, I think it’s important to take a step back and acknowledge that this isn’t a problem that’s specific to your church. Every church struggles with training.
I surveyed a group of pastors last year to see how many people typically show up to their training meetings. Want to know the answer? Somewhere between 40% and 60% show up on average. And these are the people who need the most training.
This isn’t meant to discourage you. I simply want you to see that you’re not alone in this struggle.
Define Your Why
Motivational speaker Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” It’s something that all of us can get better at. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to implement something new without stopping to explain the why behind it.
Before you can implement a training program for your ministry, you have to take time to explain your why. It isn’t enough to say, “Hey Bob, I need you to come to this training for greeters next Friday.” Bob’s most likely not going to show up unless he connects with the why behind the training.
Instead of the generic invite above, try something like this:
“Hey Bob, did you know that we’ve had 20 new people come to our church in the last month? We’ve realized that we aren’t doing a good job of making them feel welcomed as soon as they walk in. There’s been a lot of research done that most visitors make a decision about whether to come back within their first five minutes of arriving at church. Because of this, we’re going to be hosting a training next Friday to ensure that we’re putting our best foot forward when welcoming these new guests. Can I count you in?”
Can you tell the difference? Bob certainly can.
Mapping Out Your Training Program
After defining your why it’s time to map out your training program. This is where most people get stuck and that’s okay. Since we’ve already used the church greeter example above, let’s look at what mapping out greeter training might look like.
It’s important that the first step in your training program reiterates the why behind what you are doing. Getting them to show up is the first win, getting them to retain the information is something entirely different. Spend the first part of your training elaborating on why it’s important to be a greeter.
After you’ve spent some time sharing why, get a little personal. Share something about yourself that those participating don’t know. By sharing your story, you’re building rapport with your team which makes them more likely to connect with the training and with the why.
Next up, it’s time to go over best practices. During this part of your training, you need to make it as practical as possible. Give real examples, like I did above with inviting Bob to a training. It’s also important to ask questions to make sure that your team is following along. This is key to training retention.
Before wrapping up your training you need to establish what ongoing training and check-ins are going to look like. A single training is not enough to produce culture change in your ministry. By laying out the next steps, your team will know what to expect and know that this is something that you are serious about. If you really want to drive this home I recommend having a simple form for each person to sign that says that they commit to the vision and next steps that you’ve laid out.
Finally, make sure you give your team the ability to ask questions and give feedback. They may need you to clarify something or they may give you insight into something you haven’t thought of before.
Automating the Process
If there is one thing that I’ve learned from my time in ministry it’s that people are busy. No matter how well you do at sharing your why and reminding your team about training, someone’s not going to make it. Not only that but what happens when three new people want to join your team next month?
The solution is to automate what makes sense to automate. I remember over a decade ago when I worked as a cashier at Kroger that before I ever was allowed to get on a register, I had to complete an online onboarding. After I finished that, I was then allowed to shadow someone else and then try it myself.
You can use a similar system to make this process even easier. Everyone on your team has almost definitely viewed videos from Netflix and YouTube on demand, so why not move your training online, too?
With a tool like TrainedUp, you can choose from a ton of pre-made videos for every ministry area, or upload your own. You can also attach files, add notes, and ask questions to make sure people are retaining the information. You’ll receive reports when someone finishes training and can check on progress at any time.
Here’s what a greeter best practices video would look like:
Obviously, online training isn’t going to replace every interaction. But, by automating the majority of training for volunteers, you’ll be able to get everyone up to speed more quickly and make sure that everyone is on the same page. You might even lower your stress level a little.
Whether you decide to move your training online or continue with in-person meetings, by using the simple framework above, you’ll be on your way to creating a sustainable volunteer training program in your church.