Today’s question comes from our 2017 Blog Survey a few months yore.
I’d like to know more about your ongoing training for specific teams that are under the umbrella of guest services. What do you use? How do you track? What do you train on?
Let me start with a story: many years ago in the early era of my ministry, I led a weekly Wednesday night training to teach Sunday School teachers how to teach their upcoming lesson. (If you’ll stop and let that soak in, you’ll realize how ridiculous it sounds.) The way it worked was as follows: instead of our Sunday School teachers scrambling and cramming trying to prepare their class late on Saturday night, I would scramble and cram trying to prepare it on Wednesday afternoon. I would teach it to them, and then they would basically regurgitate it on Sunday.
Effective? No. Monotonous / unempowering / robotic? Yes.
I share that story because even a couple of decades later, that season of “training” shapes how I feel about how we structure trainings today. Back then, it was like pulling teeth to get people to show up (don’t even get me started on how hard it was to get them to stay awake). I treated adults who were older than me like children, as if they weren’t equipped to do the hard digging and discover the truths of scripture for themselves. And after about the fifth time we met together – no matter the subject – the meetings carried with them a we’ve-heard-all-of-this-before vibe.
So how should we approach training nowadays? Since the question centers around guest services, that’s exactly how I’ll answer it. If you’re in kids ministry, small groups ministry, or any other type of ministry, you’ll need to adjust for your context. Also, I’m answering this from the perspective of our general volunteer team. We do offer a more formalized cohort for some of our high capacity volunteers each year.
Here are a few questions I’d encourage you to ask:
1. Have I started with a good foundation?
You specifically asked about ongoing training. I’m making the assumption that initial training has already taken place. When volunteers join your team, do they go through an orientation? Do you train them on what they will be doing, or do you center around why they are doing it? Our initial on-boarding is a 75 minute classroom setting in week one, and a 90 minute on-the-job observation in week two. You can download a free copy of our 5 Plumb Lines (which make up about half of our week one training) or attend a free Weekender to see the full thing in action.
2. What do my volunteers actually need?
Larry Osborne talks about training in two categories: need to know vs. need to grow. When I bought our first house, my next purchase was one of those do-it-yourself home repair books. I did not sit down and read it cover to cover, because I didn’t need to know how to repair a brand-new garbage disposal. But 23 years later, I still have the book, and I still go back to it as things break, because it’s stuff I need to grow. (By the way, if you need advice on repairing your landline phone, I have a 23 year old book that’s perfect for you).
It works the same way with our teams: just like our initial training focuses on the why, there will be whats that come along as they serve longer: new systems, new policies, new ways of doing things constitute a need for training.
3. How often should I train them?
My Wednesday night conundrum (outlined above) had volunteers showing up for training every. Wednesday. Night. It was monotonous to them, and to me. I would say that there are a vast number of churches that aren’t training enough, but there are more than we’d think that are training too much. The “how often?” question has a lot to do with your volunteer face time. My goal is to do training when they’re here anyway. I don’t want to ask them to give up a night with family to be at the church one more time. Because of that, we utilize our Volunteer Headquarters (VHQ) and our Attend One / Serve One goal in order to give them some just-in-time training. (Oh, and we keep it short. Usually no more than 5-10 minutes one or two times per month.)
4. What resources should I use?
There are a veritable ton of options out there. The very first thing you should explore is question 2 above: what’s needed now? Maybe you have a new initiative coming up that they need to know about. Perhaps you want to share the fall events calendar before the rest of the church sees it, and tell them how they can be involved. Beyond that, here are a few other ideas on what to use:
- Develop an annual plan. Work with key leaders and brainstorm things that your team needs to know, and be reminded of: security procedures, first aid training, offering collection policies, plumb lines, how to sign people up for events, etc. Map those topics out on a calendar, and come back to them once a year.
- Bring in other ministry leaders. Your guest services team should know how they interface with kids, students, worship, production, missions, etc. Bringing in those other ministry heads to give a Ted Talk on how each ministry complements the other will help your vols see where they fit in the big picture.
- Pay for some good online training. Tools like RightNow Media and Ministry Grid will provide practical training from leaders around the country. (Full disclosure: I’ve worked with Ministry Grid to create a few dozen videos under the guest services umbrella…you can listen to a free preview on the NewChurches podcast. I recommend that service not because I’m a part of it, but because I really believe it has the best resources for volunteer training.) The beauty of these sites is that you can customize what content your team hears, let them listen / watch on their own time, and track who has completed what.
- Utilize free online content. There are plenty of bloggers out there who have created lots of material, free for the taking. Print off posts from Bob Adams, Jason Young, Mark Waltz, Greg Atkinson, or some other yahoo of your choice (ahem).
- Use a “grab and go” book. For years I’ve relied on books like Simply Strategic Volunteers and How To Wow Your Church Guests for quick training ideas. I call them “grab and go” because I can literally take the book off of my bookshelf and figure out what to talk about while I’m walking down the sidewalk to the training (not that I’d ever do that, as far as you know.) (More full disclosure: I contributed a little of the material for How to Wow.)
Is there a fifth question you ask when training your vols? Comment below.
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