youth ministry, student ministry, training adult volunteers

Basic Training For New Volunteers

By Doug Franklin July 7, 2017

Every new volunteer needs basic training. Basic training communicates the culture, how things work, and when we tend to do things. Sadly, most youth ministries expect you to learn basic training by watching what happens.

But no one can really learn an organization by just watching what happens each week. In fact, when a ministry uses this method everyone tends to decide for themselves what they want the culture to be, which makes for competing visions, rough transitions, and a short lifespan for new volunteers.

“No one can really learn an organization by just watching what happens each week.”

If we want to set our volunteers up for a smooth transition and create a healthy and sustainable team, we’ll need basic training. Basic training is what gets people headed in the right direction at the right time. Take a look at these five basic training ideas:

1. Mission and Vision

Every volunteer should know the purpose of the ministry. Make sure that your mission statement is easily accessible and frequently discussed. During basic training spend time communicating your shared values as well as your ministry goals. When a new volunteer can clearly articulate the mission of the ministry, you’ll know you’ve done your job.

2. Policy and Procedures

Policies and Procedures are a necessary part of youth ministry. They set clear guidelines that keep students safe, and they should be a key aspect of any basic training program. Plan to walk new volunteers through a written copy of your policies and procedures, and be sure to provide a space where new volunteers can ask clarifying questions and voice concerns.

3. How youth ministry works

Don’t forget that a new volunteer needs to know how youth ministry works. Think of this part of basic training as an explanation of roles. Often times people think working with students means having fun with them or being a chaperone, but we need our volunteers  to understand their role as disciple-makers. Tell your new volunteers what you do and what they do. Share stories that communicate how God works through volunteers to transform students. If you take this opportunity early on, you’ll likely prevent a new volunteer from creating and establishing a role of their own choosing.

4. How youth ministry is structured at your church

New volunteers also need clarity about how youth ministry is structured at your church. Volunteers may be coming from a different church context, or they may have grown up seeing youth ministry done in a slightly different way. Discussing the structure of your ministry helps them see how things work under your leadership. They need to know how the ministry works under your leadership.

5. The basics of relationship building

The most important part of youth ministry is relationship building, but most adults, especially new volunteers, are scared of students. We need to teach them how to overcome those fears and pursue students for the purpose of discipleship. A key part of your basic training should be four or five skills in this area of relationship building. Train your adults to welcome students, ask discovery questions, and drive conversations deeper over time. Rhythm of Relationships is a free resource on our website to help you do just that.

Be intentional when bringing new volunteers into your youth ministry. Utilize basic training to help them understand the vision and where they fit. Devote time to giving them the background and the skills they’ll need to have a greater impact in the lives of students.

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More