youth worker, student ministry, youth ministry

Volunteer Training: Best Practices

By Doug Franklin August 20, 2013

School is back in session and parents seem to be sighing with relief. With the start of school comes the start of another ministry year, which is really exciting. There is a lot that goes into new ministry years: planning a calendar, working with parents, booking retreat centers, and putting together ideas for teaching throughout the year. A huge component though of every youth ministry are adults who volunteer their time in the ministry. Whether you call them staff, leaders, or volunteers, they are vital to the success of the ministry. They are the glue that holds everything together and the fuel that keeps the engine of youth ministry running. A key part of working with adult volunteers is training them so they are effective in their ministry. I’ve put together a list of four best practices when it comes to adult volunteer training, but I’d love your feedback and ideas too.

1. Do training throughout the year, not just in the beginning
Too often we think a one-shot deal is the best way to train our adults. We think that a long, one day training in the end of August that covers all aspects of leading in the youth ministry is the best way to train. While these days can convey a lot of needed information, it’s too much for someone to soak in and they end up forgetting it throughout the year. It’s better to space out trainings throughout the year, such as once a month doing a two hour training night. Provide training that is applicable and easy to remember. Create space for discussion and prayer. When you space out the training throughout the year, it’s more likely to be used. Remember, growing in leadership is a process.

2. Continually up the challenge for volunteers
Many times we try to lighten the load as much as we can for adult volunteers so we don’t overtax them. This is great because in churches we often ask too much from people. However, sometimes upping the challenge is exactly what an adult needs. It doesn’t mean you have to add on more time or commitments to them; it does mean that you are challenging them to take more ownership in the ministry. Find out their strength and gifts, then challenge them to use them more in the ministry. If it’s teaching, let them teach. If it’s planning, give them an event to plan with students. If it’s a passion area, let them dream within it to use it for youth ministry. Keep challenging them and it will increase their heart for the ministry.

3. Mentoring can be key
We love mentoring, especially for students. It’s a powerful and effective tool in helping students reach their potential. I think many of us are naturally doing this with students already. Have we ever thought of mentoring our adult volunteers? Whether it is you mentoring your adults or you finding someone older in your church who could mentor them, it will help them grow in leadership and in their lives. And it will produce deeper, more mature adult volunteers who in turn can mentor students.

4. Make sure you celebrate life
Knowing your adult volunteers is so important and celebrating their lives is so meaningful. My youth pastor and his wife make it a regular habit to have my wife and I and the other volunteers in our youth ministry over regularly for meals at their house. We laugh, we share stories and inside jokes, and we grow closer as friends. We love serving together, but we also just love each other. And it makes it a lot easier to serve together when you love each other. If you do regular trainings for your group, provide a meal before the training for time just for bonding as a group.

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