One of the worst things a leader can do is recruit others to do a task and then never develop them to do it well. In many cases, it would have been better to let the person who was recruited sit and wonder why you are doing everything than to ask him or her to help without providing support. Failing to provide ongoing support through training leads to frustration for the person doing the task, the person who recruited them, and the person who could receive the benefit if the task were done well.
When leading conferences for Bible study leaders, I regularly find people who have been teaching a class for five or more years but have never received any training. The job is so big that some leaders just don’t know where to start when it comes to providing some type of ongoing training. In most churches, the teachers of the ongoing Bible study groups make up the largest number of volunteers. In most churches, this group also determines the effectiveness of that church. Trained teachers will not guarantee success, but failing to train them will all but guarantee failure. The focus of this post will be creating ongoing training for these volunteers, but the process can be applied to other opportunities for service as well.
So what are the steps for creating an ongoing training plan for volunteers, and can it really be done in four steps? It can, and we will look at the first two steps today.
Step 1: Create a list of tasks you want the teachers to do or be able to help others do.
This sounds simple, but this list will be invaluable. You’ll discover some nuances that make the job larger than you imagined if done well. You may even want to word these actions as a question beginning with “How do I … ?”, “What do I do if … ?”, and “How do I help others [insert a task]?”
You may want to include experienced and inexperienced teachers in the process. List every possible action; include the big stuff and the small stuff. Remember that the small stuff usually makes the biggest impact, most likely because these are the things that get easily ignored.
You may want to group some of the items to make the list more manageable, but don’t eliminate any of the items.
Step 2: Categorize the list.
As you look at the items listed, identify the actions that require only an email or handout. Most teachers are busy. Not everything requires a meeting. If you can effectively provide this information outside the meeting, do so. Some items in this category might include contact numbers for an emergency, list of future key dates, and holiday plans/schedules.
Secondly, identify the items where a video or a podcast could be used. Items that are static will most likely dominate this category. An example of a static action is helping someone know how to make a hospital visit. We generally make a hospital visit today the same way today as it was done 50 years ago: let the patient know who you are, pray for them, and then get out without adjusting any of the knobs or switches on the beeping instruments. You might even create or find a video of how not to do a task. These videos or podcasts could be produced by you, or you may secure them from a trusted source like Ministry Grid. (Consider also the Groups Matter podcast, posted bi-weekly on this blog.)
The third category are the items that must be done face-to-face. The actions that are strategically important to the organization or relate to an emphasis that must be highlighted should be in this category. Some things just need to come from you as their leader, because of their importance to the work.
Now you should have an idea of what you need to prepare to give your volunteers, knowing what handouts need to be created, what videos need to be located or produced, and what training agendas need to be written.
Tomorrow, what to do with this information: steps 3 and 4.
G. Dwayne McCrary is the team leader for Adult and Young Adult group resources at Lifeway, leads two weekly Bible study groups (one for empty-nesters and one for 4-year olds), serves as an adjunct professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and carries 20-plus years of church staff experience. He is married to Lisa (both native Texans), and they have two children and one grandson. Find him on Twitter: @gdwayne.