I often lurk on Facebook Groups for ministry leaders. It’s an incredible space for co-learning with peers and those who take advantage of those groups are ahead of the game. It’s like an ongoing peer-learning workshop.
Last week, someone asked “What are the top three things a new volunteer in children’s ministry should be trained on?”
I think that’s a phenomenal question. First, a new volunteer has some specific learning needs that are different from longtime volunteers. Second, you can’t teach a new volunteer everything, so what should you focus on when you have limited bandwidth with that person?
Here are my top three things you should teach to a new volunteer in children’s ministry.
#1 Safety and Abuse Prevention
This is the absolute top and more important thing you can teach a new volunteer in children’s ministry. Your number one responsibility is to keep your kids safe while they are in your care.
Keeping your kids safe requires that all of the people that interact with your kids are not only background-checked, but also trained appropriately.
Your safety training should cover these 4 things:
- Prevent abuse by avoiding unaccountable scenarios. That means you train your volunteers to always have two-adults present, respect physical contact rules, and know what kind of language is acceptable to use with a child.
- Recognize risky or questionable behavior in other leaders. There are signs to watch for in someone who may be at risk of abusing or mistreating a child and your volunteers need to know what to look for.
- Recognize at-risk behavior in children. Part of keeping children safe is seeing when they feel unsafe. Children often project their feelings of safety or unease through their body language or verbally.
- Reporting inappropriate or questionable actions. Knowing how to spot bad behavior is only helpful if you also know what to do next. A clear reporting procedure that is clearly articulated to your volunteers helps your people take the right next step if they see something they are concerned with.
#2 Leading Effectively in a Room Full of Little Kids
Leading a room full of kids on a Sunday morning is a uniquely challenging experience. First, they’re little kids with short attention, fickle desires, thin skin, no patience, and enough energy to power a tank. Second, you only see them once a week, which isn’t enough time to establish a rhythm and rapport with them. Third, most people who volunteer in children’s ministry aren’t elementary teachers during the week, which means Sunday mornings are out of the norm for them.
The most helpful thing you can do is to help them navigate and lead well in a room full of little kids. Your team needs to know how to keep things calm, diffuse tantrums, keep attention on the lesson, and make sure everyone is having fun.
Without this kind of training, your volunteers will become anxious before church and frazzled by the time they’re done. And, what’s worse, the parents of your kids will pick up on that anxiety and it won’t be good.
#3 Interacting with Parents
Finally, if your team can keep kids safe and engaged, your 90% successful. But that’s not all there is to children’s ministry. A major factor to a successful children’s ministry is happy parents.
Keeping your parents happy is simpler, but still takes training. The primary factor in happy parents is the impression those parents have of the volunteers who spend time with their kids.
Your team needs to be trained mainly on two moments of interaction with parents. If they can get the drop-off and pick-up interactions right, then parents will be happy.
At drop-off, a smile goes a long way. Ask the right questions about allergies and other needs, speak to the child directly, and let the parent know what they’re going to be doing during the hour the child is with you.
At pick-up, a smile goes an even longer way. Everything was amazing and the child was happy and had fun. The diaper is changed and the child has had their snack. All is well!
Automating the Training Process
I built TrainedUp because I needed a way to train my people without adding more meetings and work to my plate. If you’re anything like me, you probably also dislike redundant meetings where you say the same thing to a different group of people each time.
TrainedUp can automate the whole training and onboarding process for you when you have new volunteers in children’s ministry.
We’ve already created training video courses you can use with zero work on your part. They’re done and ready to use in our library of training. Here’s a small sample of a few of our 800+ videos so you can see what our style and quality is like.
Once you have an account, just find the courses you want to use, click the “Import Course” button, and then share that course with your new volunteers. They’ll get an email from our system with an explanation of the course and a big obvious button to “Login and Start Learning”.
Or you can create your own courses with your own videos and share them with your people.
Once they’ve completed the training, you’ll get an email notification that contains all of their answers to the questions in each course module. Boom. Done.
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