I talk to pastors and ministry leaders every week. The most common training challenge in almost every church I speak with is training children’s volunteers and leaders. That’s one reason we’ve included tons of training videos in our library and made some children’s ministry training videos available for free online.
I don’t have to convince you that training is vital in children’s ministry. With so many moving parts, increased risks, and the sheer volume of volunteers, training is the one thing that may make the difference between a successful ministry and a disaster.
Doing Children’s Ministry Training Well
Knowing that training is important is one thing, but getting it done well is another. The quality of your training will impact the effectiveness of your ministry as well as the happiness of your volunteers.
Quality training in children’s ministry depends on three factors. First, your training needs to be comprehensive, covering everything a volunteer needs to know to do their job well. Second, your training needs to be relevant, helping people with challenges they actually have, not theoretical issues. Third, your training needs to be accessible so that people can actually engage with the learning opportunity.
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Formats for Children’s Ministry Training
Achieving that level of quality training takes planning, but the format or environment for the training is also a big factor. Let’s look at three ways that churches are providing training for their children’s ministry volunteers.
- Dedicated Training Meetings
Church training meetings are a staple of local church ministry. They’re also incredibly unpopular. They usually take place on Sunday after church or a night during the week and last more than an hour. Leaders like meetings because you get to see everyone who shows up…and you’ll know who didn’t show up, too.
There are two major problems with training meetings, however. First, they suffer from universally poor attendance. When we surveyed ministry leaders about attendance patterns at training meetings, we found that fewer than 60% of people show up. That’s a lot of people who aren’t getting trained.
Second, they are horribly inefficient. The shotgun approach is easy for leaders, but creates far too much irrelevant training for most people. Remember, not everyone needs to hear or learn the same thing at the same time.
- Sunday Morning Shadow Training
This is the easiest and least effective form of training that churches lean on. When a new volunteer joins a team, it’s common for them to show up on a Sunday morning with little context for their role, paired up with someone who’s been around for a while, and told to “shadow them for today.”
It’s easy for the leader because it requires zero work and still technically qualifies as training. It is, however, terrible training.
Shadowing puts the onus of training on a volunteer who hasn’t been trained on how to train. They likely are winging most of their job role anyway, which means what they train won’t be actual policy and is most likely not even best practice. What you end up with is a crew of poorly trained volunteers with widely varying ideas about how to do ministry.
- Online Video Training
There is a significant trend of children’s ministry leaders adopting online training for their volunteers. We’ve witnessed thousands of ministry leaders move to TrainedUp over the last year alone, but online training has been around longer than that.
The upside of online training is three-fold. You’re able to provide pinpoint training for people to learn exactly and only what they need to know. You can keep track of who is and isn’t engaged in training. And you can cover everything you need to cover in a shorter amount of time.
Why Children’s Ministries Are Moving to Online Training
The big question I’m asked by ministry leaders is, what’s the motivation for such a drastic shift in training format among children’s ministry directors? They’ve seen other churches move to online training and they want to know why.
The simple answer is that it makes training simpler. It’s simpler for the leader because you can do training once, cover everything they need to cover, and they’re done. It’s simpler for volunteers because they can access the training on their own schedule.
With so many moving parts in ministry, simplifying training is a huge win. They win back time on their calendar. They win back sanity from their busy todo list. They win back trust of a team that appreciates easier access to good training. And most leaders win back margin in their budget, too.
Training Topics in Children’s Ministry
Before we close this conversation out, I want to hit on the most popular topics that we see children’s ministry leaders covering in their training. Here’s a list of the top 12.
- Child drop-off training – That moment when a parent drops of their child is vital to get right. Churches are focusing on making this experience great.
- Building trust with kids – You can’t lead a group of kids if they don’t trust you. Churches are helping volunteers build trust with the kids they lead.
- Building trust with parents – Bridging the ministry gap between kids and their parents is tough, so churches are training volunteers on how to engage parents, too.
- Dealing with behavioral challenges – Sometimes kids act out or throw a tantrum and those moments need special handling. Churches are equipping their volunteers on how to deal with those situations well.
- Recognizing and reporting abuse – With a rise in reports of abuse against children, churches are leery. Leaders are training volunteers on how to spot and report abuse.
- Supervision policy – Churches are uniquely at risk to abuse with so many adults interacting with children. Ministry leaders are reducing the risk of abuse by training volunteers on the famous “2-adult policy” for supervision.
- Emergency and injury procedures – Accidents are bound to happen. Every volunteer needs to know what to do in those circumstances.
- Injury reporting – When a child is hurt, which is inevitable, each volunteer needs to know how and who to report that situation to.
- Leading peaceful rooms – Little kids can feed off one another’s energy, creating a whirlwind of chaos in a small room. Churches are training room leaders to lead quiet rooms that foster learning.
- How to use curriculum – Every new edition of curriculum requires some new thing to learn. Churches are taking advantage of online access to training to keep volunteers up-to-speed.
- Working with children with special needs – Every church should be prepared to minister to children with special needs.
- Talking to children about salvation – Having that most important conversation with a child can be tough since their vocabulary and worldview isn’t developed well enough for typical salvation talks. Churches are training children’s volunteers to have a basic gospel conversation with a child.