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How to train your youth ministry volunteers (part 1)

Most of the leaders and volunteers in our team do not have a formal youth ministry training or degree. That means that we need to help them acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to help them serve well in whatever role they’ve taken on in youth ministry. But how do we do that? How do we provide the right kind of youth ministry training for our team?

It’s start with making a plan. Sure, you can engage in some well-intentioned haphazard training on subjects you think are either interesting or relevant, but how will you know if you’ve covered it all? If you really want to give your leaders and volunteers the tools they need to do a great job, you’ll need to do some serious planning.

Making a youth ministry training plan

Any youth ministry training plan revolves around these three questions:

What do they need to know?

What do they know already?

How can we teach what’s missing?

Please not that ‘knowing’ doesn’t refer to just theoretical knowledge here, but to practical skills as well. In educational terms this is described as ‘competencies’ which can be both theoretical and practical.

What do they need to know?

To answer this question, you’ll need input from the team itself first. What do they feel they need to be able to serve better? Where would they want to receive extra training? What skills would they like to develop or practice?

The second step is to sit down yourself and make a list of topics you think your leaders need to have knowledge of and skills you feel are crucial to doing a successful job. It’s not always possible for people themselves to identify their youth ministry training needs, because they don’t know what they’re missing so to speak.

If you look at yourself and what you knew when you started out in youth ministry and what you know now, the increased knowledge and experience has probably helped your tremendously in doing a better job. But if someone had asked you when you just started out what you needed to learn, I bet you would have had a hard time pinpointing exactly what your training needs were.

Knowledge

Here’s a list of topics you may feel are necessary for your team to have knowledge of:

  • Youth culture
  • Adolescent psychology
  • The basis theology of your denomination
  • Your mission and vision as a youth ministry
  • Communication theories
  • Sharing the gospel with students
  • Spiritual leadership and some leadership theory in general
  • Basic knowledge of current pastoral issues and views on pastoral care

These are all very broad topics, so you’ll need to narrow it down for the specific needs of your team. Your team doesn’t need to become experts on every topic, they need a working knowledge that will help them understand better what they do, why they do it and how they can do it better.

Tip: when making this list of necessary ‘knowledge’, ask yourself this question: what knowledge will really make a difference in how they do their job? What knowledge helped you do your job better when you were at their ‘level’?

Skills

Then there are the skills you may feel your volunteers and leaders need, for instance:

Tip: when you have trouble identifying the necessary skills, spend some time thinking on things that don’t go well in your youth ministry, for instance a small group that’s not working, an event that always ends in trouble, etc. It could be that things go wrong because the leaders responsible miss certain skills. What are they doing wrong and what do they need to learn?

If you’re part of a big youth ministry, you may have to separate the training needs of several groups, for instance small group leaders, worship leaders, organizational leaders, ushers or whatever division is practical. Obviously, small group leaders will have different training needs than ushers for example.

At the end of this round, you will have a broad idea of the youth ministry training needs of your team. The second step is to identify what your volunteers know already, which we’ll discuss next week.

How do you approach training your volunteers? Do you have a training plan of some sort?

[Photo credit: Cybrarian77, Flickr, Creative Commons]
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0 thoughts on “How to train your youth ministry volunteers (part 1)

  1. Great setup article. If I knew I could get my volunteers present and fully engaged to teach everything I needed to teach them, I would spend about two straight weeks in training. Instead, we do an initial 6 hour training at the beginning of the year and then one hour each month with everyone and at least two one-on-one sessions throughout the school.

    Looking forward to part 2!

    1. That’s a valid point you’re adressing: the amount of time volunteers want to spend on receiving training. We have to respect their time constraints, but often it’s also about motivation. Definitely something I’ll be adressing in upcoming posts!

  2. Awesome. I’m going to start a discussion with my team next week on what knowledge and skills our volunteers need to have based on this info. Thank you!!!! Right now i feel that we do a good job of training them in our strategy and philosophy, but need to nail down specific skills and ways to train them. 🙂

    1. You’re very welcome, so glad it’s been of help to you. Should your volunteers mention any other areas or skills than the ones I’ve listed, feel free to add them in a comment!

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