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How to train your youth ministry volunteers (part 2)

In the previous post, we discussed the first step in making a youth ministry training plan for your volunteers: identifying what they need to know. The second step is a more tricky one: defining what they already know.

What do they know already?

Once you have made a list of knowledge and skill you feel are necessary for your volunteers, you’ll need to define what they know already. Since you can’t possibly say that for all your volunteers as a group, you’ll have to make a list of your volunteers and more or less indicate their individual competencies on each of the items you deem critical for doing their job well.

That sounds easier than it actually is. Professionals in human resources management have written tons of books on assessing people’s knowledge and skills. Yet a lot of managers still have a hard time pinpointing where the performance of their employees falls short exactly.

The good news is this: the church is not a business and it’s not about performing. Plus you can be open about the whole process with your volunteers and ask them to rate their knowledge and skills together with you. If you approach the idea of a youth ministry training plan the right way and not make it sound like you’re judging them or criticizing them, they might actually get on board and be enthusiastic about receiving training to help them improve their serve.

In bigger ministries, it may be way too time consuming to assess each volunteer individually and you’ll just have to group them together and define their knowledge and skills as a group.

Tip: don’t ever assume your volunteers will know the mission, vision and values of your youth ministry. It’s not just my experience that these are essential things you’ll need to teach over and over again!

Getting the skills part right

With the knowledge part, getting it right as to what they know is of less importance than with the skills part. No matter what theoretical subject you offer training in, there’s always some fresh knowledge and if not, repeating known truths usually doesn’t hurt either. But when people have to ‘endure’ training in skills they already possess (in other words: when they’re skilled and motivated and yet you still instruct them), you run the risk of demotivating them.

I’d advise you therefore to spend most of your time trying to identify the missing skills in your volunteers. This is the easiest when you’ve seen them ‘in action’. Again, just be open about the process and ask to be present at their small group for an evening, or ask if you can observe them with their service team. This will give you valuable insights into their strengths and weaknesses. Be sure to praise the first lavishly before mentioning the second!

Why this individual approach?

This individual and plan-based approach to youth ministry training may seem incredibly time consuming to you and therefore somewhat over the top. But here’s a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Your volunteers are your most valuable ‘asset’ in youth ministry. You can’t do it all yourself, you have to invest in them so that they can do a great job. Ensuring they receive good youth ministry training will benefit your ministry immensely.
  • When you communicate this to your team the right way (again: not judging or criticizing), your volunteers will feel appreciated that you’re willing to invest time, energy and money into them. It will definitely contribute to them being more motivated! (Remember how you feel after coming back from a conference – all fired up and energized to put that new knowledge into practice? That’s how you’ll be making them feel!) The issue of what to do when your volunteers aren’t motivated to undergo training or when they say they don’t have the time is a valid problem, we’ll discuss this in an upcoming post.
  • Identifying the necessary knowledge and skills is a one time investment, as these don’t change all that much over the year. A quick revision each year should be sufficient.
  • Identifying the current knowledge and skills level does take time, but once you’ve assessed this, it’s a matter of keeping it updated. Just discipline yourself to do this with new volunteers at once so you keep your list up to date at all times.
  • Making a youth ministry training plan and executing that will ensure the money and time you invest in training your volunteers actually pays off. If you just train them without taking into account what their training needs are (and I doubt you could even call that training, because what will you be training them for exactly?), it’s like shooting at a goal blindfolded in the hope that you will hit anything.
Now that you know what critical knowledge and skills your volunteers should possess and where they are right now, it’s time to make an actual plan to train them in what’s missing. We’ll discuss that in tomorrow’s post.

Are you able to assess the knowledge and skills of your volunteers right now? If not, what would you need to do to change that?

[Photo credit: Sophia, Flickr, Creative Commons]
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0 thoughts on “How to train your youth ministry volunteers (part 2)

  1. Ministry is different everywhere, but I would love to see what materials you use for your volunteer training and how a meeting looks for you!

    1. I’d say stay tuned Jeremy, ’cause that’s coming up tomorrow 🙂

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  3. […] plan and in two previous posts have discussed how to define what volunteers need to know and how to assess what volunteers know already. Today we’ll be discussing the most practical part: how to do the actual youth ministry […]

  4. […] to your leaders and volunteers. We’ve discussed defining what your volunteers need to know, how to assess what they know already and how to teach both theoretical and practical skills. Lastly, we’ve looked at how to motivate […]

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