“This is gonna hurt.” That’s what I said to my friend Kent as we stood looking up at the ice-clad summit of Mt. Rainier from more than 9,000 feet below. “The Mountain,” as it’s simply referred to by the locals, towered menacingly above us. It looked both beautiful and angry. It begged us to climb it, but swore that it would crush us.
After a relatively pedestrian climb to our high camp and a few hours of disturbed, high-altitude sleep, we donned our mountaineering gear, clipped into our rope and began a 1 a.m. ascent toward the summit. Darkness and silence enveloped the mountain, torn open only by the light from our headlamps and the rhythmic crunch…crunch…crunch of our crampons slicing into the snow and ice with each step. Despite the frozen landscape, time melted away and before we knew it, the sun was rising. For the first time we could see the fruit of our labor; the seemingly impossible summit was within reach. With one more hard push, we stood like conquerors on top of Mt. Rainier. We couldn’t believe it! As we looked down from the cratered summit, we thought, “How in the world did we get up here?”
The answer to that question is fairly simple. Here’s the secret: leaping tall buildings in a single bound is the stuff of comic books. Mountains, real or figurative, are climbed one small step at a time.
For children’s ministry leaders, there are few mountains more important to climb than volunteer training. Not only does training your volunteers set them up for success, it makes them feel like they’re a valued part of the team. But volunteer training can also seem overwhelming—like you’re standing at the foot of giant ice-clad mountain. So how do you climb that mountain? Simple—one small step at a time.
Many KidMin leaders have already discovered that some of the traditional “single bound” methods for training volunteers are not all that successful. For example, training events can be great for the people who show up. In a single bound, over the course of a couple or more hours, you can train your volunteers on some of the most important aspects of their role. Notice, though, that I said “the people who show up.” Unfortunately, if your children’s ministry is like most, that’s only about 33% of your team. And it’s usually the volunteers who need training the most who don’t show up. Ugh!
Another way that KidMin leaders often attempt to train their volunteers is through the use of email. The thinking is that volunteers are busy, so instead of making them come to you for training, you can make the training go to them, or more specifically, to their inbox. Then, at a time that is convenient for them, the volunteers can open and read the training material. The problem is that only about 30% of emails are ever opened. And the people who do open your email, many won’t take the time to read it carefully. That’s in part because the average person now receives around 100 emails per day. Simply put, your emails are getting buried in a digital landslide.
Are you depressed yet? Don’t be!
There’s another, far more effective way to train your volunteers. Here’s how: train them when you’ve got them!
Every weekend (or Wednesday night or whenever) your team of volunteers shows up to serve the kids in your church. Before the kids arrive, spend a short time giving your volunteers a bite-sized piece of training. How long? How about 2 minutes!
You might be thinking, “2 minutes? That’s crazy! How can you thoroughly train a team of volunteers in only 2 minutes?” You can’t. But if you do it for 2 minutes every weekend, it becomes 104 minutes every year. That’s enough time to make a big impact. Additionally, that slow drip of training is more likely to take root within your volunteers than dumping it on them all at once.
I’m not one to usually tell people what to do, but…well…I’m going to tell you exactly what to do to become an effective “2-minute Trainer.”
Establish a “Team Time.” If your volunteers show up at the same time as the kids, it’s next to impossible to connect with them. If you don’t already, ask your volunteers to arrive 15 minutes before the kids are allowed into the room for a “Team Time.” Use this time to catch up with one another, pray for each other, and for a short time of training. You’ll be amazed at what this little bit of time will do for your team!
Create a training schedule. Decide ahead of time what topic you want to cover each week. Notice I said “topic” and not “topics” (plural.) In fact, you’ll probably want to choose one topic for each month and break it down into multiple mini topics. Where do you start? How about the topic that your team needs the most help with.
Use my “Two Minute Trainer” eBook as a guide. Why reinvent the wheel? I’ve already created a free eBook called “Two Minute Trainer: Small Group Leader Edition.” It has 20 bite-sized training topics for KidMin small group leaders. You can download a free copy right here. (Did I mention it’s free?) Spend one month covering each topic. After the first week, ask your leaders how they’re doing with that topic. Ask them if they have anything to add to the topic. As a team, come up with a game plan for improving.
It might seem slow at first, but that’s like mountain climbing. It’s one small step at a time. Before you know it, though, you’ll be approaching the summit and your team will be affectively leading kids toward the greatest life-changing adventure ever—becoming a forever follower of Jesus!