By Josh Hussung
Ministries need volunteers in order to function. But we need more than warm bodies; we need people who are competent, trained, and equipped to do everything necessary to make a ministry run well.
Here are four ways to help you train your ministry team as you ramp up for fall activity.
1. Keep the vision central.
Why does your ministry exist? What is its purpose?
In order for your volunteers to do ministry, they need to understand the reason your ministry exists. As a leader, you need to show your ministry volunteers how every element of what they do connects back to your purpose.
For example, church ministries are almost always going to (at least they should) have a goal of making disciples. That means small group leaders need to understand that the purpose of their small group is to make disciples.
From the Bible Study time, to time in prayer, to fellowship events, and to share time, everything that they do is for the purpose of making disciples. So in your training time, show them that! Help them to see that even a little game at the beginning of their time together contributes to the vision and purpose of your ministry.
2. Give them community.
Let’s be honest: Doing ministry can sometimes be draining. And when you’re working by yourself, it can get very discouraging. You feel like you are the only one who understands, it can seem like what you’re doing is in effective, and that there’s no one to talk to about it.
But being part of a team can be energizing. You know other people striving for the same goal who have been through or are going through the same thing as you. As a ministry leader, you have the ability to give your volunteer team a feeling of community.
First, during your initial training, don’t just stand in front and give a lecture. Have them sit in groups or at tables, maybe grouped by their particular area of responsibility. Give opportunity for discussion and prayer throughout your training. Have leaders exchange contact information and suggest they encourage one another throughout the year.
Another thing that can help continue a feeling of community as the year of ministry continues is to have periodic “huddles” with your team. Even just a few minutes before or after your ministry event can help people connect and encourage one another. In that time, you can share prayer requests, ask people to tell success stories, or ask for other people’s advice on hard situations.
Finally, have fun together. Everything listed above is helpful in promoting community, but there’s no replacement for laughing together. When we enjoy time together, we build memories, we open ourselves up to friendship, and we actually want to be a part of the team we’re on.
So play a game together, find some kind of time to fellowship together as a group. Have a celebration at the end of the year that includes not just a heartfelt thank you, but a way for them to relax and enjoy one another.
However you do it, community is a vital aspect of a thriving ministry team.
3. Enlist them to help make your ministry safe.
Another essential facet of a thriving ministry are clearly communicated safety and security policies. Especially when ministering to children and teenagers, we have a responsibility to protect both the people we are serving as well as our leaders. And the best way we can serve both groups is by including safety and security policies in our ministry training.
There are a lot of questions that your church needs to answer in regards to safety: How can we ensure that adults are not ever completely alone with small children? How can youth ministry volunteers meet with and talk to students in a way that is safe?
Answering these questions will give you some basic policies that need to be communicated to your leaders.
For example, let’s say that one policy is that no adult should ever be alone behind a closed door with a minor. This is a very helpful policy. It is easy to understand. But an uncommunicated policy is no policy at all. So, communicate it to your leaders. Make it a part of your training each year. Have it in writing for them to read and sign. Talk about it throughout the year so it’s not forgotten.
And finally, enforce the policy. If we communicate the policy and its importance, we’ll be another step toward a safe environment and a context where ministry can thrive.
4. Constantly train your team.
While many ministries have only a single training each year or each semester, we should always continually train our volunteers. There are many ways to do this.
First, if you’re meeting regularly to promote community, that is a place where you can do ongoing training. Take your ministry values or mission statement, and reiterate one facet of it each time you meet. Have a brief conversation around that one element, and invite discussion around it.
Another way to do this is to find training resources from other ministries and forward them along to your volunteers. If you have a podcast you heard about effective small group leading or read an article about teaching a children’s Sunday School class that you thought would be helpful, send it along. Consider buying a simple, readable book for your volunteers as a gift.
There are many ways you can continue to train your leadership—not just at the beginning, but all year. We all want our leaders and volunteers to be loved, encouraged, and built up for ministry in our church.
JOSH HUSSUNG (@joshhussung) is the Pastor of Youth and Families at Grace Community Church in Nashville. He has also written for Rooted Ministry and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.