What Not to Do: Training Through a Volunteer’s Eyes

Marsha Roach is a high level leader in our elementary world.  She has led VBS for many years and currently leads our 5K and 1st grade environment.  She offers some great insight into what volunteers do and DON’T want when they give their time to training.  Marsha is one of my favorite people in the world.  You can learn more about her at her funny blog, Mommy of the Little Roaches.

I went to a training last night for an after-school gospel based program.  I personally was on fire for the opportunity and even was not too upset to drive an hour away for training.  However, I learned quickly this was not a “Jenny” training.  In church world and school world volunteers are a prized possession.  I cherish them for their service and commitment to the Lord.  Instead of sitting there brewing I decided the Lord was teaching me what not do with volunteers.  So I came up with a top 5 list.

  1. Thank them- The meeting started with an introduction and then a list of why we(the volunteers) should be thankful for the meeting and the program.  Then the facilitator listed everything she does for the program and how hard she worked on the power point.  Even though her power point was top notch her volunteers will never see her again in most cases yet the programs success depends on them doing their jobs.  Just say thank you.
  2. Time is valuable – I went with a bunch of teachers from the school where I work-on a Monday night- after wrestling kids all day.  At the hour mark of the meeting we were told the meeting would last a little over 3 hours.  Remember we then have to drive an hour home.  That was the first time we heard how long the meeting would last.  Let your volunteers know ahead of time how long a meeting will last and then do your best to value your volunteers time away from family and other responsibilities.  The meeting could have been at least cut in half and still been effective.  I saw one volunteer with eyes shut and head on the wall.  I am sure the brain can only take in so much information especially on Mondays.
  3. Stick to the point – The objective of the meeting needs to be clear.  An overview of the program, how it works, what tools you will need and what will be provided.  THE END.  Volunteers don’t need a lot of personal testimonies not relevant to the objective.  Now is not the time to tell them about when you were little someone was mean to you.
  4. Enable the Holy Spirit to work – Let the Holy Spirit work and guide your volunteers.  John 3:8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.  Your volunteers have listened to the Holy Spirit, they have signed up to serve and now you need to let them go and do their job with the tools you have given them. In my world we say you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.
  5. Be fun – We were given stickers and if caught talking we would lose a sticker.  I was scared to move at one point.  Our volunteers need to know you love them and that you are not a drill sergeant.  I know on Sunday mornings at church there are checklist and must do’s but I have carried green Kool-Aide on my head to a volunteer just to be fun and show off my skills.  WE want fun volunteers not scary ones so don’t be scary.
Thank you, Marsha, for sharing your insight with the kidmin community. Thank you even more for loving Westwood Kids and volunteers week in and week out.  I love you.
What would you add?  What is on your DON’T do list?  What is your worst training story ever? 

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