5 Essential Elements to A Successful Training Strategy

Posted on October 02 2012

5 essential elements to training

I was stuck, new in my position as a student ministry pastor in my home church. We had just completed a very successful church-wide volunteer ministry fair. Sitting in my office I stared at the 10 sign-up cards for about 20 minutes, hoping for inspiration. The absence of a plan was not a comforting silence. I knew our students needed leaders who would engage them, people with personality who could relate to their life and struggles. I was overwhelmed by the task of training a whole new team to meet the challenge for a ministry that had been neglected for the past year prior to my arrival.

I knew we were lucky to have such a great response from members of the church who were wanting to get involved with our ministry—but what were we to do with their training, placement, and coaching overwhelmed me. I needed to make a plan.

Stumped in my chair, I redirected my attention. It would be a challenge, if not impossible, to meet the needs of the 50 students in our programs by myself—I considered it for about 13 seconds. I decided that it would multiply my effort to throw as much energy as possible into developing a strategic training plan. I believed those I poured into—could pour themselves in our students more than I could on my own.

Like missionaries feeling called to secluded people-group, these volunteers were called to reach their certain flavor of student. Whether veteran or newbie, everyone deserves investment and opportunities to grow- it was more than just “training”—this was missionary building – it had to be more than a class they attended, it had to be a calling they felt commissioned to.

So we created a simple road-map that helped us train those 7 volunteers, and eventually helped us easily grow our team to over 56 volunteers in just 3 years. I believe every training strategy is different depending on budget and context of ministry. However I feel that a successful strategy has to have these 5 elements to be effective.

A PLAN --- There has to be an intentional method that can be applied on a broad basis to multiple people and positions in the programs we offer to students.

The first step was to ask some basic questions:

  1. What roles/positions do we need filled now?
  2. What roles/positions would I like to have?
  3. Do I have a good account of my teams capabilities (strengthfinder, spiritual gifts, personality assessments)
  4. Do I have actual job descriptions for every role I need to grow?
  5. Do I have training events/resources in my budget and on my calendar?
  6. When you answer all of these as YES!—then you can feel comfortable that you have a plan.

RECRUITMENT CLASSES/EVENTS -- Every fall and February we had waves of new team-members because it coincided wit the review cycle we created for our team.

Every existing team-member on our youth ministry team was responsible for recruiting prospects to join our team. At every review they were asked to give the name of one person who would make a great addition to our team. We also had development plans for every volunteer that were reviewed and defined on a monthly basis. I learned very quickly that a personal “ask” from the youth pastor never yielded a “no” in 5 years. That doesn’t mean we didn’t say no or “not-yet” to applicants, but it created the situation where we could pick the right people.

Before anyone could submit an application they had to attend a semi-yearly 101 class about our youth ministry. I made it mandatory for all of our current staff and student leaders and new or interested parents to show up. FULL Training sessions made it exciting, and the information that much more valuable. On one occasion I even moved the event into a smaller space, it created an amazing electricity to what we were doing.

After new volunteers were accepted, placed, and trained, we followed up with a local trip/training event within the same quarter-

YS-Palooza  is designed specifically as an amazing training experience. Specifically, it was events like YS-Palooza and others that served as a bonding experience for old and new team members. Build it into your budgets, approach donors in your group, pitch it to your parents the importance of training volunteers and helping provide resources to get them to these events. One year I cut my pizza budget in half, I stopped making color copies, I stopped printing hand-outs—just so we could keep bringing leaders to these life-changing events.

Bring 1-2 Veterans and every newbie you have to NYWC

We made it a policy that we would invest as a church in sending all new members of our team to a conference a year, it required strategic moments in front of the budget committee, asking parents to help us raise money to give to the people who were going to give to their children. We also brought 2 veterans/trainers in addition to myself on the trip- 45% of my operations budget was spent on this endeavor.

Pre-program meeting/training (5-10minutes).

Open your laptop, do a quick video with discussion, run over your night/morning program plan, and pray. This was the life-blood of our team- it developed into a mantra “Every Program, Every Event, We “Talk On” our team.” We also eventually added a “Talk-off” portion at the end of events and programs for wins and feedback.

Clear Travel paths for Advancement.

By creating a plan for how we train and led our team, it also provided a framework for our team members to lead teams of students. How we invested with our team over-flowed in how they led and managed students at camps and mission-trips. We discovered, that when we trained our volunteers well and invested in them it multiplied our effectiveness in leading students.

We came up with the idea of 2 intersecting scales one was responsibility, the other was liability. I placed veterans in high liability positions like driving to events, chaperoning hotel trips, managing cash, teaching. I also delegated low-liability/high responsibility duties to newer members of our team so they could learn and grow, like making announcements, security, clean-up , assistant small group leaders, data-entry, phone calls etc.

For example, If someone had technical gifts, they started out making copies for the worship team, and through consistency and trust we built into their development plan the idea that someday they would be managing our program and production. That might be a 5-8 year plan, but it was a goal, and it motivated them to learn, and even plug in other places in the church to learn the skills to make it happen. And when I needed help managing our new program or initiative I had a pool of people to pull from.

Ready to Make A Plan?

First … Sit, pray, and draw up a plan.

Next … Give that plan teeth- share it with someone who’ll refine it with you

Finally … Make it happen- put resources to use and invest in it.

Download our free Youth Van Resource and start this week.


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From LeaderTreks on October 04, 2012

This is a great article, a wonderful combination of practical suggestions and storytelling. Thanks for addressing this difficult topic! The idea of layers of advancement with responsibility and liability intertwined could be a huge step in placing people where they fit the best!

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