3 Key Things to Give New Volunteers Before They Start Serving

Imagine this and put yourself in this scenario.  You’ve never played football before.  You get drafted by a team.  The season schedule is posted as well as the starting line up.  You find your name on the starting line up list.  Not having played before you feel unprepared and nervous.  But when you ask about practice, the coach responds, “We’re not going to have any practices.  You’ll figure it out as you go.”  Would you go into your first game prepared?  No.  Would you go into your first game with confidence?  No. Would you be successful?  Not likely.

And yet that’s what we do when we don’t provide training for new volunteers before expecting them to start serving.  When we shove a new volunteer in a room of preschoolers with no training it can be more terrifying than being placed on a football team unprepared.  Think about it...

Football players smell after a game...ever smell a preschooler after an accident?

Football players hit hard...preschoolers bite hard.

Football players begin running out of energy in the 4th quarter...preschoolers never run out of energy.

Football players yell in warm-ups...preschoolers yell so loud you can hear them over 200 adults in a crowded restaurant or airplane.

Football players eat protein bars...preschoolers eat glue sticks and crayons.

Football players hide family secrets...preschoolers tell family secrets.

Football players throw passes...preschoolers throw tantrums.

Football players aren’t always brave enough to say what they’re thinking...preschoolers always say what they’re thinking.

Football players ask questions about plays...preschoolers ask questions about everything.

All kidding aside, it’s critical that you provide new volunteers with training for their role.  Here are 3 keys things to give volunteers before they start serving.

The Right Role

“The big red curtains open every day at Disney, and we have to ask ourselves, have we picked the right players and actors and actresses?  Do they know their lines?  And do the directors, the managers, do they know them and can make sure we execute on them?”
Lee Cockerell, Executive Vice President of Disney for 16 years

Disney knows the importance of placing people in the right roles and they go to great lengths to make sure this happens.  Bottom line...if you want the people you’ve enlisted to be successful, then you must place them in their sweet spot.  In other words, you should place them in their area of passion and giftedness.

Our first instinct is to place people where we have a need, isn’t it?  I have been guilty of this, but have learned over the years that placing people simply where there is a need is a disservice to the volunteer and to the kids they are ministering to.  Here’s a key thing  to remember.

“Don’t place people where you need them...place people where they need to be.”

A Clear Job Description
It’s important to have a job description for every role on your team.  A clear job description helps your volunteers get off to a good start.  Here are some of the things you want to include in the job description:

Purpose of the role.
Convey the “why” of the role.  This helps the volunteer see the spiritual impact they will have and how the role helps the overall vision of the ministry.

Basic essentials.

What time to be there.  What to do when they can’t be there.  Safety and security guidelines for the role. 

What will you ask them to wear?  What guidelines are there?

Time Commitment.

How much time will be involved?

Who they report to.
Who will be investing in them.

What they will be doing.
Specific responsibilities.

What success in this role looks like.

Keep the job description short and simple...especially the wins.  Share 2-3 wins that they’ll be able to remember and achieve.  Sit down with the volunteer and go over the job description before they start serving in the role.

Specific Training For The Role
One of the ways Disney does this is by providing on-the-job training for individual departments.  Most of the training is conducted by peers.  They believe so strongly in this that they will take their best cast members off-line to serve as trainers.  You can do the same thing in your children’s ministry by placing new volunteers with your best volunteers for personal, on-the-job training.  

Remember how Paul mentored Timothy in the Bible?  Identify your “Paul” volunteers and ask them to train and mentor the “Timothy” volunteers in your ministry.  An example would be training a new small group leader. 

Weeks 1 & 2 – New volunteer observes experienced volunteer leading group.
Week 3 – New volunteer co-leads with experienced volunteer.
Week 4 – New volunteer leads with experienced volunteer observing and giving feedback.
Week 5 – New volunteer is ready to lead a group.

The length and breadth of the training depends on the role. One thing is for sure for all roles...on-the-job training is very effective since  90% of what we learn is by observing others and then doing what we observed.

This is an excerpt from the new book If Disney Ran Your Children's Ministry.  It is available at www.kidminmouse.com in hard copy and ebook formats.  Get your copy today while supplies last.