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On-going volunteer training is extremely important.  Not only does it help volunteers grow in their ministry skills, but it helps motivate and encourage them as well.

Recently at a conference, I came across a great idea for a volunteer training session and I thought it might spark some ideas for you.  So I want to share it with you.  Feel free to use it with your team.

Theme: This Little Light of Mine

Goals for training: 1. Help volunteers improve their skills in their area of ministry.  2. Remind volunteers that they are a reflection of Jesus, the light of the world, to the kids.  3. Help volunteers identify and remove obstacles that are hindering their light from shining more effectively.  4. Encourage volunteers to keep letting their light shine. 5. Remind volunteers that they are an important part of the team and that their light matters.

Key verses: Matthew 5:14-16
“You are the light of the world - like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket.  Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father."

 Preparation Needed:
  • Take a string of Christmas light bulbs (large bulbs that vary in color) and remove the bulbs.  If you have a larger group, you may need to connect more than one strand.
  • Place the bulbs you removed from the string(s) at the seats of volunteers ahead of time (one bulb per volunteer).
  • Place the empty light bulb string(s) at the front of the room and plug it in. 
  • Boxes and other items for obstacle course (see game below).
  • Place one or more artificial trees around the room (see example below). 
  • Place a bucketful of glow sticks at each tree (see example below).  Attach a tag that has Matthew 5:14-16 printed on it to each glow stick.
  • Prepare a small basket for each volunteer with an index card and pen inside it (see example below).  You will pass these out at the indicated time.
Schedule for Meeting:
  • Food and fellowship.  Tell everyone you're going to have some "light" refreshments.  Think of some creative ways you can bring the light theme into the snacks.  An example would be to have cupcakes with a birthday candle on top.
  • Icebreaker.  Get up and meet someone who has the same color light bulb as you do.  Discuss these questions with the person:
    • Name? 
    • What area serve in?
    • One interesting or unusual fact about you.
    • What enjoy most about serving?
  • Opening thought and object lesson.  Read Matthew 5:14-16 as a group.  Remind everyone that they are a reflection of Jesus' light to the kids.  Each person brings unique gifts and talents to the team and helps the team shine bright for the kids.  Every single person matters and their light matters.  Pray and then have volunteers, one at a time, bring their light bulb up and screw it into the light string.  As they do so, the string will began to light up.  Have volunteers discuss these questions in groups:
    • How is this a picture of how we work together as a team?
    • Why is each person's light important for the team?
  • Game or fun activity.  Divide into teams of 3.  Blindfold one person in each group.  Create a short obstacle course using chairs, cardboard boxes, etc.  Have the other two people in the group guide the blindfolded person through the obstacle course using only verbal instructions.  See who can make it through the fastest.  Debrief with these questions:
    • What are some things that can blind kids to the truth of God's Word?
    •  How can we help remove these so kids can see the light and walk in it?
  • Worship  (use songs that tie into the light theme)
  • Ministry Skills (use age-graded or general training to help volunteers let their light shine brighter for the kids). You know best what your volunteers need training in right now.  Make sure your training is interactive, hands-on and participatory.   Allow for plenty of brainstorming and discussions.  Some examples for topics could include...
    • How to share a Bible story in the nursery.
    • Being a light for first-time guests.
    • How to help preschoolers get the most out of your lessons.
    • Shining the light of Jesus in your elementary small group.
    •  Helping pre-teens shine their light for Jesus.
    • Equipping parents to shine for their kids.
  • Closing session and prayer.  Bring everyone back from their training session(s).  Close with this motivational and encouraging word.
    • Give everyone a basket that has the note card in it. 
    • Read Matthew 5:14-16 again together.  Talk about how we are not to hide our light under a basket.  A basket is anything that is dimming or blocking the light in their area of ministry.  Ask them to think about some things that may be hindering the light from shining more effectively in their ministry area.  It may be something personal or ministry related.
    • Have them write down one thing that is hindering the light from shining more effectively in their ministry area.  They should write it on the note card from their basket.
    •  When they are done writing, they should place the note card back in their basket.
    • They should then go over and place their card in the bucket by the tree and put down their basket.  They should then get a glow stick out of the bucket and pop it so it starts shining.  
    • Ask them to spend a few minutes in prayer about what they wrote on the card before hanging their glow stick on the tree (see example below).
    • When everyone is done, close in prayer and ask God to help the team's lights shine bright for the next generation. 

You can get more ideas like this for training and encouraging volunteers in my new book The Formula for Building Great Volunteer TeamsIt's available in hard copy or ebook at this link.