The "70-20-10" Strategy for Equipping Volunteers

It's important to have a clear process for equipping your new volunteers as you onboard them.  And you need to have a clear strategy for on-going equipping. 

It's kinda' a big deal.  I don't want to name drop...but God said in Ephesians 4 that my job and your job as a ministry leader is to equip people for the work of the ministry.

That leads us to ponder how we can most effectively equip volunteers.  One thing for sure...lecture-style teaching is not the way to go.  People's eyes will glaze over and inside they will drift off to Never-Land.  I'm not saying you can't talk while you're equipping...but don't fall into the trap of that being your default method of equipping.

So, if you're in agreement that a talking head shouldn't be the primary way you equip, then let's look at another strategy that is more effective. 

Have you heard of the 70-20-10 method of equipping?  The strategy is based on the work of Professor Allen Tough and started in the 1960's. 

The 70-20-10 strategy divides the equipping into three avenues.

70 percent of your equipping is by "Experience."  By experience, it means you equip by having the new volunteer or veteran volunteer get involved in the tasks and challenges of the role they are training in.

20 percent of your equipping is by "Exposure."  By exposure, it means you equip volunteers through interacting with people who are already in the role.  This involves an experienced leader mentoring, coaching and collaborating with the new volunteer.

10 percent of your equipping is by "Education."  This is through formal learning which can be in a classroom setting or online.

Many consider the 70-20-10 strategy to be one of the best methods to equip people. 

Let's look at some examples in a children's ministry setting.

Scenario 1:  Equipping a new preschool volunteer

The 10 (Education): Attending an orientation where big picture information is communicated by a teacher.  (fyi - even in this setting, you can communicate the information through active learning, games and other activities that can make it fun compared to a brain dump.)

The 20 (Exposure): The new volunteer is paired with an experienced ministry leader who mentors them, coaches them and collaborates with them. 

The 70 (Experience): After shadowing the experienced volunteer, the new volunteer gets involved and learns by helping with the different parts of the class.  This could be anything from helping with crafts to passing out snacks to helping teach a small part of the lesson (which would be given to them ahead of time during the exposure period).

Scenario 2: Equipping a new small group leader

The 10 (Education): Attending an orientation where big picture information is communicated by a teacher. 

The 20 (Exposure)  The new small group leader sits in with a veteran small group leader and watches how he or she leads.  Depending on the person, they may spend as much as a month with the veteran.  Each week the veteran volunteer pours into the new volunteer and after the group is over, answers any questions the new volunteer may have. 

The 70 (Experience).  The veteran small group leader begins giving small parts of the lesson to the new volunteer.  This is increased each week until the new leader is ready to lead his or her own group.  This also enables the new volunteer to receive valuable feedback and insight as he or she interacts with the veteran volunteer.  The veteran assumes the role of a coach who is there to help the new volunteer succeed.

How long should a new volunteer spend in the 20 and 70 period?  It depends on the role.  A classroom helper may only need to spend 2 weeks in the Exposure and Experience time.  But a small group leader might need to spend longer in the 20 and 70 period before they are released to lead a group by themselves.

Now let's see what the 70-20-10 strategy would look like for ongoing training.

You schedule a live, ongoing training meeting.  Perhaps this is 2-3 times a year.  Here's what the flow would look like for the meeting:

10 - You verbally share tips about a particular training topic such as leading a small group.  

20 - You have discussion time among your volunteers for sharing best practices, talking about challenges, etc.

70 - You have volunteers engage in hands on learning experiences.  An example would be playing a game that ties into the training, setting up a challenge they have to solve together, etc.

Take a look at your training.  How close is it to the 70-20-10 model?  Are you spending more than 10% of the time trying to brain dump information on your volunteers?  Is the largest percent of the time being spent on Experience?  Are you doing all the talking from up front or are you following the 20% and giving them opportunities to learn from each other. 

We often wonder why we schedule a volunteer meeting and then we're disappointed when only a small percentage show up.  The reason they are not showing up is because they have been to a training before and didn't get enough out of it to warrant coming back. 

If that's your story, then try the 70-20-10 method.  It can make your training worth attending.

You can get more help with equipping volunteers at this link.