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5 Training Tips for Church Volunteers to Empower Service

A girl taking notes in her notebook during church volunteer training.

To fulfill a church’s mission, its leaders are tasked with administrative duties, such as managing staff and overseeing the bookkeeping process. That’s why volunteer roles are crucial to propel other church initiatives forward—volunteers offer much-needed support that drives outreach, evangelism, and various church programs.

Your church’s volunteers must be adequately equipped to effectively fill these roles. Let’s explore five training tips your church can leverage to empower service when onboarding new volunteers.

Connect volunteers with your church’s mission.

Kick off church volunteer training with an introduction to your church’s mission. Explaining your church’s purpose will deepen volunteers’ connections to your values and goals.

To highlight the church’s mission, incorporate the following in your training exercises:

  • Group Bible studies: Select a group Bible study that’s relevant to your church’s purpose. Have your volunteer team go through the study together, discussing the church’s mission and how volunteer roles can help to fulfill it.
  • Testimonies: Invite leaders or members to share stories of the church’s impact on their lives. Tie it to your volunteer program by asking them to include ways that volunteers were influential in that impact.
  • An overview of the church’s history: Tell the story of your church’s start, including its initial purpose and how it has been fulfilled over time.

In addition to sharing your church’s story, invite volunteers to share their stories, as well! If they’re willing, you can learn their motivations behind volunteering and better support them on their journey.

Create comprehensive training materials.

Once you’ve covered the church’s mission and the role volunteers play in that purpose, it’s time to get into the specifics of your volunteers’ roles. eCardWidget’s volunteer retention guide recommends hosting a virtual or in-person volunteer orientation to explain each role, then following up with these resources:

  • Role-playing activities: Identify common scenarios that volunteers may encounter and ask them to role-play in these hypothetical situations. Provide guidance and feedback as a group. Then, have volunteers try again using the new strategies you discussed.
  • Interactive quizzes: Create interactive quizzes with questions about volunteer roles and procedures. Review the correct answers as a group to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Q&A sessions: Invite volunteers to submit questions for a group Q&A session. Volunteer leaders can read and answer the questions, then address follow-up questions or encourage volunteers to share their own insights.

Depending on volunteers’ roles, you may need to provide additional information about the logistics of your church. For example, explain your church’s 501(c)(3) status so that volunteers can answer congregants’ questions about donating and tax deductibility. Prepare a guide that covers this information in detail so that volunteers can access it even after their training ends.

Offer ongoing learning opportunities.

After graduating from your training program, volunteers may still want to deepen their knowledge or continue learning about a specific area of service. Offer ongoing learning opportunities for volunteers who want to vary their learning experiences, such as:

  • Books and studies: Instead of strictly preparing volunteers for their role-specific responsibilities, empower their spiritual walk. Offer access to books or studies that emphasize the importance of their service and the lessons they can learn by volunteering.
  • Mentorship: Pair new volunteers with long-time church volunteers for one-on-one training and guidance. Along with providing individualized support, these mentorships will cultivate a strong volunteer community as peers develop strong connections with each other.
  • Workshops or training sessions: Host skill-specific workshops to help volunteers expand their knowledge and practice their skills. Offer these training sessions frequently so they’re readily available to volunteers who need them.

Beyond teaching new skills or lessons, demonstrate your willingness to support volunteers by making it easy for them to ask questions. This may involve investing in volunteer management software that can facilitate volunteer communications or appointing a volunteer group leader to be the main point of contact when questions arise.

Encourage church volunteers to grow.

As your congregation and service opportunities grow, so should the individuals on your volunteer team. Whether you create a completely new volunteer role or a volunteer realizes they’re better suited for a different position, your training program should support volunteer growth and development.

Encourage volunteers to grow into other roles in your church, such as other areas of service or even leadership positions. For example, if they’re passionate about volunteer work, they may decide to move into a leadership position or even plant their own church one day.

You can facilitate growth in training by offering:

  • Shadowing opportunities: Allow volunteers to shadow a church leader in the role they’re interested in to experience the responsibilities for themselves.
  • Rotational assignments: Create opportunities for volunteers to gain exposure to different areas of ministry by rotating their assignments regularly.
  • Increased responsibility: Allow interested volunteers to take on leadership roles within the volunteer program to get a taste of what leadership would be like on a larger scale.

Ensure that growth opportunities are clear for volunteers and easy to pursue by transparently outlining the pathways to growth. This way, volunteers know exactly what’s required to transition into leadership roles.

Show volunteer appreciation.

Your church doesn’t have to wait until a volunteer’s role is over or they’ve been volunteering for a long time to show your appreciation. In fact, recognizing volunteers during training can help them feel genuinely welcomed into your volunteer community.

Develop creative volunteer appreciation strategies ahead of time to encourage them throughout training with meaningful recognition. This may include:

  • Personalized thank-you notes: Create thank-you cards for volunteers that highlight their performance in the training program. For example, you might call out that the volunteer is a fast learner and that you’re excited to have them on the team.
  • Appreciation events: Host a dinner for volunteers and their families with entertainment and catering. If the dinner concludes the training period, thank volunteers for their hard work and summarize what they learned to show how far they’ve come.
  • Gifts: Give gifts relevant to the church’s mission, such as a free ticket to an upcoming conference. Esther Press’s rundown of Christian women’s conferences notes that these events facilitate meaningful connections between believers, meaning it could double as an appreciation gift and an opportunity for volunteers to connect with each other.

To show volunteers how much their support means to the church as a whole, get church leaders and congregation members involved in showing appreciation. For example, the lead pastor may send a handwritten letter to each volunteer. Or, you could compile video testimonies from congregants who have been impacted by your team of volunteers.

By setting your volunteer group up for success through effective training, your church can experience a more powerful ministry and widespread impact. The right volunteer training techniques will equip your team to fulfill the church’s mission, enabling you to make a greater impact on your community.

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