A Twist on Volunteer Training: “Leader Lunch & Learn”


Training and equipping our kidmin leaders is of utmost importance if we want them to lead well in their ministry area and to have longevity in serving with us.

There are many challenges when it comes to volunteer training, however.

How can we make it beneficial to rookies and veterans alike?

How can we make it appealing so that they’ll actually come out for the event?

Are there some creative elements we can incorporate to make it fun and memorable?

What can we call it other than ‘training’?

How do we make it both informative and engaging?

There are so many resources available for kidmin leaders to take advantage of to train and equip volunteers.  One of the best resources, in my opinion, are workshops that I attend.  Many times when I travel to national workshops I am unable to take staffers or volunteers with me, so I try to find ways to share what I’ve learned in various contexts.  Usually, I purchase audio recordings from the places I attend and pass them along to others.  However, I felt compelled recently to try something different.

I attended Group’s KidMin Conference back in September and one of the workshops I took there was called “50 Ways to Bring the Bible to Life”.  (You can pick up my notes here).  I loved the premise and content provided, so I thought that it would be cool to teach my version to our elementary and preteen leaders.  I absolutely THRIVE on preparing for events like this, so I was very excited about how it would come together.

When I began thinking about a catchy name for this event, I knew that it wouldn’t be called “training”.  I mean, that screams excitement, right? NOT!!  So after some careful thought, I landed upon Leader Lunch & Learn.  This past Sunday, I hosted our very first Leader Lunch & Learn and it was great!  Here are some details about the event:

I wanted this event to be (1) a time of fellowship (over a delicious lunch that we provided, of course!), for the leaders to get to know each other better in an informal, casual setting; (2) informative – leading a group of children requires our leaders to know what they’re doing; (3) practical – I wanted the information presented to be something that they could use right away; and (4) engaging – I wanted attendees to get share ideas (it’s always a good idea to have team members learn from each other) and practice what they’ve learned.

Keeping those four things in mind, the event began to take shape.  I designed an invitation that was sent to adult and student leaders via email (I used Mail Chimp).  I set up responses to go to a form I created on Google Forms – very easy to do.  Then I used the workshop notes to come up with a time flow/outline for the 90 minutes that we’d have together:


Welcome & Overview (5 minutes)

I welcomed everyone, thanked them for coming and gave them an overview of what our time together would look like.

Lunch & Fellowship (20 minutes)

Since we held this event immediately following our 2nd service hour, serving lunch was not an option.  I landed on a simple, delicious lunch that was very affordable and easy to set up:  I ordered a deli sandwich wrap platter and provided potato chips, fresh fruit, cookies, brownies, iced tea, lemonade and bottled water.

Introductions, Introduce the “Smarts”, Have team take “Smarts” Inventory (7 minutes)

Our elementary and preteen ministries are run separately, so many of the attendees had never met each other.  We took a few minutes to introduce ourselves and then I had them quickly fill out the “Got Smarts” inventory (that was included in the workshop notes) so that they could discover their primary “smart”.

Review responses from “Got Smarts” Inventory, Talk about “Smart Chart”, and Ways to Incorporate these ideas into their large group & small group times (25 minutes)

After reviewing the responses from the “Got Smarts” inventory, we discussed what each ‘smart’ looked like and ways to incorporate each ‘smart’ into our lessons. Since each of our volunteers is very gifted and creative, I wanted them to learn from each other, too, so they tossed out additional ideas that were not included in the original notes.  They had some great suggestions!

Group Assignment & Sharing

I wanted everyone to get some practice incorporating what they had learned, so I broke the group up into 3 smaller groups and assigned each group a Bible story: The Good Samaritan (Luke 10;30-37); Jonah and the Whale (Jonah 1); and Feeding of the 5000 (Matthew 14:13-21).  Their task was to brainstorm ideas to bring the Bible to life by incorporating each ‘smart’ into that particular Bible story.  Boy did they do an awesome job with that.  When they shared their ideas, I was blown away!  You can read their ideas here.

Wrap Up/Thank You’s

I closed our time together by reminding them to not be afraid to think outside of the box and infuse creativity into their lessons to help the Bible come to life for every student in their group.  I affirmed them, thanked everyone for coming and reminded them to take home a special treat I had prepared for them.  Since we were talking about ‘smarts’, it was only fitting to use “Smarties” in the treat bags.

Take-Home Treat (the front)
Take-Home Treat (the front)


Take-Home Treat (the back)
Take-Home Treat (the back)

As a result of preparing for this training event, feedback was so positive that we will offer a new topic every other month.  I asked volunteers for suggestions on future topics and so we’re set for our next event, which will be held in January.  I can’t wait!

Now it’s your turn – what does your volunteer training/equipping opportunities look like?  Share what works for you below!

Volunteer Training Idea: Tailgate Party!

We’re almost half way through September and it has been a very busy time for us!  I’m sure you can relate.  The month of August found us finishing out the summer and prepping for fall – updating our volunteer handbooks, recruiting leaders and planning for our volunteer training.

At the beginning of August, we met as a staff team to brainstorm ideas for our volunteer training.  First, I wanted us to call it something other than ‘training’.  No one wants to come to a ‘training’.  I wanted us to go with a themed ‘training’.  After about 45 minutes of idea swapping/brainstorming, we landed on a tailgate theme.  With that decision, we were off and running, gathering ideas (thank you Pinterest!), purchasing decorations, designing and sending invitations, reserving rooms, drawing diagrams of room set-ups, selecting a menu and all of the other important details that go into pulling off a themed party successfully.

Here’s a little peek into the planning & execution of our tailgate party:

Purpose:  The purpose of the event was to serve as a re-purposed volunteer training that would be infused with food, fun, prizes, inspiration and information to get our volunteers ready and excited about the new ministry year.

Planning:  The event was divided into 5 areas of planning:

  1. Food
  2. Decor
  3. Games & Prizes
  4. Inspiration
  5. Information

Each area of planning was delegated to one of our children’s ministry staff members.  Each person ‘owned’ their area, so it made implementing rather simple.  Here are some specifics and photos from each area:

  • Food:  We selected a tailgate-inspired menu of foot long sub sandwiches (including veggie ones for our vegan/healthy eating friends), potato chips, pretzels (I found football-shaped ones!), popcorn, cookies, lemonade, water, and fresh fruit (for a healthy dessert option).
Sandwiches - lots of sandwiches!
Sandwiches – lots of sandwiches!



  • Decor:  We wanted the environment to be fun and festive, and I think we achieved that!  We chose to go with a sports theme but we selected bright, vibrant colors to make the room come alive.  The colors chosen are colors used throughout our ministry rooms.
Banner over the food area
Banner over the food area


Table centerpieces:  sand buckets, pom poms, balls, and foam pennants with the names of each ministry area
Table centerpieces: sand buckets, pom poms, balls, and foam pennants with the names of each ministry area.


We didn't forget about the cars - it was a tailgate after all!
We didn’t forget about the cars – it was a tailgate after all! Here, volunteers picked up their raffle tickets before heading inside.


We had volunteers pick up and decorate their name tags here.
We had volunteers pick up and decorate their name tags here.


Even my car was decked out!
Even my car was decked out!
  • Games & Prizes:  We set up a prize table in a corner of the room – we chose sports-themed prizes (general items as well as items from our local professional football and baseball teams) as well as boxed candies.  We did raffles throughout the evening to give away all of the fun prizes.
  • Inspiration:  In July, our church did a parenting series that focused on passing faith on to the next generation.  During that series, our Family Ministry Pastor preached a sermon that talked a lot about mentoring and the long-term impact of passing faith on to the next generation.  I thought that some of her points were appropriate for our event, so I invited her to come and share a few highlights from that sermon.  It was a perfect tie in!  The intention here was to inspire our volunteer and help them see our vision and the role they played to help us move toward that vision.
  • Information:  Since our event was a training, we needed to make sure that our volunteers received the information that they needed to equip them for the upcoming year.  We had some changes in safety policies and procedures and some tweaks in our curriculum, so we broke up into age-level groups for the last hour of our time together.  We invited our key leaders (or Team Captains) to lead this portion of the evening.  Each area of our ministry (Nursery – Infants; Nursery – Toddlers; Preschool; Younger Elementary; Preteens) went to different areas of the building and received information targeted to them.  During this time, we wanted to focus on practical tips that they would find useful.
Our Nursery handbooks
Our Nursery handbooks


Our preschool handbooks
Our preschool handbooks


Our elementary, preteen and welcome center handbooks
Our elementary, preteen and welcome center handbooks


Overall, I was very pleased with the evening and based on feedback from volunteers, they seemed to be as well.  Here are a few of things they said:

“My congratulations to the detail oriented person(s) who planned and implemented the meeting / party last night.  I used to work at a retirement community, and one of the things I did there was help plan themed parties.  So, I noticed (and enjoyed) all of the details last night, from the centerpieces to the background music! 🙂  Oh, and thanks for the box of M&Ms, too. :)”

“This was awesome!”

“Please do something like this again!”

“Last night was fun, informative and inspiring.…….”

Training your volunteers is necessary but no one said that training has to be boring.  Brainstorm ideas with your team and see what you can come up with – and then share them with me…I’m always looking for new ideas! 🙂

Keep the conversation going!  What creative themes have you used to make volunteer training fun for your volunteers?  Leave a comment below!

Student Leader Mania!

For the past several weeks, it’s been all about the students who serve in our ministry.

We started the month of June with a special appreciation event for our student leaders (elementary – high school aged leaders). We’ve never done an appreciation event just for students but we thought it would be fun to do something just for them.  Not only was it fun, it was rather simple to plan:

  • The number of students who serve in our Children’s Ministry has skyrocketed recently and we wanted to celebrate them!
  • We decided to celebrate them on a Sunday morning, between services, since most of them would already be on campus.
  • All good celebrations (especially for children and teens) involve food!  The question – what would the students like? Our staff team decided on Rita’s Italian Ice.  Since I live with two teens (who also serve in our ministry), I asked them, “What if we served Rita’s to all of our student leaders one Sunday morning?”  Their enthused reaction let me know that we had a winner!
  • My team and I made sure our list of student leaders was up-to-date so that they (or their parents) could be emailed an invitation (we used evite for this).  We also printed paper invitations to hand out to them.

  • We wanted the party room to have some fun decorations, so we had children in our ministry make them.  They traced their hands on poster board, decorate them and cut them out.  The handprints were then glued onto larger pieces of poster board thank you cards that were displayed around the room.
  • We also wanted the atmosphere to be festive, so we played music from TobyMac and Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration”.  Before we knew it, the students (and I!) were dancing around the room.  It was so fun!!
  • We invited others to celebrate our wonderful student leaders.  Adult leaders and our pastors were invited to come and say ‘thanks for serving’.  Our Senior Pastor’s encouraging words were treasured by the students in attendance.  We are so thankful for the support of our Senior Leadership.

This event was so well-received that we’ll add in a few similar events to next year’s ministry calendar.

The following week (this past Sunday), we held a special training for all our student leaders and those who wanted to become student leaders.  Normally, our volunteer training events incorporate students, but this was the first time that we provided a training specifically for students.  Like the event mentioned above, it was fairly easy to plan and implement.

  • Because the number of students who serve in our Children’s Ministry has skyrocketed, we felt the need to train and equip them for service.
  • We decided to celebrate them on a Sunday after our last service, since most of them would already be on campus.
  • We used our up-to-date student leader list to invite the students.  We also printed paper invitations to hand out to them.

  • We wanted to use our time wisely, so we outlined the major points that we wanted to accomplish for the day:  fellowship (we used a fun icebreaker); food (we decided on pizza, popcorn, chips, chocolate chip cookies and soda); and information (things like our application process, safety reminders, our expectations of them, ways we could serve them better and ways they could use their gifts or talents in our ministry).  We also emphasized how thankful we are for them and how important they are to our ministry.

I thoroughly enjoyed being with the students and am so thankful that we have the privilege of serving with them.

If you would like to see our training agenda and handouts we provided, email me at kidminspiration@gmail.com and I’ll be happy to send them to you.

How do you train and celebrate your ministry’s student leaders?  Share your ideas in the comment section below!


Win a 2014 Group KidMin Pre-Conference Training Registration!

2014 Group KidMin Conference

I LOVE Group’s KidMin Conference!  I have had the privilege of attending in 2011 and 2013 and Lord-willing, I hope to attend this fall.

I love it for so many reasons, but here are just a few:

  • I feel at home here.  There’s something about being surrounded by fellow kidmin’ers!  While the conference is attended by thousands, the atmosphere feels small and welcoming.  I felt this way both years that I attended but especially in 2011 when I attended alone for the first time.
  • There is a wide variety of workshop options.  When I attend a conference, I tend to concentrate on areas that I need growth or training in as well as one or two ‘random’ ones just for fun.  Workshop options are so varied that you won’t have any difficulty finding ones that suit you.
  • Recordings of workshops are made available during and after the conference.  Because there are so many great options to choose from, you will likely have a hard time narrowing down your options.  I love that the workshops are recorded, so if I can’t make it to one, I can swing by the table and purchase reasonably priced CDs of other sessions. Not only can I use them for my leadership development but I can pass them along to others in my ministry.  It’s a win-win!
  • Keynote speakers and workshop leaders are very accessible.  Don’t be surprised if you’re walking through the resource area or enjoying a meal in a restaurant when you spot a keynote speaker or workshop leader.  I admit – I have been starstruck when a kidmin ‘celebrity’ is sitting at the table next to me – or gasp – when I enjoy a meal with them!  They are so gracious and down-to-earth.
  • Speaking of the resource area – you’ll stumble across some great finds!  I love strolling through the resource area to check out new materials available to kidmin leaders.  I also love the occasional freebies. 🙂  Items are often discounted for the conference AND you can have items shipped to your church or home.
  • There is a balance of learning and downtime.  This past year, I was able to enjoy meeting friends for meals or coffee in between the general sessions and workshops.  Being able to connect with friends and other leaders is such a great way to refuel my spirit.

Do you love Group’s KidMin Conference as much as I do?  Are you on the fence about whether this conference would be right for you?  Visit their website to learn more and register today!

If you’re looking for intensive training around one topic before the conference begins, consider the Pre-Conference training option.  It’s a full-day of training (9am-4pm) the day the conference begins.  I did this last year and it was great!

My friends at Group are offering a chance for YOU to win one free Pre-Conference Training registration!  Just send out a tweet using the hashtag ‪#‎goingtokidmin14‬ telling Group what you are most looking forward to at ‪#‎KidMin14‬. The deadline is June 15th!  Happy Tweeting!