Church nurseries are often the first place where parents leave their babies for the first time, so it’s very important to ensure that this ministry area is particularly top notch. As a kidmin leader, you have the responsibility of recruiting the right people and thoroughly training them to serve in your Nursery. Where do you start?
Earlier this fall, I wrote a training piece for Sparkhouse’s Frolic Online to assist kidmin leaders with this task.
You can download the free guide here. Happy Friday!
This past Sunday, we hosted our annual Children’s Ministry volunteer training. It was the second year that we’ve themed this event. Last year, our theme was a tailgate. This year, we chose to do a Hawaiian Luau. It was so much fun and very well-received by our volunteers.
This year, we wanted to include not only new and returning volunteers but those considering serving in our ministry as well. We had a packed room full of adults and students who responded to God’s call to join us in ministry this year. This was also the first year that we held our training on a Sunday after our morning services rather than a weeknight. We have found that having folks stay around when they’re already at church (and giving them lunch!) yields a much better turnout.
Guests arrived to a large room at our church that was decorated with Hawaiian flowers, leis, tiki bar backdrop and tropical colors (orange, yellow, lime green, hot pink and purple). Once inside the room, guests were welcomed, encouraged to pick up necessary paperwork, given a ticket for the chance to win fun prizes and allowed to choose a lei to wear.
Guests were then invited to help themselves to a delicious lunch buffet, which consisted of:
Footlong sub sandwiches (turkey, ham and veggie)
Edible beach balls (cheese balls)
Fresh fruit cups
Hawaiian Punch and bottled water
Our tables were set with a simple centerpiece (a glass bowl filled with play sand, seashells and votive candles that we had on hand). Under each bowl was a sheet of chalkboard paper and pieces of chalk. At each set, we placed a “Say Yes to the Next Generation” notepad and a personalized pen.
After a little while of fellowship around the tables, we started with the business of the day. You can download our event outline here.
Here are a few of Pinterest-inspired ideas we used:
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.
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!
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:
Games & Prizes
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).
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.
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.
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!