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!

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