A couple years ago, Kenny and I and our colleagues experimented with training volunteers. We did a big expo and recruited nearly 100 new workers in January. At the end of February, we held a seminar-style training on Saturday morning.

Why did we choose seminar-style training? We wanted to give our volunteers the chance to dive a little deeper into topics that really interested or concerned them. Also, we were a multi-site church and we wanted our volunteers to see and feel the energy of the entire team assembled at once. We hoped this might encourage those who felt isolated in their work.


Our schedule looked something like this:

8:45 a.m. – 9:15 a.m. – Continental Breakfast and Roundtable Discussions

9:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. – Large Group Assembly

10:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. – Workshop 1

11:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. – Workshop 2

11:45 a.m. – 12:00 a.m. – Closing Assembly


For the ROUNDTABLE BREAKFAST we posted signs on the tables based on ministry areas, encouraging volunteers to meet others who worked in their areas. We set index cards on each table with icebreaker discussion questions specific to each area – “How long have you served?”, “What’s the funniest story yet from your experiences?” and “How do you deal with <fill in the blank> scenarios?”

We wanted to accomplish these activities in our LARGE GROUP ASSEMBLY time – teambuilding, encouraging and training. We started with an icebreaker game to encourage the volunteers to interact with each other. Then our worship band led a short worship set and our senior pastor spoke a short encouraging thank you message to our volunteers. We ended with a funny skit demonstrating some of the key training issues we wanted to address.

Our WORKSHOPS were the meat of our seminar. We invited a few guest speakers and asked staff and key leaders to teach various topical sessions. A few of our workshops included the following topics:

  • Orientation for New Volunteers
  • How to Deal with Angry Parents
  • Puppeteer like Jim Henson
  • First Impressions – Make Our Ministry a Welcoming Place
  • All You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Classroom Control
  • Database Training for Check In Volunteers
  • Child Development – What Can Kids Do at Every Age? How Does It Apply to Children’s Ministry?
  • How to Lead a Child to Christ (This was our most popular session! You’d be surprised how many people are scared to do this!)
  • Improve Your Public Speaking Skills to Kids


I have mixed feelings about this approach. Three to four hours on a Saturday morning was pretty demanding, and only about one-third of our volunteers attended. Also, the schedule was pretty tight. We asked for feedback from attendees, and most people said they felt the workshops needed to be longer. However, most who attended also said the training was very useful and was well worth their time.

We considered doing the seminar a second year, but expanding to invite other churches in our area. I liked that idea, because the time and resources spent on the training would have a wider audience. Churches that might not be able to afford the big national conferences could also have access to local quality training.

What do you think? Would you like to see trainings like this available in your area? Would your teams participate? How would you hurdle the time barrier?