We’re doing a blog series on how to deliver good youth ministry training to your leaders and volunteers. We’ve discussed defining what your volunteers need to know, how to assess what they know already and how to teach both theoretical and practical skills. Lastly, we’ve looked at how to motivate your volunteers for youth ministry training.
Today I want to give you some ideas for what a youth ministry training session could look like, assuming you’re doing a ‘live’ one and not one via video or podcast. Here are the essential elements of a youth ministry training session:
I think it’s crucial to always start your training with reading from God’s Word. It’s helps us to focus on why we’re doing youth ministry, Whom we’re serving in it all. I really advice you to prepare this part just as well as the actual training. It happens too often that we pick out some random Bible passage without really linking it to the rest of the day and the content of the training.
Take the time to find a fitting passage that will inspire your volunteers in their role in youth ministry, don’t stay on the beaten track here. Something new and fresh often works very well. Prepare it well, explain the context and link it to the rest of the day. It would be even better if you can find a passage as a central theme for the day and keep coming back to it…
A time of prayer is an essential element in youth ministry training. It encourages us, helps us stay dependent on God and it helps create unity in your group. The only issue is that you need to time it well. Starting with an extended prayer time isn’t the best option, because it’s a ‘low-energy activity’ and you want to start with something energizing. Ending with prayer time often doesn’t work either because people are tired, need to leave already and nobody has the mental ‘rest’ anymore to pray. In my experience, planning prayer time right before a break (lunch for example) often works well.
Whenever you plan it, make sure you use different ways, methods and approaches. Don’t always do group prayer, but vary with prayer walls, praying in twos, writing our prayers, silent prayers, etc. It’s a great opportunity to model fresh ways to pray for your students to your leaders and volunteers!
One essential element that is often forgotten in youth ministry training is the ‘why’ of the training. Don’t assume your volunteers know why you think it’s important for them to learn whatever you’re teaching on. Make it very clear what your motives and goals are. Inspire them to do the training by sharing your mission and vision for your youth ministry, for applying this knowledge or skills, etc.
Always do something fun together that helps the group bond and get to know each other better. I’ve often started with short icebreaker-type games that don’t last too long, but at the same time are a high-energy start of the day. Do the same after a lunch break to get everyone energized again. If you have a fairly ‘theoretical day’ with loads of new information, doing a physical game works well.
I’ve said it in one of the previous posts in this series, but I’ll say it again: whenever possible, share a meal together. It’ll give your volunteers the opportunity to relax, get to know each other better, share stories or experiences, catch up, etc. Don’t do this in a hurry, you can easily take an hour. Other than that, providing good food and nice drinks are necessary as well. Make sure you have great snacks in between sessions. Spending a little extra time on these can really make your volunteers feel valued!
6. Diverse training program
If you want to take the learning styles of your volunteers into account, you’ll need to make a training program that’s diverse. Here’s how to do that:
- Make your monologue-type sessions 30 minutes long, maximum. Whenever possible, use creative methods in the teaching sessions as well like videos, songs, demonstrations, etc. Make it as interactive as possible.
- Don’t schedule two teaching sessions back-to-back but do something different in between.
- Use handouts for each session, make sure there’s room for making notes.
- Don’t let everyone sit too long, schedule an activity in between where they have to stand, walk around or move, for instance brain storming sessions, exercises, etc.
- Use visual elements in the teaching sessions like graphics, videos, Powerpoint, etc.
- Silence can also be a very effective element, for instance a couple of minutes of silence reflection on the teaching.
- Plan one or two discussion rounds where your volunteers can discuss what was said. Prepare good questions for these. Doing this in twos is also a good option.
- Use different teachers, don’t let them listen to the same teacher all day. Select teachers who are passionate about their subject.
- Explain the theory behind what you’re teaching, cite research where relevant. Give suggestions for further reading for those that are interested. You could even set up a ‘reading table’ with examples of great books on youth ministry related topics.
- Share stories, preferably out of your own ministry to demonstrate the validity of what you’re teaching.
- Ask questions, involve your volunteers as much as you can in the training.
I hope I’ve given you some creative ideas on how to set up a good and diverse youth ministry training session. I’d love to hear good practices that you’ve discovered when training your volunteers!