Content is written by Rev. Micah James, CCA
In our professional lives, development is a natural part of our ongoing pursuit to stay up to date on the latest information. Sometimes in the church, we overlook the importance of this ongoing investment in our volunteers. Our leaders need similar training if they are to stay the best at leading our children, youth, and congregation in ministry.
Here are 4 training areas you might consider adding to your volunteer development:
- Abuse Awareness – Nearly 700,000 children are abused in the U.S annually.(1) “On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.”(2) “A 2009 study revealed that close to 50% of people with dementia experience some kind of abuse. “(3) This means that the church needs to be ready to encounter a victim of abuse and be able to spot the signs of abuse to report it. There are multiple online sources available, such as MinistrySafe, or your local Department of Human Services or Child Protective Services which should have resources and training materials available. In addition to being prepared, we must have an informed procedure for how we handle and report. When we are aware, we are ready to support.
- Suicide Prevention and Awareness – According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in 2015 “494,169 people visited a hospital for injuries due to self-harm. This number suggests that approximately 12 people harm themselves for every reported death by suicide.”(4) Their data shows that “at least one million people in the U.S. each year engage in intentionally inflicted self-harm.”(4) Just like with abuse awareness, it is important that the church is prepared to encounter those at their most vulnerable moments, and for some, that means suicidal action or thoughts. This is an area where we need to be ready to assess and refer. Without proper training, we may be delayed in our referral. Moments count and training will help us to be ready for a prompt response.
- Age-Stage Development Courses – In many cases, the church recruits willing and able leaders to lead our ministries but we don’t equip them to speak to the audience they lead. Knowing the unique needs and development stages of their group allow the ministry leaders to be in tune with the cognitive, emotional, and social needs of that group. This knowledge gives the leader that extra know-how that will boost their confidence. This is an investment that will pay surprising dividends.
- Classroom/Meeting Management Skills – In a church community, meetings and gatherings should be a meaningful way people gather to learn and do the work of the Church. Some studies suggest “the most important meetings in our organizations, attended by our most senior people, are half as effective as they could or should be.”(5) If this is the case, we are wasting the time and efforts of our people. Preparing our leaders to be stewards of our congregation member’s time is critical. If our leaders are also going to be teachers, managing a classroom requires an additional level of skills. “Effective teaching and learning cannot take place in a poorly managed classroom.”(6) With training in these management skills, your leaders will be better prepared to handle any room – from a room full of rowdy toddlers to a meeting full of sleepy seniors.
Equipping our community to serve in the name of Christ is one of the most important roles of the Church. Making these investments in your volunteers will be a gift to each ministry involved.