What Volunteers Really Learn When You Don’t Train Them

Let’s just be honest here.

Most kids ministry volunteers don’t get the kind of training they need to be effective. Time after time, churches learn this the hard way.

But have you ever asked what message are you sending to those workers? Here are 5 things they will learn if you do not train them.

  1. The church only cares about warm bodies to fill the roster.
  2. You are not concerned about their growth.
  3. What they actually do doesn’t matter – just show up.
  4. Kids ministry is a chore they must endure.
  5. They better learn to say “NO” next year.

So what’s your plan? Click here to respond.


  1. Becky says

    I was mentored, not formally trained but I have been involved in children’s ministry for more than 25 years now. I guess what I have learned is that the staff have to know that they are every bit a important as the kids . Just practical things like listening to their ideas and trying to implement them, showing my gratitude often with cards or small gifts, never demeaning them to a parent, and giving them opportunity to grow in every area of the ministry. I send handouts home each week that give tips on becoming a better teacher and have quarterly meetings with them. I also recommend books for them to read and build them up in front of the kids. Training can be a wonderful thing, but these are the things my mentor did for me and it’s what’s kept me in the ministry and passionate for all these years. Aside from encouraging them in their own personal walk with Christ (which goes along way in being what God needs the to be in their class) I think these things are very important.

  2. Tina says

    I became a teacher when the church split… Never had experience . I would love to be trained but I am also a full time mum with two kids and one coming soon and also a full time professional nurse. The church has no enough funds to send me to training coz it normally would be outside London . I depend on resources from different websites …. Learn them and creatively teach them. I watch videos and adapt their patterns of teaching…….

  3. Sharon says

    I agree – There is an old saying:, ‘If you motivate me without training me, you just frustrate me.’ Care enough to teach your teachers. Another saying goes, ‘ If we don’t model what we teach then we’re teaching something else.’ If you care for your children, and your church family, show it by giving them the help they need, otherwise the message you are sending is that they don’t really matter and are just numbers! Thank you for you wonderful and uplifting pages.

  4. says

    Great question. Here was a video post where I tried to make some suggestions about the fluctuating attendance planning.

    A bigger question would be how serious is the church about doing high quality kids ministry. It seems like some promotion of why the ministry matters might help get people’s attention.

  5. Arita Smith says

    Help! I have been superintentant at my Church for a year and getting help is nearly impossible. We have a very transient congregation and some weeks we may have three children other weeks can be 23. This makes it very hard to to organise anything. Just recently another of my volunteers resigned. She was a delightful old lady who felt she’d had enough. Any ideas? Arita.

    • Gary Harris says

      Get the book What Every Church Member Should Know About Poverty by Ruby Payne. It sounds like a lot of your kids come from a lower class structure. It helps us see the world from their perspective. As one older man riding the van said when I dropped off one girl after church, “She wakes up in a new world every day.” This is so true: mom could have a new boyfriend; they might move suddenly (as happens a lot because nobody has a job to pay the rent) which means a new house, new school, and new friends; if family services comes, they could have a new “family.” This is something that I have learned as children’s pastor in this type of neighborhood.

  6. Phyllis says

    Wow. What great feedback and information. Paula’s post was especially thought provoking. I was recently called to be the Children’s Director (part time) at our church. The curriculum had already been selected and there was no time to prepare or provide any training. I basically just put the box of curriculum in the classrooms. Fortunately most of my teachers are very experienced. Some of the things I have begun are a (short) monthly newsletter and regular emails. I visit the classes about once each term (I give the teacher advance notice) just to learn each teacher’s methods. I also find articles appropriate for specific age groups and give a copy to that teacher. I like the idea of a facebook page. I’m going to a teacher training conference in a few weeks. I hope to bring back materials and information to share with my leaders. For now I’m trying to keep information limited to a short, one topic communication. I think it makes it more likely they will have/take the time to review the information. When I get an extra minute, I will survey my teacher’s for topics and formats that they will find helpful and effective. Thank you for providing a format to think about this important topic and thank you all for sharing your thoughts, insights and ideas. May God bless each of us with wisdom and discernment as we minister His love to the children.

  7. Paula says

    Hi, I love your ideas. I wanted to suggest something to those of you who want to train and support your teachers but can’t get them to come. Can you do it by computer? Everyone seems to make time for going online. So can you make a video of yourself or put one online that everyone can watch? Also I think communicating by email each week would be great. I am a volunteer who has no training and no guidance from our Children’s Director. There is no communication except at church during the time we should be teaching! I need to know BEFORE that time what is expected. So I end up winging it. I was handed a boxed curriculum that I am not impressed with and that’s all the guidance I got. Thanks and God bless all of you for your efforts to teach the children God’s Word.

  8. Melissa says

    Thanks Robin for all your kind words of encouragement. I am praying that God will give me the ability to teach effectively. I do use a curriculum that the church provides. I just need to come up with an art project. I am so grateful that I have found this website to support my endeavors.

  9. Robin Jones says

    Melissa! What a blessing you will receive. Proverbs says that a wise person makes learning fun. Object lessons and games are always a hit. Your creativity and ability will grow quickly since you are coming up with your own ideas. I actually prefer letting God show me what to teach over using a curriculum. However, you can use websites like this to supplement and find ideas that work for you. God will give you all you need when you ask HIM. You will be great.

  10. christine martin-hegarty says

    Ouch !!!
    Spot on.
    This has been on my heart just reciently that we need to train volunteers just as if they were paid staff and treat them with the respect they deserve. They are a vaulable resource and teach out of love for the kids not financial gain. The most important part of the church is it’s young people it is the future of the church, most people accept Christ in their primary school years. How important is it then to have well trained people.

  11. Melissa says

    This topic couldn’t have come at a better time for me!!! I am just going to start to teach elementary school children at my church and I have never taught a class before in my life. I do feel God moving me to do this (not to mention the fact that there is a huge need for helpers at my church right now… another topic I suppose for another time…) but it doesn’t mean that I am not nervous… I want to teach them and keep them interested to learn. There is no training at my church. So I have decided to spend time sitting through a few classes to get the feel for how others are leading their classes of similar ages. But in all honesty, I feel like it is the blind leading the blind as I see things in those classes that I would not necessarily do in my class. But I guess that is what I am there for… to see what I should and should not do. I have to come up with my own ideas and I am going to be stretched in the area of creativity. Anyone have a great source for craft ideas, please let me know.
    I serve an almighty Lord and I know He will equip me with the right know how.

  12. Dana says

    I invite my nursery and preschool teachers/workers to a mid quarter meeting. It is always on Sunday morning, an hour before service begins, and includes breakfast (sometimes continental, sometimes full deal), a lot of appreciation, review of policy and proceedures, feedback time, testimonials, and any new expectations. This also is a time let me know if they will continue on for the next quarter, giving me time to fill any slots that may need filled. While it is not attended 100%, those who do attend get a short and sweet “training” and know they are appreciated.
    thanks for this newsletter!

  13. Noelle says

    In our church, training for children’s ministry volunteers/servants, occurs twice a year. We have specific breakout sessions that address spiritual issues as well as practical ones. For example, we have had training on preparing a Bible lesson, leading a small group, working with public school children in an outreach ministry, etc.
    I can honestly say that it has helped equip our volunteers and give them a sense of “vision” within children’s ministry. It has also helped develop new leaders within ministry too. “Effective” training, using the Scripture as our source of authority is a wonderful tool, that is often overlooked!

  14. Rev. Heidi Westerman says

    I also want to comment as for those of you that stated you are having a hard time getting them to show up….this is the major change that we made.
    It is a requirement for them to attend the Sunday Morning Training or they are not allowed to teach that week. We believe that unless they are being fed they are not prepared to fed others.
    There were times in the past that we actually closed down children’s church for a few weeks because we had no help. People kept asking why there were no classes for the children, we told them that we needed help and so many offered to step up to the plate. Sometimes “out of sight out of mind”, people do not see a need to get involved and sometimes we must do something drastic to make it visible again.

  15. Rev. Heidi Westerman says

    We just recently instituted a “Teacher Resource Hour” at our church. The Class is held on Sunday Morning between services. Since all of our lessons are based on the same weekly story/lesson we meet for an hour on Sunday (prior to their teaching day) I share the story with the teachers on an adult level and discuss possible ways to bring this message down to a child level. Since we have started this only one month ago the response has been wonderful. We are growing together as a team, helping one another, no one feels left out or on their own. They have an opportunity also to give feedback on any situations that have arrived in their classrooms an I am able to give direction or take care of the situation from a pastoral level. This new spirit of unity is spreading down to the kids and our classes have been growing as well. Communication, Unity, Teamwork….We were able to “cut” out the “babysitting” mentality of children’s ministry.

  16. robbin diperna says

    We have a 3 hour training session before the teachers enter the classrooms. This is conducted by the Pastor who is over children’s ministry. Then, we have team leaders of the different age levels who make sure the teachers are assisting someone with more experience first. Then, the next time, the new teacher leads the class and the experienced teacher assists. We call them teachers, not volunteers, because it denotes who they are in relation to the children.

  17. Yvonne says

    This was a much needed and great reminder that training is vital. Even the most well educated and seasoned teacher needs training because it motivates, refreshes and reminds us why we teach, how to reach, etc. The way kids learn is constantly changing. Thanks!

  18. Vanda Hoecher says

    I set up Quarterly Meetings on a Saturday afternoon that is both a curriculum prep meeting and a training time for my teachers two weekends prior to the quarter beginning. This is usually well attended. If the curriculum isn’t prepped and the teacher’s have to do it alone it is a huge undertaking. It’s a bring your own lunch, I provide dessert and the teachers always take home packets of training material, a small prize etc. when they leave. It’s my way of showing I appreciate them giving up a Saturday afternoon to be in attendance. I always prep more than what we can cover in the time we have, but I will highlight the points and ask them to review it on their own. In addition to this – I have a Facebook Group just for my teachers and I do little snippets of training on it…on here I will do small simple things like fidget busters, or creative ideas etc. I encourage them to subscribe to great magazines like “Children’s Ministry” magazine, and once a year the District hosts a convention and we encourage all our teachers to attend and sit thru some classes on specified training. What I find is that this fosters a passion for what they already love to do…and reinforces a love for this ministry. It has also though lost me a few volunteers who decided they didn’t have the time or enough passion for these areas of ministry, which I also view as a positive.

  19. Fred says

    I have the same problem as Lindsey. I can not get them to come to any trainings or meetings. They are too busy with soccer game, this and that. I think personally, and I am not discounting the fact that we do have busy lives, we as Christians need to make a decision on what is more important–soccer and other activities or the church. We can not realistically do both with equal effectiveness. I for one am sick and tired of the church getting the left over time. I believe that where we desire to appropriate our time and energy is a heart issue–a Gospel issue.

  20. Jacqui Berlinn says

    We have started a training program at my church that we hold four times a year. We branded the training so that every meeting has a name and similar elements that include decorations and staff t-shirts. We make it a fun and interactive training that surrounds a specific theme each time. For example, one of our trainings was called “Stop, Drop & Roll” and it was all about our emergency procedures and awareness of screening for child predators. We included games where we split people into teams and had them race to evacuate all the baby dolls from the building in our emergency cribs. Breaking up the serious business with fun team building exercises and games really makes the trainings more enjoyable. As you begin to make the trainings more fun you will start to see buy-in for the next session. One of our “trainings” is solely going to be about appreciating our volunteers where we serve them dessert and bring in a christian comedian. We are labeling this time of appreciation in the same way we label the trainings. Putting all of the training and appreciation under one umbrella helps to reflect a more positive light on trainings. When people hear the word “training” they think “boring”, or “I don’t really need that” and “I have more pressing things to attend to.” Subtle shifts in wordage can make a huge difference. We don’t call our get-togethers “trainings” we call them by there title, ie: “Stop, Drop & Roll” event. We always serve food and create an ambience that shows our volunteers they are loved, treasured and valued for their contribution.

  21. says

    Training is vital!

    I remember being told, “This isn’t our culture, our people are too busy. Wanda I think you should just stop trying to have these monthly meetings.”

    I cried, I prayed, I cried and I prayed and I refused to give up. I do believe the Lord tests us to see if we are willing to walk through the tough times. I ended up having the majority of those serving children show up to the monthly gatherings for training, review and planning.

    One tool I used – if they showed up they were given all the supplies they needed. If they didn’t show up they had to gather their own supplies. I think that it also helped that the curriculum required (we wrote our own) that they needed to collaborate with one another.

    I was taught years ago that volunteers will do 80% of what is expected of them – thus I always tried to expect 120%.

  22. says

    Tony – Thank you so much for this article.

    Lindsey – I think a 60% VBS training attendance is a success! That means more than half of your volunteers can help establish the culture you desire for your children’s ministry. I have seen it so many times – the untrained worker knows they haven’t had training and so when questions and situations arise, they DO turn to the person who attended training for guidance.

  23. Melanie says

    I am very much in need of this article! I too struggle to get volunteers to understand the importance of trainings. I want them to understand that I only want to help them in their classrooms. I very rarely have teachers come to me and say I’m having an issue recently I had a parent come to me. Then I have to handle things differently. I’m with you Lindsay, ask them what they want. Hopefully that will work!

  24. Alvilene Williams says

    I can relate to Whitney’s struggle, sometimes I try different techniques, printing handouts, asking questions, then more formal meetings, but people are not always able to attend. I think asking them if they if they want to be trained is a good idea, I think I’ll try it and see if anything changes.

  25. Jeannie Foss says

    I agree Lindsey. It’s hard to get an enthuastic response. No one seems to have time to come, but they have time to complain if they aren’t trained. I’m trying something new that takes it off of my shoulders. I’ve named a lead teacher for each classroom. THEY are supposed to hold short once a month meetings with all the teachers in their grade level and ask for feedback, what’s working, what’s not,..what they’d like to do or try…etc. I come into each meeting quickly just to be their cheerleader and tell them how much they’re appreciated. (That makes me the “good guy”.) Then I have a meeting with all the lead teachers to get their feedback and discuss any changes we need to make in the ministry. We’re still new to the process but it seems to work better. Maybe my frustration level is just down because I’m not the one trying to call the meetings without getting much response- I’m just being the cheerleader. Meeting with lead teachers only means scheduling a time once a month with 6 people… That’s not hard.

  26. says

    This is such a struggle for me. I try to have “trainings”, sometimes me sharing something I’ve learned, sometimes videos, etc, but everyone is too busy to come (or just doesn’t want to!). For example, our training for VBS was only attended by about 60% of the volunteers. I try to do “training on the go” giving people articles I’ve found or fwding them helpful CM stuff on the net, but I’ve never got too much feedback either way from this. Maybe I should just ask them if they want trained and how, instead of doing all this guess work!


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