In-Service Training

The first thing to do is to decide what needs to be done. The training that is needed to do the job should be decided on. One helpful thing to do is to ask persons who have been doing the job what kind of training they feel is needed. A number of questions need to be asked. What would someone beginning this ministry need to know to do it well? What kinds of skills would be useful in this ministry that persons aren’t likely to have before they are recruited? What experiences, training, or resources have been helpful to you in this ministry? What would you want to say to the person who follows you in this ministry? When a church has decided what is needed, they are ready to discover what training is currently available, and see how well it covers the responses. Then they will be ready to design an in-service training program.

In-service training should begin with an orientation of a new worker. Orientation is helping persons prepare to do a ministry before they actually begin. Many times volunteers, once recruited, are “thrown” into the job without any real knowledge of what is going to happen or what to expect. They find themselves confused, bewildered, and, in fact, lost with their responsibilities! When a volunteer is placed in a position without any orientation, he or she will be playing “catch up,” and will find it extremely hard to be excited and motivated, while struggling to keep one’s head above water! Several methods can be used to do new worker orientation: review the job description, review the resources, review the facilities and equipment, answer questions, and attend a meeting.

Start-up support is needed by new volunteers. When volunteers, having had some initial training, begin actual work for the organization, they enter a period in which much support is needed. Beginnings are hard for all of us. But it is also a fruitful period of training, because there is in the new volunteer, as in the child, greater openness to change at the beginning than after patterns have developed. The start-up period is the time when volunteers’ repertoire of resources, skills, and alternatives is probably least developed. They often, therefore, find decision-making difficult. Volunteers in the start-up period also have a great need to feel recognized and accepted by the people already in the system. This start-up support can be given by a supervisor, trainer, or coworker with a supportive chat with the volunteer after the first day on the job. Another way is to have each new volunteer paired with an experienced worker from the beginning, and the experienced worker discusses the job frequently with the new workers. A third method is to have a short meeting of the new volunteers and let them reflect on their first few days. The supervisor should conduct this meeting.

In-service training programs usually include weekly or monthly workers meetings, workshops, conferences, retreats, conventions, and supervision and evaluation.

A weekly meeting for planning and training

Many Sunday Schools have a Wednesday night teachers and officers meeting every week. Many churches have an inexpensive family supper on Wednesday and special programs for the children while the workers are having their meeting. Most churches with a bus ministry have a Saturday morning bus workers meeting every week. The weekly meeting generally includes some time for training as well as some for planning and other administrative matters. The weekly Sunday School workers meeting in one church has 15 minutes for administrative matters such as planning, promotion, visitation, evaluation, and problem solving, followed by a 25 minute teaching improvement period. The teaching improvement period always gives some helps for the next week’s lesson, but would include more than just a “teaching” of the lesson to the teachers.

A monthly meeting for planning and training

Most church program organizations which have monthly meetings for workers give a major segment of the time to in-service training. Many small Sunday Schools have made the monthly workers meeting a very effective time. The monthly meeting might have about one hour for a workshop and one hour for the curriculum planning for the next month. A workshop teaches specific skills through activity or learning by doing. The workshop time could be used in training in the use of methods, such as drama, music, creative writing, flannel graph, overhead projector, object lessons, story telling, memorization, maps, puppets, and a host of others. The workers could also be taught about the age group characteristics and needs of the group they are working with in a workshop time. Many, many subjects could be profitably treated in these monthly workshops.

Annual training conference

Many churches have an annual workers conference that will last for several nights or a Friday night and all day Saturday. Larger churches usually plan this just for them. Several smaller churches can combine and conduct an effective annual workers conference. Many denominations offer these types of programs for their churches. A conference of this type would usually use outside resource persons, and would divide up into specific sessions for various age groups. Churches often require a minimum of one training experience a year, such as a seminar, workshop, conference, or class.

Weekday club programs, like AWANA and Word of Life, generally sponsor a district training conference each year. This is generally in the fall and is very helpful in starting a new program year.

Other special annual training conferences:
1. A committee training night for members and chairpersons
2. Deacon training retreat
3. Ushers workshop
4. Nursery workers workshop

Conventions and conferences away from the church

Excellent training is available for those able to travel to Sunday School conventions and special training conferences offered by some large churches and other groups. Many states have annual Sunday School conventions. Many denominations sponsor special events like this on a state or regional basis.

The church library

The church library should not be forgotten when leadership training is being considered. An individual reading program, especially with some guidance, can be a highly effective training aid. Adequate materials should be available including books, periodicals, and cassette tapes. However, a strong promotion program must be carried out to get maximum use from a church library. Reviews of materials at workers meetings will greatly encourage their use.

Job training guides

One idea for training that has unbelievable potential is the use of “Job Training Guides.” These were suggested by Cox in a book, Ideas for Training Sunday School Leaders. He suggested making a list of the duties of a position, and then determining the training that would be needed to carry out those duties. This training would then be put in a “Job Training Guide.” These guides would use readings from books and magazines, listening to tapes, and other methods that could be done individually. Some interaction would be necessary, perhaps writing, and then reporting on the exercises. This type training program is used by many groups from Boy Scouts to big businesses. Many times the church enlists a person for a position and he is the only one to be trained at that particular time. A training guide that he could work through individually would be a great asset.

Leaders teaching their followers

Every good leader will also constantly be developing the people he is leading and preparing them for additional responsibilities. Every good leader is a good teacher, and will use the principles of teaching as he leads to develop those under him. At least five of the principles of teaching relate to leading:

1. Teaching and leading will build a sense of anticipation, significance, and pleasure in others.
2. Teachers and leaders start where the followers are and move with them. It is important not to get too far ahead.
3. Teachers must let the learner experience the lesson for himself before it becomes his own. The leader can most surely count upon the sustained support of the led when they have been through the experience sufficiently like his to have brought them to the same conclusions about what they want and how, in general, they shall try to get it.
4. Teachers and leaders are to guide, but not to provide the answers. They should arouse interest, place followers in a problem-solving situation, and then let them find the solution.
5. Teachers and leaders know that good work will take a lot of time, and should be willing to spend the time necessary to accomplish the task.


Give the volunteers a “mini-sabbatical”—perhaps a month off to “travel” in their community to other sites similar to their own in order to get ideas, or to take a training seminar during the hours in which they would usually be offering service. This kind of renewal has not previously been considered for volunteers, but it is an excellent way to help them continue to give productive, efficient, and innovative service in a job they have held for any period of time.

Survey the workers

Survey the present workers to find out what they think they need, and when they would be available for training. Find out where the workers are. The gap between what they know and what they need to know is the need.

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