By Josh Cramer
It’s that time again. My friends and I call it the SMS or Sunday Morning Slump. It’s that time where the other kids have started to get picked up, but I’m left to sit here…bored. And, as you know, there’s NOTHING worse than being bored. And then I hear it…my name. But who…?
“Sadie! There you are!” A young woman I don’t recognize is walking towards me. “Sadie, your mom sent me to get you.” She reaches for my hand. “Come with me.”
Just then, Ms. Davis steps between us. “Hi. I’m Ms. Davis, Sadie’s teacher. We’ll need to wait for Sadie’s mom. In the meantime, can I help you?”
And just like that, I know that Ms. Davis has my back.
As children’s leadership staff or volunteers, our children’s safety must be our No. 1 priority. So, think about the above situation and place each of your children’s ministry volunteers in this situation. How would each of them handle it? Those who wouldn’t do so well, how would you help them to do better?
To protect our children, we’ve first got to be intentional with our volunteers. There can’t be any confusion or doubt about proper safety and security procedures. While there are many steps you must take, one step is to create an intentional culture of learning within your children’s ministry.
What does creating this intentional culture look like? It involves asking some simple questions to ask about each goal you have.
First, what are your learning goals? What do you need your children’s workers to be able to do? This may take some digging because rarely is the purpose of learning simply to just take training. For example, you wouldn’t assign a group at the church a course in Abuse Awareness just to see if they could pass the course. Instead, you would use that training to solve a problem for your ministry and your people, like making sure that everyone on your team knows and practices your ministry’s latest safety procedures.
Second, how will you determine whether you’ve completed this goal successfully? This can be difficult to determine when the goal is to simply protect our children from harm. In this case, you might test your team’s understanding of a new safety procedure by roleplaying.
Third, now that we have a measurable solution to our problem, we could ask, what do we need to do, develop, or deliver to reach this success? For example, if you determined that roleplaying would be the best way to test your team’s understanding, you would find or develop these roleplaying scenarios.
Fourth, what is your timeline to find or build this training and get everyone up to speed on this? This may consist of some milestones like:
- Find/build roleplay scenarios by August 1
- Schedule time to train five volunteers each week by August 31
Finally, how will you communicate this with your team? What methods will you use to contact each volunteer to schedule time to get together? How will you meet?
As you answer these questions, it can be helpful to use this learning plan template:
(1) Goal. (2) Success. (3) Do. (4) Timeline. (5) Communicate.
(1) Our goal is to help all children’s volunteers contribute to keeping the children in our care safe by being able to spot possible abuse.
(2) All children’s workers will go through a one-hour workshop and successfully complete a roleplay verifying these skills.
(3 & 4) We must find a workshop by July 22, find or build roleplay scenarios by August 1, schedule time to train five volunteers each week of August.
(5) Communicate this to each volunteer by August 1.
While this might seem like a lot of work at first, by being intentional with each learning goal, you will gain more trust in the long-term with your team. Your children’s ministry learning strategy can only be as successful as the support you and your other leadership provide it. This means that it’s important for you to find a way to encourage your team with your words and your actions. By offering aid, you can ensure your staff or team are successful and high-performing and that they know you are for them and their efforts.
Of course, you might be asking, “This sounds great, but what if I put in all of this work and they don’t come, don’t participate, or don’t complete what they need to?” This is a great question. Once you’ve seen the training results, it’s important to celebrate those who have completed their tasks and to encourage those who haven’t. Remember—never shame someone into doing something. Instead, talk with them and give them the benefit of the doubt. Send reminders beforehand and even feel free to ask what you can do to help them to complete the task. Send those who complete their training on time a thank-you email or note.
Of course, sometimes things don’t work out this way, which is why it’s important to make sure that everyone is on the same page. For example, if someone refuses to take the training, you might let them know that they will be unable to continue serving in that role until they do. If this is the case, make sure to include this in your training strategy. For example, you could include this line at the end of your plan: “This training is mandatory and volunteers not in compliance will be unable to serve in this role until they complete the training.”
The important thing is to continue to refine your learning strategies as you and your team encounter successes and challenges. This will help make sure that kids like Sadie stay safe.
Josh Cramer is a learning experience designer at ACS Technologies, www.acstechnologies.com. ACS Technologies (acstechnologies.com) focuses on Church Ministry Solutions in a new era of partnership that encompasses more than church management software and support. Their Church Ministry Solutions encompass every church’s operational, relational, and educational needs, helping them Build the Kingdom.