Awesome trainings keep me dreaming all night on Friday and then wake me up at the crack of dawn on Saturday. Whether attending as a participant or communicator, I am in love with the idea of getting better. In the same vein, the one thing that will raise my blood pressure is getting excited about a training opportunity that winds up wasting my time. All of the effective training events I have attended have two common components. They are purposeful and well prepared. Nothing happens by accident.
Purpose is paramount. No one likes wandering around a maze of ideas trying to figure out how they all connect. Give me the purpose and then make sure to deliver on that promise. All preparations align to fulfilling that purpose.
When planning trainings for my context, I direct NextGen ministries, I consider where the ministries are headed, where we are on that journey, and what is the next logical step in that direction. Two years ago, when I arrived at my current congregation, I knew I would implement the Orange Strategy. My team and I discussed where we were, where we wanted to go, and how we planned to get there. For us, the first step in implementing the strategy was moving to the curriculum across grades. We were moving from a Sunday school lecture model to more on-the-floor, tactile and discussion-oriented exercises. The purpose of the training was to introduce, orient, and get buy-in to this new curriculum and way of “teaching” our children and youth. The training was aligned to meet that objective. No projectors and whiteboards. Bring on the supply buckets! The next several training events consisted of hands-on simulations of the small group exercises and discussions.
I had to pick a starting place to the many layers to cover. All the elements of the Orange Strategy are important and essential—partnering with parents, the importance of a vibrant environment, worship hosting and storytelling—but I knew if the scope was too wide I wouldn’t accomplish the first objective. These other items were strategically mapped out for future trainings purposed to meet those objectives. This training stuck to curriculum introduction, orientation, and usage proficiency.
Preparation is everything past establishing the purpose—including determining content, location, time, equipment needs, communication regarding the event, and anything else that is needed to accomplish the purpose. Preparation will either hinder or further the realization of the purpose. Using the same example, I use the five W’s to assist in my preparation:
Q1: Who am I trying to attract? How can I make these individuals aware?
A1: I would love the entire ministry but I really NEED my small group leaders. Everyone was contacted via email. The small group leaders were also called the week before.
Q2: What am I trying to accomplish? What do I need to accomplish it?
A2: I want the SGLs to buy into the new curriculum and be excited about its direction. I need all the materials from the lesson that will show my SGLs that this curriculum will help us build our kids faith through fun and authentic relationships.
Q3: Where is the best place to hold this training to assist with meeting its purpose?
A3: I love holding meetings at my house but I need the SGLs to be in their environment in order to get the closest simulation. At the church, in the classroom, on the floor it was!
Q4: When should this be scheduled? Is there a day of the week, time of day, or season of the year that works best?
A4: I work at a commuter church and a lot of my volunteers are parents. Weekdays are horrible! Saturdays would be the day feasible to the largest number of people.
Q5: Why is this training important now? Is this part of a long-term plan or short-term goal? If this is part of a long-term plan, is this the next best step for this group and this time?
A5: This is one-piece of a long-term plan. If I can get them to buy into a curriculum that works, then it will be easier to get them to later buy into the entire strategy.
Unequipped teams are frustrated teams. Training is essential to the recruitment and retention of volunteers and our success as ministries that walk alongside families that help kids build authentic faith. Let’s be purposeful in our training times and put in the preparation that will help them reach their optimum potential.