Get a group of kids ministry leaders together and invariably the twin subjects of enlisting and equipping volunteers emerge. The fact that we’re experiencing a global pandemic only intensifies the conversation. Truthfully, for the last few years, we’ve known that we need to develop new models of volunteer training. The impact of COVID-19 on in-person gatherings has accelerated that quest.
For many of us, our work lives are now consumed with virtual meetings as we sit in front of the cameras on our laptops or desktop computer monitors. We try to maintain some kind of decorum amidst barking dogs, slinking cats, and yelling kids. Naturally, some of us have begun to transition volunteer training from in-person to virtual gatherings using some of the same tools we use for our jobs.
Last week I led both live virtual training and pre-recorded virtual training, much like many of my colleagues are doing. I’m still learning the best way to present training content in virtual settings; however, here are some of my observations to date:
- Ignore attendance numbers. For live video training, resist the temptation to focus on how many are actually online at the same time you are teaching. The training session is probably being recorded so that people can watch it at their leisure.
- Pretend you are in a physical room with participants. The live training I led last week was in the form of a webinar, so I could neither see nor actively interact with the attendees. However, the meeting host did two helpful things. First, she started and ended the session. Second, she monitored the online chat so she would be able to communicate applicable questions to me during the last part of the session.
- Allow for interaction with attendees. Whether the discussion is live or via chat, participants in the training will be more engaged if they are able to communicate with you or a designated online facilitator.
- Dress appropriately. I pre-recorded two training sessions last week and dressed as if I were standing in front of an actual group of people. The camera on my laptop only captured my person from the waist up, so technically I could’ve worn shorts and flip-flops. Instead I was in khakis and nice shoes. Dressing in business or business casual attire affects how you feel about yourself as you lead the training, regardless of how much of you people actually see.
- Use visuals. People grow bored if all they see is a talking head on screen. Visuals could include presentation slides, as well as, physical posters and props.
- Consider handouts. If the content lends itself to an interactive handout, make a PDF of the handout available to virtual attendees.
The more you and I train volunteers virtually, the more comfortable we’ll become. Nothing will completely take the place of live, in-person training in which relationships are formed. However, when we can’t interact with conferees face-to-face, we can still provide training and encouragement virtually.
Lifeway Kids has developed an online training course for new volunteers. You can find it on our Kids Ministry From Anywhere page in the training section.
Landry Holmes is the Manager of Lifeway Kids Ongoing Bible Studies and Network Partnerships, Nashville, TN, and is a graduate of Howard Payne University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The author of It’s Worth It: Uncovering How One Week Can Transform Your Church and general editor of the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary for Kids, Landry is a church leader, writer, workshop facilitator, and publisher. He teaches kids at his church in Middle Tennessee, where his wife Janetta is the Preschool Minister. They enjoy spending time with their two adult sons and their wives, and spoiling their grandchildren.