7 Critical Ways to Train Your Church Staff

Ever been in a crucial situation and didn’t know what to do?

Maybe there was 20 seconds left on the clock in the state championship game and your coach called a special play and you were like, “Dang…I don’t know what I’m supposed to do here.”

State championship lost!

Ok, that was a little dramatic.

But, these things happen.

Ever been in a conversation with someone in your church and they shared something with you and in your head you were like, “I have no idea what to do” and you were really hoping your face wasn’t betraying what you were feeling?

Yeah. I hate that feeling.

Turns out, everyone hates that feeling.

One of the best ways you can serve your church staff, volunteers included, is through training them in a few crucial areas.

Setting people up with the information they need before they need it is a gift and ensures what needs to happen actually happens.

So, here are critical areas in which your staff needs to be trained!

1. Organizational Values

A training area that is absolutely crucial is your organizational values.

Your values are the backbone of your church culture and if your staff and volunteers aren’t clear on the values, then you will have all kinds of problems.

When there is clarity around the values, I have found that most people embrace them and live them out.

Living out, modeling and teaching your values is how you build a culture.

This training is worth returning to on a regular basis.

2. Hospitality

You know what gives me nightmares?

The idea that someone might show up at our church for the first time and have a bad experience—they couldn’t find a parking spot or a seat, no one said hello to them, their coffee was cold, or they didn’t understand a thing the preacher was talking about.

We take hospitality training very seriously at our church because experience matters and we often don’t get a second chance to impress a guest.

Do you have a formalized hospitality training for your staff and volunteers?

3. Communication

Let’s just be real, not everyone has great communication skills.

Poor communication can cause all kinds of trouble, perhaps most notably, interpersonal conflict.

It can also lead to lost trust with members of your congregation when emails are impersonal, unclear or misleading. Even setting expectations of how soon an employee is required to respond to an email can be helpful.

If you’re wondering, for us it is 48 hours for most roles but 24 for others.

Sometimes providing clear communication training and expectations can do wonders.

4. Emergency and Crisis

You know, I would much prefer that nothing terrible ever happens but bad things do happen and sometimes the damage can be minimized through preparation and planning.

For example, what is the plan in case of a fire in your children’s ministry area?

Have your staff and volunteers practiced how to handle fire or other emergencies?

If an intruder entered your church property, would your staff know what to do?

Is there a plan?

We don’t like to think about such things but planning can minimize the damage.

Consider hiring a local law enforcement office or safety expert to consult and possibly train your staff.

5. Hot-Button Topics

There is a critique I often hear from people in our church and it goes something like this, “What does our church believe about ¨_____________”?

Usually when this is asked, it means that we haven’t done a good job communicating and when our own volunteers and staff ask, it means we haven’t done a good job of training.

When it comes to nuanced conversations like the LGBT conversation, we provide specific trainings for small group leaders and staff.

We talk about what we believe and why and spend a lot of time talking about the gracious tone we desire.

Sure, some of these trainings can be awkward and sometimes people disagree.

But in the absence of clear communication, people will say whatever they feel is best…which may not be best at all!

Also, I have found that our volunteers really appreciate it when we prepare them for difficult conversations rather than respond after they have already happened.

6. Time Management

This might sound a little judgy but I have discovered that most people aren’t great at managing their time.

I mean, I wasn’t good at it for the first ten years of my ministry career.

No one taught me about block-scheduling, project planning, etc.

I was just out there winging it!

Maybe you can relate.

I believe that training people on how to manage and prioritize their time is a huge gift to them and also to your church.

Learning how to operate off a block schedule sounds like prison and feels like freedom.

Just saying.

7. Navigating Conflict

When people work or serve together, conflict happens.

It’s just part of the gig in a fallen world—even in church.

Providing simple training on how to navigate interpersonal conflict in a work environment can be incredibly beneficial.

For example, what kinds of conflict is good?

What kinds are bad?

Is there a prescribed pattern for navigating conflict with an individual?

When is appropriate to include a supervisor?

I definitely recommend the book Crucial Conversations here.

Wrap Up

So, all seven of these training suggestions are important and critical for the success of your staff and volunteer teams.

How in the world do you train on all of them?

Well, maybe start by identifying people who are really good in each area and ask them to put something together?

You don’t have to do all the work yourself.

Also, go after two or three that feel most critical right now and plan to train on the other areas later in the year.

Hopefully this has been helpful. Feel free to continue the conversation in the comments below.

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