Nobody likes to feel like they don’t know what they’re doing. Maybe more than that, nobody likes to look like they don’t know what they’re doing.
If either of those scenarios is the reality for people who volunteer at your church, it might not just be a personal problem—it could be a training problem.
When new volunteers step through the door to your church office (or send the email, make the phone call, etc.), they’re committing to try something.
Some are willing to try harder than others.
Solid volunteer training captures that “I want to help” energy and turns potential volunteers into people you can count on. It also helps people decide if something is really the right fit for them. Poor training, on the other hand, dries up a potential volunteer’s desire to help—fast.
Just because you have a training program in place doesn’t mean you’re covered here. People learn in different ways. If you’re only utilizing one strategy for training your new volunteers, people who would otherwise be a great fit for your church may feel like they “just don’t have it,” and give up.
The more complex a volunteer’s role is, the more important it is that you provide multiple ways for them to learn.
The volunteers who work with your presentation software, for example, are going to have varying levels of technical expertise. Some of them might be able to jump into a program on their own and play around until they figure out what they need to do. Others need to have a clear model they can follow, or one-on-one instruction. Whether they’re putting together the slides or running the presentation, the task will require some people to learn and grow more than others.
Anytime you have a new batch of volunteers, part of getting to know them should involve finding out how they learn best. If they don’t know, then you can default to your go-to training strategy. If they can tell you how they learn best, it’ll help you make the best use of your time together.
Here are four basic strategies for training new volunteers how to use your presentation software:
1. “Hands-on” training
One-on-one attention is the most obvious way to train someone how to use a new program, but it’s also the most time consuming. It requires you to give personal instruction to each volunteer, and only you can decide if you have the time to do that.
Hands-on training doesn’t mean you throw a new volunteer into a live presentation and watch over their shoulder while they struggle through the service. The best way for them to practice is in a controlled environment—a no-pressure situation. Guide them through each step of the service, and then see if they can repeat the process without you.
You could walk them through a practice presentation. Maybe have them create a copy of last weekend’s service using the pieces you had—a list of songs, notes from the pastor, events coming up, verses that need to go on slides, etc.
You could also write out step-by-step instructions for them, which is a good test of both their ability to follow and your ability to communicate directions (so you can get better at training, too). Or, have them write down what you ask them to do, so they remember it better (and they can put it in their own words).
Whatever you have them do, the important part of one-on-one training is that an expert (or at least someone who mostly knows what they’re doing) is right there to answer questions or provide correction.
2. “Hands-off” observation
Similar to hands-on one-on-one training, this strategy allows you to give personal guidance to a volunteer. The difference is, this may not require you to set aside additional time for training. Just do the job as usual, with one change:
Have them watch you work through the entire process start to finish. Invite them to join you when you’re putting together the presentation for the next service. Pull out an extra chair and let them watch you during the actual service. Let them see everything the job requires you to do.
Watching gives your volunteer the freedom to ask the questions they need answered, so you don’t explain things they already figured out through observation, and they don’t feel dumb for not understanding what you’re telling them to do.
If you have steps written out somewhere, show them when you check off each step. Encourage them to take their own notes along the way.
When you’re done showing them the whole process, that may be the best time to switch seats and let them drive. See if they can follow your steps, but encourage them to ask questions, and wait until they ask for help—don’t preemptively create/run the entire presentation for them.
3. Learn, teach, repeat
Once you’ve trained a new volunteer, see if they know everything they need to be able to teach another new volunteer.
Sometimes explaining a process to someone else helps you understand it better. You’re not just playing “telephone” with detailed instructions—you’re explaining what you just learned in your own words.
This strategy is perhaps the best test of your own ability to train others, and it’s one of the best ways to multiply your expertise and your time. The more people available to answer technical questions, the less burden there is on you.
If people know in advance that they’re going to have to teach someone else how to do what they’re learning, they may ask more questions the first time around and pay closer attention to what they’re doing. They’ll be more prepared to perform the tasks themselves, and they’ll be better equipped to repeat the process for someone else.
If you choose this strategy, be sure you remove other factors that could add to the stress of teaching (don’t use a live presentation in front of your whole church). Be sensitive to the fact that teaching is stressful enough on its own for a lot of people. If someone isn’t comfortable teaching others, it’s okay to choose another strategy—they might just want to understand the process better before they try to show someone else.
4. Independent learning
A technically savvy self-guided learner probably doesn’t want you to hold their hand through every step of the training. Sitting through meetings or in-depth one-on-one sessions may actually slow down their learning process. They may prefer to learn how your presentations work by playing with the features themselves.
They still need to know your church’s process—but maybe not the program. Who knows—they may even discover a better way for your church to use the program, or how to use that feature you’ve never quite figured out what to do with.
This is where it helps to have a presentation software that allows you to have unlimited installs on a single subscription, like Proclaim. Your tech-savvy volunteers can install Proclaim on their home computers and test things out on their own. If you don’t know them very well, or you’re worried about them meddling with active presentations you’re working on, you could also have them start a free trial—they don’t need a credit card, and then they can experiment to their heart’s content in their own presentation group.
If you’ve got a self-guided learner on your volunteer team, they can see all our training videos, step-by-step guides to presentations, and training on particular features and processes on our Proclaim help page.
Find what works for your church
Even if you’re just getting to know them, you have a relationship with each of your volunteers. Get to know them, and if possible, be willing to try a few different training strategies. If someone doesn’t understand what they’re supposed to do, it doesn’t always mean that they aren’t a right fit—they might just need you to teach them in another way.
Any of these strategies can be mixed and matched based on your needs and the learning styles of your volunteers. Use training as the time to give your volunteers every opportunity to see if this is the right fit for them—before your church has to count on them, and before they commit to making the role a regular part of their life.
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