The high cost of NOT training volunteers

I finish preaching at a church and I am invited to attend a Sunday school class. Since one of the great passions of my life is to see Jesus-like transformational teaching happen in Sunday schools and small groups, I say, “Are you kidding? I’d LOVE to.”

I’m escorted to a very nice classroom where about 20 energetic adults are milling around engaged in what seems like good conversation to me. I hear lots of laughter and see lots of smiles. Many of these folks seem to know and love each other. I’m able to meet the volunteer teacher and several other sharp, articulate and fun-loving people before the class starts. I sense energy in the room.

I grab my cup of coffee and donut and find a seat. The subject today: God’s Word on marriage. I think to myself: This is going to be good. I can’t wait to see how this group tackles this.

A missed opportunity

Ten minutes into the class, the energy, engagement, and enthusiasm that once was, is no more. It feels like someone pulled the plug in a bathtub full of fun, relationships, and learning. The longer the class continues, the stronger the vortex of disengagement becomes. I watch one very sincere and well-studied volunteer teacher stand at the front of the room… and continue to talk. He doesn’t seem to notice that the smiles, energy, and, worst of all, the learning—like Elvis—have left the building. Not once in 50 long minutes does he ask anyone to respond or participate. I look around the room to study the glazed-over faces. Just minutes ago, these eyes lit up as they conversed with each other about God and life.

Not now.

My heart deflates—for both the teacher and those being taught. I ponder the tragedy unfolding before me: an untapped gold mine of biblical understanding and life experience sitting in the room… wasting away… right under the teacher’s nose. I sit and wonder. (I know, I should have been listening to the teacher.) I wonder how any of them may have enriched the learning with a personal story of God at work in their marriage. I wonder if anyone might have a related passage of Scripture to share. I wonder what could have happened-what God might do in our lives if we could stop the lecture long enough to break into groups of 4-6 people and study what the Bible has to say about marriage for ourselves first…before the teacher tells us.

And I suspect that a number of those in the class would have something biblical, fun, and pertinent to offer… something life-changing to share…. if only they had a chance.

But they never got a chance.

The class is over. Now I walk out of the room and, at my next thought, I feel a slight chill run down my spine: I wonder who will come back next week… and, more importantly, who won’t?

Here’s a wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee moment for you: The fate of your ministry is in the hands of volunteers. And it’s utterly foolish not to train them well.

 

ACTION STEP: Contact us to schedule a Cadre training experience or to explore how we can train you to take training back to volunteers in your ministry.

When you gonna be a REAL pastor? On empowering volunteers

This week I had the privilege of hanging out with Zach Hummer and Ryan Baker of the When you gonna be a real Pastor? podcast, along with my friend Betty, to chat about empowering volunteers in your ministry.

You can listen to our conversation here!

While you’re at it, subscribe to keep up with their weekly podcasts covering all kinds of youth ministry-related topics, with lots of great guests, like this one.

How to choose your next best curriculum

People often ask me for curriculum recommendations. Since Cadre writes, publishes and offers a lot of training, people sometimes think we do curriculum.

But…we don’t.

I get why people ask. Choosing what to teach is a pressing, felt need many of us have as we plan to teach week-to-week…to week…to week.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-curriculum. But Cadre doesn’t write it because we believe disciplemaking is a way of life, and that’s our focus—helping you, as our in-real-life friends, follow Jesus with the people in your life, living sent to make disciples who make disciples. Disciplemaking isn’t meant to be a topic for us to teach for 8 weeks every other year as part of our Christian education rotation.

But wait, don’t close out the window yet!

We can still help.

The truth is, there are many great kinds of studies and resources you can use to cultivate disciplemaking values in your ministy. This is the best one. And I’ll share a few more at the bottom.

But let’s back up for a minute.

While I can share a few resources with you, I’d much rather equip you to choose your own curriculum well. In fact, this won’t be my only post on the topic. But today, I simply want to challenge you to think about the big picture.

Instead of picking a curriculum based on how well it’s designed, how easy it is to teach without much prep, or how many of your friends use it…stop and ask:

  • What does a disciple who makes disciples look like?
  • What head, hands and heart understanding do we want to help develop in people as we seek to make disciples?
  • What are our goals as we aim to make disciples who make disciples?

There are plenty of good studies out there. But unless you have clearly defined goals, you’re probably going to fumble around looking for “the next best thing” to teach every 3-6 months.

Here are some sample “exit goals” to show you what I mean.

By the time children finish Kindergarten, they should…

  • Know the Bible is God’s Word
  • Be able to pray a simple prayer

By the time kids finish 5th grade, they should…

  • Know God helps us overcome our fears
  • Be able to name the books of the Bible in order

By the time students finish high school, they should…

  • Understand God’s design for us to live in biblical community with one another
  • Be able to choose personal priorities based on their relationship with Jesus.

Once adults have experienced this class or group, they should…

  • Know how to lead someone to Christ
  • Be able to live out the one another verses with family and friends

Note that these are just EXAMPLES—they’re NOT mean to be exhaustive. You can view a more extensive list of goals and find practical help as you teach for disciplemaking in Cadre’s Teaching Genius of Jesus.

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If the ministry you’re a part of isn’t ready to come up with goals for all ages, spend some time prayerfully identifying a few simple goals for the group you’re teaching or leading.

Once you know what you’re aiming for, you can find studies that will help people grow as disciples in the areas you’ve identified.

But if you’re still looking for Cadre-style “curriculum,” start here…

  • You can break down our Equip middle school training into weekly bite sizes and plan a lesson around it. There are lots of ideas and creative ways to engage, but there’s no script. You’ll have to be willing to study and share the Scripture together with those you’re teaching.
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And finally, since I told you I would, here are a handful of additional resources I’ve found helpful in cultivating a disciplemaking way of life:

For kids:

Discover 4 Yourself Inductive Bible studies

The Jesus Storybook Bible (and curriculum)

252 Basics

For students:

Dare 2 Share’s Field Guide to Sharing Your Faith

Sticky Faith: 10 Lessons to Nurture Faith Beyond High School

For adults:

Let’s Read the Bible Together YouVersion plans

Prayer that Makes a Difference by Martin Sanders

A Righteous Brood by Hugh Halter

Middle schoolers lead the way in disciplemaking

So often in middle school ministry, we don’t get much beyond games and general early adolescent craziness.

Why?

I contend it’s because we don’t expect much out of middle schoolers. And guess what happens? We get exactly what we expect…not much.

But there is a better way.

Consider the Equip training experience. It’s 2-3 days of encouraging and equipping middle school students to make disciples who make more disciples.

Yes, I said middle school students and disciplemaking in the same sentence.

I know, right?

For some unfortunate reason, middle school students are often regarded as the ugly step-child of youth ministry.

I couldn’t disagree more.

When it comes to disciplemaking like Jesus, I think middle school students can lead the way for high school students and adults.

(Yeah…you’ll probably need to reread that sentence again.) I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. And it thrills my soul.

Okay, let me just say it: After 35 years of youth ministry in a wide variety of settings, I can honestly say Equip is the best disciplemaking training experience I’ve ever seen for middle schoolers.

You and the middle school students in your ministry are missing something very significant if they don’t experience Equip.

equip group middle schoolers

Click here to find out more about giving your middle schoolers an Equip experience.