When it comes to building an effective training process, there are three main qualities that the process must have. Here’s a hint: Benchmarks are key.
The following article first appeared on ChurchProduction.com. We have reposted it in its entirety with permission. You can visit the original post here.
It should probably go without saying that volunteers are the lifeblood of any church tech ministry. No matter what kind of equipment a church has, or how great of a leader is on the team, it’s practically impossible in most cases to automate everything. It takes a team of talented folks to help pull off a service or event.
When it comes to having a team ready to run a service, the challenge many of us face is that of time. We’d love to have a group of folks able to fill every position and run it all like champions. But as the team leader, we often have so much already on my plate that we just can’t seem to find the time to train people to step in and do everything.
So, the result is that we either have to bear too much weight by running multiple positions on our own, or we’re stuck using ill-equipped volunteers in key roles, and we run the risk of the service quality being compromised or of that volunteer feeling so overwhelmed or discouraged that he isn’t interested in coming back next week to serve.
This is why having an effective training process is so critical. There is tremendous long-term benefit, if we’re able to really invest in people to the point that they’re able to run things on their own. This gives us the freedom to step back and observe the service, instead of having to live in the weeds every week. And, who knows…we may be able to have a Sunday off once in a while.
When it comes to building out an effective and functional training process, there are three main qualities that the process must have:
It must be clear.
There’s nothing worse for a new volunteer than to be stuck in a muddled situation and not know what to do. Lack of clarity is a complete killer when it comes to momentum and positive energy and emotion. That’s why it’s critical that there be absolute clarity when it comes to the expectations of a new trainee.
At our church, every technical position at every campus has a list of what we call “benchmarks” that must be met throughout the training process. This allows us to communicate with absolute clarity what exactly is expected of anyone who wishes to serve.
It removes the subjectivity out of the process. No more “He feels like he’s ready” or “I’m sure she’ll be fine after she serves a couple of weeks” or “I think he’ll get the hang of it after a week or two”. There now becomes a clearly defined standard of what every operator should be able to do and understand.
Our team loads these benchmarks in Planning Center, using their new, free People app. By keeping this information digital, it allows the trainees to be able to monitor their own progress and know where they need to continue growing, and it allows the trainers to be able to make notes and keep track of how everyone is doing as they navigate the process.
Think of the training process as an interstate on-ramp. The goal is to go from 0 to 70 by the time you merge into traffic. But the only way you know your speed is to be able to look at something that objectively tells you where you stand, so you know how you need to improve. There’s no guesswork involved; the speedometer makes it perfectly clear to everyone in the car how close we are to success.
And without making the performance standards clear during the training process, it makes it nearly impossible for us to ever go back to that person and have a conversation to correct their performance, or tell them they aren’t serving at the level we need. If we never clarified the goal in the first place, it’s not fair to hold someone to a standard they never knew existed.
It must be correct.
The old adage of “practice makes perfect” isn’t necessarily true. Practicing truly can help you get closer to perfection, but only if you’re practicing the right things the right way, and if there’s a coach to help provide guidance and advice during that training.
It is crucial to properly model the correct behavior at every step of the training process. Using experienced team members to mentor or coach a trainee (whether it’s the main team leader or another experienced volunteer) is an important part of the process. We don’t just want our trainee to have to figure things out on their own; we want someone with experience to show them the precise way we do things, and also explain they “why” behind the “what”.
Pairing a trainee with a mentor also allows the new team member to absorb some of the existing team culture and values, which are an important part in sustaining the cohesion and chemistry of the team. This process also affords the veterans on the team to help work out any “rough spots” in the character or attitude of the rookies, by seeing areas where they may need to show some growth and helping coach them in the right direction.
Simply throwing someone in the deep end may help get the job done during a service, but it’s ineffective over the long-run. We run the risk of burning someone out due to their frustration over lack of direction; we may potentially be allowing a “bad apple” to be on the team because no one ever got close enough relationally to observe their character; and we’re compromising the service quality because we’re allowing bad habits to perpetuate over time.
It must be consistent.
Obviously the standards of the process itself must be consistent; people need to only have one goal to aim towards, and it doesn’t need to change from week to week.
However, the actual, physical training event should be a consistent occurrence also.
I’ve known of many churches that wait for a “critical mass” of volunteers to develop before they decide to start training, as if there needs to be a minimum amount of trainees to make it worth their investment of time and energy.
But if I’m the first trainee to come along, it will really suck the wind out of my sails to know that all of my energy and enthusiasm may wane over time as I wait for the team leader to collect enough people to start the training process.
On the contrary, take advantage of their excitement and work to get them plugged in as quickly as possible.
All of us have things in our lives that keep us busy…work, kids, hobbies, etc. If someone happens to miss a training event, don’t discourage them by making them think they’ve missed their one shot to get on the team, and now they have to wait another three or four months until another event rolls around. Instead, have a track that people can jump on and off of as their schedule permits and make it something simple that repeats itself on a weekly or monthly basis.
Whether it’s a midweek training that happens in conjunction with band rehearsal, or if it’s something that just takes place on a Saturday or Sunday before a service while all of the equipment is being checked and loaded in, there are definitely opportunities to find a time to build a consistent process. Remember, we actually want these people on our team, so we need to make it as easy as possible for them to get plugged into the development process.
Investing in other people is never easy, and it’s usually not something many of us choose. After all, it’s time-consuming and often messy. But the end results are powerful and necessary. Those new team members will not only help take weight off of our shoulders, but they’ll also be infused with a newfound sense of purpose and passion, knowing that they’re serving in an area where they feel empowered to make a difference.