3 Facets of Equipping Volunteers

Equipping volunteers is essential for ensuring they have a positive experience and can serve effectively in their new roles. One of the biggest fears potential new volunteers have is that they won’t know what to do in their role. Volunteer managers must be committed to equipping them to serve with excellence. Unequipped volunteers quit faster, don’t have fun serving, and make unnecessary mistakes. We have to do a thorough job of onboarding and training new volunteers to prepare them to serve, but we also need to provide ongoing training and resources for existing volunteers. There are three facets of equipping: onboarding, training, and providing resources/tools they’ll need to serve well.

This is the third post in a series on volunteer management. You might also be interested in the first two on Volunteer Recruitment and Connecting Volunteers.

1. Onboarding

One of the most important things you can do when onboarding a new volunteer is to set clear expectations. This includes explaining the volunteer's role and responsibilities, as well as the church's policies and procedures. It is also important to communicate the church's mission and values so that the volunteer understands why they are serving and how their role contributes to the overall goals of the church.

Another important aspect of onboarding is to make introductions. Introduce the new volunteer to key staff members, other volunteers, and anyone else they will be working with in their new role. This will help the volunteer to feel more comfortable and connected to the church community.

Give new volunteers a tour of the church building and grounds to help them get oriented. You’ll also want to show them around the area they’ll be serving in and point out any tools or resources they’ll use regularly while serving. This will give them a chance to see where everything is and feel comfortable in the space where they serve.

2. Training

Once a new volunteer has been onboarded, it is important to provide them with training on their specific role. This may involve providing them with written materials, giving them a hands-on demonstration, or pairing them with a more experienced volunteer who can mentor them.

The buddy system is a great way to train and support new volunteers. When you pair a new volunteer with a more experienced volunteer, the rookie can learn from the veteran and ask questions. The experienced volunteer can also provide feedback and encouragement to the new volunteer. Make sure you’re pairing the new volunteer with a veteran who serves with excellence. They’ll be a role model and the new volunteer will emulate what they observe the veteran doing.

Observing and coaching is another important part of training new volunteers. Observe new volunteers in their role and provide them with feedback. Use positive reinforcement to encourage them to repeat the behaviors you want while they are serving. Observing can also help you to identify any areas where the volunteer needs additional training or support. You can also use this time to coach the volunteer on how to improve their performance.

3. Resources / Tools

It is also important to provide all volunteers with the resources and tools they need to be successful in their roles. This may include providing them with written materials, access to computer software, or other tools that are specific to their role.

Volunteers may need information about a variety of topics, such as the church's history, mission, and values; the church's policies and procedures; and the volunteer's specific role and responsibilities. You can provide this information in a variety of ways, such as through written materials, orientation sessions, or individual meetings.

Providing volunteers with the tools they need to make their job easier and more enjoyable can help them be more successful and engaged in their roles. This may include providing them with access to computer software, office supplies, or other tools that are specific to their role. Tools they might use when serving also include high visibility vests for traffic volunteers, umbrellas for greeters who stand outside in the rain and open doors for guests, or cards and stamps if they write notes to members from home.

Ask your volunteers regularly for feedback on what training or resources they’d like to have. They’ll be able to tell you what questions they face frequently that they can’t answer, or tools that would improve their experience serving in their volunteer role. Even if they don’t have any suggestions, the fact that you’re asking will keep an open line of communication and show that you care about equipping them well.

By including all three of these aspects – onboarding, training, and providing resources/tools – you will equip volunteers to serve effectively in their roles, thereby helping ensure they have a positive experience and are able to make a valuable contribution to your church’s ministry.

Getting Started:   Which of the aspects of equipping do you do well? Where is there room for improvement?

Yvonne Gentile is our Guest Experience & ShareChurch Lead Director, a former retail industry executive, and co-author of four books. She and her husband Frank have been part of Resurrection since 1996. Together they enjoy movies, road trips, and spending time with family.