There’s no shortage of topics that could come up in small group with middle school and high school students—theology, dating, anxiety, family dynamics, the list goes on. And as ministry leaders, we need to be training our SGLs ahead of time for these kinds of conversations. But what does a GREAT training event look like? This week, we’re talking about what kinds of training events your SGLs need and what it takes to put together a training event that your volunteers actually WANT to attend.


  • What has been the most creative and engaging training event you’ve put on or attended? (0:45)
  • What subjects do we need to cover when training our small group leaders? (3:26)
  • 3:44: “Anytime you’re entrusting someone else’s child to an adult, that adult needs to be trained.” – Tyreke Welsey
  • 5:36: “Every volunteer that walks in has a fear about what they’re walking into. If you don’t give them the skills to navigate that, they may not want to sign up again next year.” –Ashley Bohinc
  • Why do you think volunteers and small group leaders often don’t want to attend training events? (7:15)
  • 11:35: “You should never schedule a meeting unless you have something to train your small group leaders and volunteers on.” – Ashley Bohinc
  • What all goes into a great training event? (18:10)
  • Thinking outside the box is one element that makes a great training event. But what else is needed? (25:58)
  • 33:13: “There’s a difference between asking your small group leaders and volunteers to come do something versus inviting them to be part of something.” –Ashley Bohinc
  • A lot of this could feel like this is just another thing for a youth pastor to do, but training could be something you delegate? (34:55)
  • Anything else that goes into a great training event for small group leaders and volunteers? (37:55)
  • What are some lower-cost ways we can create engaging training events for our leaders? (39:27)
  • Charlie, you’ve experienced some not-so-great leader trainings. How are you feeling about them now? (44:28)
  • 46:01: “I’d be more inclined to attend a training if it had a more specific focus. Teach me something – that’s a training I want to come to.” –Charlie Conder
  • Any final thoughts or resources? (47:20)

Episode Transcript

– Hey, friends. Welcome to Rethinking Youth Ministry. I’m CJ, and this week I’m joined by Ashley,

– Hey.

– Charlie,

– Hi.

– And Tyreke.

– How’s everybody doing?

– And this week, on the podcast, we’re talking about how to create trainings your volunteers and small group leaders actually want to attend. Keyword being want. And we’re talking about this because we believe small groups are the most important part of our youth ministry programming. Which means if our small group leaders, especially, aren’t trained and equipped to lead those small groups well, then, kind of in some ways, we’re leaving up the most important part of what we do week to week kind of up to chance, right? So, Before we dive into things, though, I want to ask you three, what’s been the most creative, or engaging, I guess, training event you’ve either put on or attended in ministry? Can you think of anything?

– Yes.

– Yeah? What you got?

– So, We did a training for our new 6th grade leaders that were getting ready to lead in our middle school ministry. And what we did was we had them go to a middle school. So, well actually, they came to the church first, we bussed them over on a school bus, literally, to the local middle school, and we got all of our trainings done in classrooms and in the gym. We had lunch there. So, it was literally putting them in the shoes of the students that they would be serving.

– Well, right off the bat, Tyreke, this was one of the reasons I was really excited you were going to be on this today. Because I was at that event because, at the time, you were my small group, small group director, I guess.

– Mm-hmm, yeah.

– And so I was at that training event, and I have never experienced a training event quite like that. I’m sure we’ll dive into that a little bit more later, so we’ll hit pause on that. But I want to hear from you two, Ashley and Charlie.

– Well, I was going to actually say the exact same event that you two were talking about, ’cause I was also there. And so I don’t know if you want me to–

– Well, I wasn’t there, and I’m thinking my sanctuary trainings were a real bore right now. I wasn’t doing anything fun.

– I’m like, I don’t know anything that has been more creative than that training, so I’m so excited to talk about it. I attended Mr. Wesley’s breakout at that training.

– Do you have a runner-up thing that you can think of, Ashley? Are there any other training events or things you’ve attended that stick out in your mind?

– So, I guess I would say my runner-up, the one that pops into my mind first, isn’t as much like an experience like that, but we had all the small group leaders in the same room for actually a full day this happened to be, this training, ’cause it was also a kickoff day. But it was like the gauntlet time that ended up being a few hours long, and it was pass around this bowl and each small group leader pulled a piece of paper out, would read the scenario, and have to know how to respond right on the spot.

– Wow.

– And would have to respond to the room in front of everyone, and then we would all talk about, like, what are some different ways we could’ve responded, or what was awful about that, and what thoughts went through your head to try to get them ready for real scenarios.

– That’s hard.

– That sounds awesome and awful at the same time.

– Yeah.

– That is. But I can see why that’s memorable, though. You might’ve said a lot of things you regret. I don’t know, I don’t know.

– I didn’t say it was great. Just kidding, it was great.

– Well, okay, so, we’ll kind of circle back, I’m sure, to some of these here in a few minutes, but I kind of want to start with the question, so why do we even need to be, or maybe what kinds of things do we need to be training our small group leaders on? Why are we even having some of these events in the first place? After all, talking to students is just having a conversation, right?

– No.

– Oh, okay.

– No.

– I think anytime you’re entrusting someone else’s child to an adult, they have to be trained, whether that’s on like, if kids are hurting themselves, what to do. Like, they’re a mandated reporters, so I think there’s a certain level of training, just for safety’s sake, that goes there, I think. They may need to be trained, like, certain situations don’t all need to be broadcast to everybody, so they need to know what needs to be confidential and what can’t be confidential. So I think things like that. And then, just how to do your, to be a, to do your job well, right? Like, the best small-group leaders I’ve seen are the ones that have plans, they’re thorough, they’re able to communicate well with parents, all those things are things that if you’re not that type of person, you may not necessarily have the best experience. But if we can give you some type of best practices or training, it lifts everybody up.

– That’s good. That’s good.

– I think for me, most of my small group leaders were older, and I say that kindly, but it was definitely the 65 and older crowd, who it might have been a hot minute since they’ve sat in a circle with a 6th grader, or even a 12th grader at that point.

– [CJ] Yeah.

– So it’s good to refresh them what students are about, who they are,

– [CJ] Yeah.

– what phase they’re in. And then, it equips them to find more longevity in your ministry. I’ve sat down with volunteers at a church that I transitioned into, that this particular leader had been serving for 25 years, and no one had ever sat and talked to him, ever. I’m thinking, “Gosh, how’d you know what you were supposed to do?” And he was like “I just showed up.” But to me, just showing up isn’t a small group leader.

– [CJ] Right, totally.

– Also, it’s shocking that he stayed for 25 years

– Yeah.

– Having never been, like, acknowledged.

– But that heart, like he loves students, he loved the ministry, he loved the church, right? But think about what he could have been doing in those 25 years, If he’d been trained.

– Totally.

– Yeah, and I think a big part of the volunteer training and the importance of it is, like you were mentioning, Tyreke, just knowing how to have those conversations, but also, like, volunteers want to be poured in to and they want to be recognized. And every volunteer that walks in your environment has a fear about what they’re walking into. So if you never acknowledge the fear, or never help them, kind of, give them the skills to navigate that, then I would assume they probably don’t want to sign up again next year.

– Okay, I laugh at that because my husband, Eric Conder, he was like “Well, I’ll volunteer, but I don’t know what to do.” And I was a rookie youth pastor and needed someone, I was like just come and hang out. He goes “How do you hang out?” And he wasn’t joking. Like, he’s such an introvert, he’s like “I have no idea how to hang out.”

– I totally get him. So much. I don’t even know…

– Did he come?

– He came

– That’s so sweet.

– Yeah, I don’t even know if I’ve met your husband, but I feel like I’ve connected with him a little bit. Maybe just emotionally.

– But also, I think the language that people use around small groups, they’re your they’re your youth pastors, right?

– [CJ] Yeah.

– You wouldn’t want a youth pastor that wasn’t, You wouldn’t want a regular pastor who wasn’t trained of some sort, you know what I mean? And so if they have the most important job, why wouldn’t we be all on one accord on what that, how that job is done well? You know what I mean?

– Mmhmm. Yeah.

– I mean, it sounds like, if I could reiterate a little bit, going back to what you were saying a few minutes ago, there’s a minimum training bar here when it comes to things like safety and that kind of a thing.

– Yep.

– All the way up to, there are so many things leading up to, yeah, training your small group leaders to be the pastors of their groups and of their students, and everything in between that. If we aren’t having these conversations, if we aren’t setting up these events, we really, truly are just leaving things up to chance and just turning a blind eye to some of those things. Now, to kind of dive a little bit deeper though, the title of this episode was “Creating Training Small Group Leaders “and Volunteers Want to Attend”. Which suggests that maybe, sometimes, that people don’t want to attend these kinds of trainings and events. And I would ask, why? And I specifically want to ask Charlie why, because before we started recording, Charlie was sharing some of her frustrations offline with small group leader trainings. And I would love to put you on the spot.

– Well, transitioning from a full-time youth pastor to a full-time volunteer, I now get to attend these world world-changing small group leader trainings and

– As a small group leader yourself.

– Yeah as a small group leader

– So you’re on the other side.

– I volunteer in my church, a leader in my church, and it’s the biggest waste of time I’ve ever experienced. Guys I’m not joking!

– Okay, so I totally hear you.

– And I’m feeling really embarrassed that I said that.

– No No! No! People, you’re not the only volunteer that feels this way.

– Yeah, everybody watching this episode, plug, you can actually watch this episode on YouTube, if you want to. Everyone on this episode just raised their hand and said I agree with Charlie, I’ve been to a boring training event before.

– I think that what volunteers really want is a meaningful volunteer training, not a meaningless one. And I think that’s what we need to determine here in this conversation is, what is so meaningless about it, and then what is it that makes it meaningful? Cause I think that’s when they want to come.

– Well and I think it’s also youth pastors that don’t know how to train. They don’t know what small group leaders need to be trained on. And then, how do they present it in a way that is meaningful to the person who just gave up two hours on a Sunday afternoon when she could have been taking a nap.

– Alright, so Ashley, you said determining the difference between meaningless and meaningful, we’ve got to figure that out, because yeah, no one wants to attend something that’s meaningless. What makes a training event especially meaningless?

– I would say the first thing that comes to mind, is anything that is like logistical that could be emailed. Now, I understand volunteers aren’t reading the emails, so you need them to have the information, but I cannot take, like, we condition our volunteers not to read emails when we invite them to a meeting and we go over all logistics or all the details they need to know for camp. In my humble opinion.

– Can I “Amen” that? because that was number one on my list.

– Oh my gosh, yes.

– Really?

– It drives me up a wall. But, that requires a lot of preparation on the youth workers part, because they’re also, you know, preparing all these details, but then they have to prepare what’s the next level for the volunteers. So I think the other thing that came to mind was like, sometimes, I think we, as youth leaders, do put that time in, but we never actually make the connection for our volunteers of what this has to do with what we’re doing. So, for example, one time I went to a training, where we were given this thing of Play-Doh,

– Okay.

– Also, I’m not a fun person, so I don’t really like games. I’m like listen,

– I’ve got to play with these middle-schoolers all the time

– Oh my gosh

– You’re not a fun person?

– I’m not a fun person

– I don’t believe that.

– So I’m like I don’t want to play more games

– Nobody believes that.

– Just give me free coffee or something, but I don’t want to play games. But that’s just me. Maybe it’s just my personality. But, so they give us this thing of Play-Doh, and they’re like “We want you to mold the personality of an eighth grader.”

– Hmm.

– Oh my gosh, I would’ve went home.

– And I’m like, “First of all”

– Hold on, Hold on.

– I just want to go home when you say that.

– Pause. Tyreke, I need to know what you would mold out of Play-Doh to represent

– It was just boop. There it is. You just squish it.

– Just

– Like a pile of poop on the table?

– Okay and you’re talking to someone who loves phase stuff. Like I love talking about like what makes a personality of an eighth grader? Or what are some, you know, common things you see. But what happened was, in that training, there was no conversation then about what did that have to do, what were the common threads we saw, and what does that have to do with who we’re working with? So you could have this really great activity that becomes awful because you never connect it to what was the purpose of that. And so, I think a lot of times, our meaningless trainings happen because we’re not thinking about how to connect it to a bigger picture. And I have one more thing to say, I’m sorry I’m talking a lot

– Yeah, you’re good.

– No, I love it! but I have a lot of thoughts around this. Is, I think a lot of times, we schedule trainings because we know we’re supposed to, but we don’t actually have any purpose to them until it’s the night before or two days before

– Amen!

– Oh shoot, we have a meeting on Sunday, what should we talk about?

– Have you done that, Charlie?

– I have not done that, but I went to that training.

– Right? And I think you should never schedule a meeting unless you have something to train them on.

– Amen!

– So that’s why a strategy is so important.

– I’m just going to “Amen” the whole episode here.

– Oh, and one more thing! Every training should lead to something. Like it’s, they’re all connected somehow. And they’re leading you to the next step forward. It’s not just like random random random random. They all should somehow lead to each other.

– Right.

– Yeah, and I think that’s the tension of like, making these types of trainings, right? Cause like, there’s the people who don’t, who are like “Just give me the information so I can go home.” Then there’s other people who like, that Play-Doh? Like, bless their souls, they love that type of stuff.

– [Ashley] It’s true.

– And so it’s trying to find, like they left thinkin’ like “Yo, I just molded a piece of clay, “and this is like molding the souls of my students. “I’m so ready for this semester.” Like, it’s that balance of like, how could you be, cause I believe it’s a sin to be boring. Like I really believe that. And I think it’s that way, it’s that middle ground of like how could we be engaging, entertaining and informative that is meaningful and it goes somewhere?

– But I think if you say that,

– Exactly

– That’s what connects it.

– Yeah.

– Some of you are thinking this. Some of you might be thinking this. And like acknowledging it

– Right.

– I think that’s where we drop the ball sometimes.

– Oh absolutely.

– I would agree with that too. And we talked about that training that was done in a middle school when we opened this episode, and I can’t remember, honestly, if this was said explicitly or not, but part of that training was we played dodge ball. And I don’t remember if anyone said “Hey, we’re playing dodge ball “because it’s going to help you identify “with the middle school phase.” I don’t know if anyone said that or not, but even though I am, I tend to be that kind of person who’s like I just want the information and then I want to go home, I pushed myself to, nope, I’m going to be here, I’m in this middle school, I’m going to play dodge ball, because I I need to take steps to continue to identify with this phase. So there’s that side of things too. That even though, sometimes, we have those kinds of small group leaders, you know, personality types who are let me get the information and go, or the other side, I just want to hang out and talk during this thing, I don’t want all these, you know, actual training stuff, like sometimes you need the other piece of that too to be a well rounded, I guess, maybe, small group leader.

– Yeah, but I definitely think you should start with Why are we doing this?

– Right, yeah.

– That should be like the first question. What’s funny is we have a training on Monday, for our small group leaders. And we were going through all these things like we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this, and I was like hold on, wait a minute. Like why are we meeting this? And let’s ask the question like, what makes a bad training and what makes a good training? So we can hash out what we shouldn’t do and what we should do.

– Wow, that’s good.

– Here’s what I think though. Honestly, after attending a couple of bad trainings, I’m wondering if youth pastors who don’t have 15 years of experience know how to lead a good training. Who’s equipping them and teaching them how to do this? I mean, I don’t have the answer. But, I know when I first started out I had boring, like I said, we met in a sanctuary. What if I could have went to a middle school or something? I mean I didn’t even know that was possible.

– Well when I started out, I didn’t know that there were resources out there that would help me do a good training.

– Yeah.

– Like who would equip me and have already thought through a lot of that stuff.

– Yep.

– So I agree with that.

– I think it’s putting the right resources in people’s hands, but you’re right. If you’re new to being a youth pastor, if you’re new to small groups in general, right, if your church is just shifting to a small group ministry, how do you even know how a small group leader is supposed to lead or supposed to look like? I mean there’s a lot of pieces to that.

– Yeah.

– And I think everyone out there that does these needs to understand that like you only get so many shots before you start losing volunteers.

– Yes.

– Ooh that’s good.

– With every bad training, it’s harder to get more people to come to the next one. So it’s super important that you do this, because if you don’t train people,

– I haven’t been back.

– they’re not going to to be on the same page. You’re going to lose volunteers. The experience that the students are going to have isn’t going to be as good. So it’s super important to get this right.

– [CJ] That’s good.

– And you need to be thinking about that.

– That’s good. I also wonder if sometimes we put so much effort into our weekly programing for students that these kinds of things, I guess someone hinted at that earlier, you’re thinking about it the night before, that we drop the ball on this because we think that our volunteers and small group leaders, quote unquote “have to” attend this, so as long as we get them in the room, we’re fine. But, the more we can keep our events and training events engaging, I think the better chance we have of honestly, retaining volunteers too.

– [Charlie] Mmhmm, yep.

– Yeah and the energy then goes to retaining volunteers rather than recruiting. Because everybody knows recruiting volunteers is no small task.

– Yep, yeah.

– And when you kind of can shift your energy to how do I retain them so I don’t have to use as much energy recruiting, I feel like that’s when you see a huge culture shift for the positive. For sure.

– That’s good.

– Can I just ask a question?

– Uh, I’m sorry.

– I mean I know I’m not hosting

– Okay go ahead.

– I just really want to ask a question though. Because I’ve attended the bad trainings. You got your one shot, you got your two shot with me. I’m not coming back, to be honest. Can we just not record this and post it on social media somewhere? So I don’t have to miss my nap.

– That’s a great question.

– Does that sound so whiny? I want to rewind. I sounded so whiny but like, really though, I don’t want to give up my Sunday afternoon.

– No, I think that’s a totally fair, totally fair question. That are there different kinds of training. Somewhere, they maybe are in the same room and somewhere they are virtual.

– I’m in.

– Yeah. We broke out, when I was in transit, that was something we had to realize, was like, you know, some things just needs to be an email we send out, some things need to be a video, like “oh, don’t forget to blah blah blah.” Like, I think it was like a Be Rich or something like, we did a Be Rich like logistics video and we just sent it out to everybody. But then there’s other, then there’s others where I think we need to be in the building. When it’s, the content is serious or whatever. But I also think there, it matters if volunteers have a shared experience beyond just serving with students.

– Which is why we all talked about that one training being so great. It was a shared experience.

– Right. Because I think if we just all siloed and it’s like I’m leading, you’re leading, you’re leading and then I think it could feel isolated, it could feel lonely. Now, if you’re the type of person where you just killin’it, cool. But if you’re struggling, it’s like who do I talk to? Where do I go? And I think when you can create shared experiences it helps, it raises everybody’s experience as a leader.

– Yeah.

– That’s good. That’s good. So, virtual trainings are on the table.

– Absolutely.

– Facebook Live

– Yeah, that doesn’t mean it has to be some crazy production either.

– No.

– You can use your cellphone, right?

– Yeah, totally. Totally. So, I want to go ahead and turn the corner. What all goes into a great training event for volunteers and small group leaders? And I want to start with you, Tyreke. How did you guys rent out a middle school to host a training event?

– So first, we have to give credit where credit’s due. Buckhead Church Transit was doing stuff like this first and we heard about it. We were like oh we want to do our own version of it. So, shout out to Terrance and all them down there at Buckhead Church Transit doing an amazing job.

– Nice.

– But for us it was, once we, I think, like you said, like who does, like who goes to an on-site meeting at like a middle school? But for us, because we had built a relationship with that principal, we were able to call her and say “Hey, we have people that are going to be “serving your students. “We want to put them in middle schoolers shoes. “Can we rent out, or can we use your, “use the school over the summer when no one’s there, “for a couple of hours for a training?” And the principal was like “Yeah! Like we have a great relationship. “We know ya’ll, we love ya’ll and what ya’ll do, “and our students benefit from what ya’ll do. Absolutely.”

– And I would say, part of the way you built that relationship, is you do service projects with that school, correct?

– Service Projects, yep. Over a period of years.

– All of that, yep.

– Was there anything else that helped you build that relationship?

– I think that was the biggest thing. I think being consistent, like the service pro, and she saw that like, we cared for those students and for those families. And so with the service projects, whether it was buying Christmas gifts or whether it was stuff like that, I think the principal just saw that oh, they’re not here just to preach preach preach and tell everybody they’re sinners, whatever, no, they really love these students, they want to see these students grow and mature. So yeah, so we had a relationship with the principal and we had a relationship with, basically like the person that like, was like the top counselor, like ran, like did a lot, like I guess it was like their community connect in a sense, right? And so we would do back-to-school stuff, we would do Christmas stuff with them, and I think just having that relationship that we invited them to come to church and they came, and they got to see what we do, I think that just lead to a, when it was time for an ask, it wasn’t this, it wasn’t like a oh let me think about it, it was a oh yeah, absolutely. Like no one’s going to be here, like, ya’ll got it. So.

– I love that, just because it wasn’t just an email someone on your team shot into the abyss into some middle schools, you know, inbox, like “Hey how much does it cost “to rent out your middle school?” It’s like it all started with a relationship that was honestly, I assume, years in the making.

– Yeah, mmhmm.

– I was going to say, there’s probably people listening right now, who are thinking you invited them, the school, a public school to church and they came, it sounds like a very in-the-south thing that would happen.

– [Tyreke] Yeah.

– So, there’s definitely differences in our country, for sure. And you can totally do this in a non-school environment too. Like if you don’t have that relationship or that’s just not a thing in your area of the country, like, it doesn’t have to happen at a school, it just was so cool that it did.

– Yeah

– Yeah.

– Because that’s where kids are.

– Yeah. And I think part of it was there were like no students there.

– Yeah.

– So it wasn’t like we’re going into classrooms and things of that nature with students in it. But I do think the relationship, it was definitely a benefit for us.

– Yeah, you, we had a school assembly when we first got there.

– We did.

– So that’s kind of where all the students gathered. And we kind of got the agenda for the day, or whatever.

– Yep.

– And then we had different, we went to different classrooms for different training events. About partnering with parents, some about, you know, leading conversations, or what not.

– How long was this thing? All day?

– It was like an all day thing. It was the like hey, you’re the first time boot camp, you’re becoming a small group leader kind of event.

– I like the word boot camp versus meeting.

– Yeah.

– Oh yeah.

– Or meeting, right? Or training.

– And then we, we had lunch in the cafeteria.

– We did, yep.

– We didn’t have to eat the cafeteria food, they brought in some other stuff.

– But I think some of the things that I really thought were valuable were actually the transition pieces between all of what you said. So, imagine, as an adult, getting on a school bus again, and you’re putting yourself, like you’re walking down the aisle of the school bus and you have to figure out who you’re going to sit by.

– [Charlie] Yeah!

– And then, you are in the school assembly and then the bell rings. And you have to change classes, and figure out where you’re going, and you don’t know who’s in your class.

– [Tyreke] Absolutely.

– And then you go to lunch, and you literally pick up the lunch tray, like the actual lunch trays that they have in schools, and you go through the line and you get your food, and then you have to figure out where you’re going to sit in the lunch room.

– Totally.

– Like you are, I have chills talking about it, because I am like what a beautiful experience to remember like first of all, like probably all the wounds from middle school and all of these scenarios, but oh my gosh, like we get to talk to kids who are living this. I can’t believe we get this opportunity.

– Well as adults, we forget what it’s like to have someone else make all the decisions for you, to tell you what to do, where to go next, and so it’s such a good refresher for us to realize where are students are living.

– Be forced to participate in PE class.

– Forced.

– When you don’t want to. And then we had like a pep rally at the end and everybody’s like cheering and

– Mmhmm

– Yeah. Yeah it was…

– But a day long training, can I just be honest, feels like hell.

– Come on, come on, yeah.

– I mean, I just haven’t been to one as good as that ya’ll are talking about. Nor have I ever served in a church that probably had the resources to put on something like this. Right? We could have done without the school bus, could then afford it, right, because the school would let you come for free, probably.

– Right, just drive up there.

– Yeah and just drive up there, so, yeah.

– I understand that, cause it’s like, well, if you have 3 new small group leaders, this feels like a little bit crazy of an event for 3 new leaders,

– It feels like a lot, yeah.

– But you could also do an all, all age groups. It doesn’t just have to be your sixth grade leaders. Or you could partner with other churches in the area.

– That’s what I was thinking.

– Who are doing the training, and all of you do the classes.

– A partnership would be great, as, you know, as long as you and the other youth pastors, before the day of, got together and came up with what a training would look like.

– In my previous church, prior to Transit at North Point, we didn’t have a recruiting season, where there was just one time of year that we recruited small group leaders. We had to recruit all the time, whether it was because of growth or lack of commitment in certain situations, and also with a goal of having two or three small group leaders in every group, you constantly, as the groups grow, and you split groups, you have to add more. And so we would add them throughout the year, and I’m sure there are other churches in that situation where whenever a small group leader was willing to jump in , it’s like okay let’s on-board you now.

– Yeah.

– And so, I think for us, in that scenario, it would have worked better to do a training where sixth, seventh and eighth grade leaders were all together. Because people were jumping in all the time.

– And just to be clear, like, we only did the school thing, like it was the second time we had done it. We were still trying to figure out what a good training looks like before then. Cause even before then, it was, I think it was like a, they came before every, the training happened like, if you were a nine o’çlock leader, you came to church at like eight, and we had the training and then like you could like watch transit and then go home or whatever. But it was like four weeks of that. Versus just like one thing.

– Wow.

– Yeah, and I think the, the point here is that what I love and why I kept going back to it, that training event, is because it was so outside the box. Like, you don’t have to, you know, use an entire school and bring a bunch of leaders, it could be three people, three leaders and it could be just a walk-through of a school or it could be, you could do something at, on a sports field, or whatever, I don’t know.

– Or take everyone to the movie “Eighth Grade” and then talk about it afterwards.

– Totally. It’s just like hey, what does it look like to get outside of the sanctuary or get outside of the normal things that come to mind when we think oh, volunteer training. It’s the second room on the right, the conference room, grab your seat. You know what I mean?

– [Tyreke] Yes!

– Just kind of getting outside of the box. That, in my opinion, that is the first step of creating a great training event for small group leaders and volunteers. And I do want to circle back to that, so, that is obviously just one element of a great training event. What else goes into a great training event for small group leaders and volunteers?

– Well let me say this too, you can have the bus and the school, and if that content is whack it’s still four periods of boring lectures or whatever.

– Mmm. That’s good.

– So I think even with what you communicate, thinking about, how does that, I think the best thing that I’ve heard is like a ny mission has to fight against something. Right? So I think any time we’re training or whatever, putting that in front of the people that you’re leading, right? So, like, with college students that I work with now, we know one of the biggest things they fight against is loneliness, right? So at the beginning of our meeting, it’s like hey, you guys are so important, and if you ever think that you’re not, remember that every time you show up to small group, and a student shows up, you’re fighting loneliness. You’re helping to create a safe place for someone who doesn’t feel connected to other human beings. This is so deeply important. Cause then it becomes oh, I’m on a mission! Like I actually am fighting against something and I’m not just the door down the road then I got to go here and sit and listen to some boring stuff. Like I think we have to keep the thing that we’re fighting against in front of people because then it makes it worth it.

– That’s great. That’s really good. Ashley, I see you’ve got your notes pulled up on your phone. What’re you thinking?

– Well, every time that I would plan a volunteer training, there were four specific elements that I included in every training.

– Okay.

– The first one was a vision piece like Tyreke was just saying. Like what is that vision piece, and it can be a sentence, it can be longer than that, it can be an activity, whatever. So there’s a vision piece, a community piece, how do we connect the volunteers to each other, cause if they, you know, finish serving in our ministry and they leave and don’t have a relationship with another adult, then they’ve missed out on one of the best parts about serving. So vision piece, community piece, a fun piece. I know I said I’m not a fun person, but the fun piece could be even laughing together, like at something that happens or–

– Or ending the training early.

– Or Yeah

– Hey!

– Or ending the training early. Or playing a game I guess.

– Just joking.

– Or you know,

– Play-Doh.

– like something fun.

– Play-Doh. Eighth grade personality. And then some meaningful training of some kind. Depending on what it is. So vision, community, fun and meaningful. And that was kind of how we organized our trainings and then, for the meaningful piece, there were four different kinds of things that I meant by meaningful.

– Okay.

– And so, the four different things that I would do were like —

– So the fourth thing in your list of four things has four things?

– Yeah.

– Kay, got it we’re all tracking.

– Well the meaningful training piece would change. So that means it would either be like an age group specific training, like a phase training about that age group, it would be a volunteer job training, so like, what’s your job as a small group leader. And that would be like covering partnering with parents, and how do you navigate a conversation with teenagers. It would be hard topics training so, how do we talk about consent with middle school students, or how do we talk about sex with middle school students. And then it would be personal development. So, for example, I remember, you know, we did one, this was when strengths finder was a little bit of a bigger deal cause enneagram’s kind of taken over now, but it would be like doing a enneagram coach comes in and literally, personally developes your small group leaders because the more that they understand themselves and their wiring, the better they are going to be at understanding their teenagers. So those were kind of the ways we would organize our trainings.

– And did you do, so those are four different types of trainings. Would you try to do all four in a year? Or did you have a plan in mind for those kinds of things?

– Yeah, I think it’s always developing. For sure, it’s always changing, but yes. Always try to hit those four in the year. And you can kind of figure that out if you have a scope and cycle laid out. If you know when you’re going to be talking about sex with middle school students, I mean I’m using that, cause that’s who I work with, you would plan a training prior to that to prep all of your small group leaders. Hey, here are some questions they’re probably going to ask, and let’s talk about how we can answer them. Because how you want them to answer them might depend on the age that their small group is, or it could depend on, you know, the small group leader’s experience, or who’s in that group or whatever.

– So how many times a year are you training your leaders? Because, I guess for me, I only trained in August, before we kicked off. And then again in January for second semester. How many times a year were you training your folks?

– So, every week.

– Oh!

– So I —

– What?!

– Yeah. So we only did a few large trainings a few times a year. But every single week, we created a culture where the volunteers would come 30 minutes early, before the kids started arriving. And we would do

– Oh yeah, I understand that.

– All four of those pieces. A vision for what this service was going to be about. We would have a community piece where they could connect. We would do something fun. And then we would put in like phase, volunteer, a hard topic or personal development. And it might be five minutes, and that’s all it was.

– So you’re hitting all four every Sunday?

– Of those elements?

– Right.

– The vision piece could be hey,

– This is the confusing part, Tyreke. Cause there’s four things, but then four different kinds of trainings. There’s a lot going on in this matrix thing here.

– Sorry.

– Am I making it more confusing?

– No you’re good.

– I’m just trying to —

– Every training had the vision, community, fun and then an actual meaningful training piece element to it.

– Yes.

– Now that’s what you did every single Sunday. But then, basically each one of those trainings fell into a category. Either age group specific, volunteer job training, hard topic or personal development.

– Thank you for organizing my thoughts.

– Hey, enneagram one, right here for you.

– But, it took a long time to develop that culture. Because initially it would be like, can you guys show up 30 minutes early? And nobody would come. Or one person would show up and then I’d be like, I totally did this wrong. One person would show up and I’d be like well we’ll wait five more minutes. And then nobody else would show up, right? And then you’re like well, we’ll wait five more minutes. And then the person who showed up on time gets mad. So I started to create this like, you don’t actually have to show up, we’ll wait till you show up to start. And so we just made a decision, our team, we’re going to start at this exact time and we’re going to close the door when we do. You can come in, but we’ve already started. And so we tried to make it as meaningful as possible and there was a, we called it a moment of impact. Where they would get to share some way that they saw God working. Whether it was the kid who never speaks during small group finally answered one question, and everybody’d be like “Yay! That’s awesome!” And we’d encourage them to write it down, like if you’re not looking for the moments of impact, you’re going to miss them. And so that would be our vision piece. And they would get to share with each other and what started happening was all the volunteers not only came 30 minutes before, they would come earlier than 30 minutes so they could connect before the actual meeting started.

– And they hung out together.

– They hung out together.

– That’s nice.

– That’s really good.

– Yeah.

– That’s great.

– I think it’s hard for me to imagine that because, the meeting every Sunday, it’s hard for me to imagine the meetings every Sunday because in my current church, it’s so small, everybody in the church is doing all the things. From serving the communion to doing the offering, to taking out the trash. Like we take turns taking out the trash in our church. We have no paid staff. So it’s hard for me to think, as a youth pastor, am I going to add that to their plate? Right? And if it’s not already bringing value, because they’ve already taken out the trash, they swept the floor, you know, they’ve refreshed the bathrooms, and then I’m asking them to come 30 more minutes.

– There’s a difference between asking them to come do something versus inviting them to part of something.

– Mm Yeah.

– And so I think it really is a culture thing.

– Cause if they feel like oh, I have to do this, versus oh, I don’t want to miss it, there’s such a difference of posture.

– [Charlie] That’s so good, yeah.

– So, if you could go back Ashley, you would recommend, or you would continue with those weekly, bite-sized, if you will, training styles?

– It worked for our environment. I don’t know if that would work for every environment. But we loved it. And we retained volunteers. We had, and, this is awful to say, more volunteers than we needed. because people wanted to be part of that.

– How long did it take you to get to that point?

– It probably took two years.

– Okay.

– Yeah. To really build that. And then it was, it wasn’t even me running it, it was all the volunteers felt like they had like ownership and, I don’t know, it was so amazing, but we also had like this private Facebook group, and that’s how we would communicate all the time outside of it. And we would do fun things, like somebody would be like “Hey, I’m going to see this movie, who wants to come?”

– Oh wow, you all were like major connected.

– And so we would hang out outside

– Yeah that’s really connected.

– There’s like 56 volunteers and everybody’s contributing all the time to that Facebook group. They would come to that meeting and of course there are people who either were new and didn’t understand that, or didn’t really want to be part of it. They didn’t end up lasting, to be honest. Because if they didn’t, it was like this was what the culture, the culture that was built and it started with a ton of conversations of a core group of people. Like what do we want this to be like? And how do we create that? It was not just me and it wasn’t just our staff.

– I want to go back to something you just said a minute ago, Ashley. You said I wasn’t even running it. And I think that’s a key phrase there, too. Because I think a lot of this sounds like a whole other 30 minute, you know, before thing, now you’re having to think about programming for that 30 minutes too. Like I can see, I can picture youth leaders just feeling ugh another thing. But this really is a piece that you could delegate to someone else on your team or a small group leader who’s crushing it or who needs it or maybe a small group leader who needs or wants to take a break from leading small groups of students but is ready to pour into small group leaders, that kind of a thing.

– Yeah!

– If you’re interested, and you’re listening or watching, we did an episode, two episodes ago, about small group leader coaches. And I think this is a great piece that I think coaches could even pour into and help arrange and organize for small group leaders and volunteers. Do you disagree Ashley?

– No, not at all! I was actually thinking, like, you know how it’s kind of this joke, whether it should be or shouldn’t be, that like the Sunday after Christmas is like youth pastor preaching Sunday?

– Right.

– Because the youth pastor, or the senior pastor is usually off, because they just preached all the Christmas. Well it’s like this huge joke, right, but for those of you who have ever been given the opportunity to preach in your big service, your main service, is there a difference between if the lead pastor’s there versus if they’re not? Like if they’re not there and you’re filling in for them, versus they’re there, and they’re going to be there and they’re literally just giving you the platform and they’re there to cheer you on. The same things is true with volunteer culture. Like, how much more the volunteers felt valued when I didn’t just ask them to sub for me, but I asked them to lead it and I was there too.

– Yeah

– And they were leading me.

– That’s good.

– That’s real good. Cause I’ve been the pitch hitter. In the youth pastor preaching service.

– Doesn’t feel good, right?

– No because —

– You said, you said “pinch hitter”?

– Yeah. Well wait.

– Okay just clarifying.

– Is that what I said?

– Yeah you’re good.

– I don’t know sports analogies very well. I don’t do sports

– No you’re good. I am just making sure that word and phrase everybody heard was pinch hitter.

– Yeah, but I’ve been that person who had to preach the Sunday after Christmas. And people don’t even come because they’re like Pastor Scott’s not here or Pastor John’s not here,

– Andy Stanley’s not here

– We ain’t comin’. We’re not going to be there. So I love that you sat in the front row, cheered your people on, and was such an encourager. I think that means a lot to youth pastors who have to do all the things all the time. What if their job was just to cheer other people on?

– Well, and I think that when your volunteers get used to it being a shared effort, then it doesn’t matter who’s not going to be there, cause they know that they all need to be there for each other.

– And I think one thing that you keep hitting on is that, like, you’re for your volunteers. Shout out to Jeff Henderson, his book, “For”, you should check it out.

– We’re reading that now. But that’s the thing, he was like how do you add value to the people that you serve and the people that, your customers? And I think that’s the thing. Like if every meeting I feel like you’re trying to add value to me, like I want to be there, you know what I mean? And I think that’s the biggest thing that people at the start was like why are we doing this, and how can we add value to volunteers?

– That’s good.

– So, I don’t want to be redundant or anything, but I do want to ask one more time, because Ashley just kind of shared the whole four and four piece, I want to make sure that there’s nothing else that, Charlie or Tyreke, that you have to share about what else goes on to a great training event for leaders and volunteers.

– I think the youth pastor has to know what the vision for their ministry is. If they don’t even know, how then can they lead other people to understand what their vision is and what they’re supposed to be doing? So I think a lot of homework is on the youth pastor to make sure they’re solid in what the need is for their ministry and where they’re wanting to go.

– Yeah. I think that’s the biggest thing. Just making sure that you talk about things that are actually relevant to them. Especially if it’s the hard things. Because they’re having those conversations, like one of the things that we talked about with the safe space was we’re a predominantly white ministry, but we have students of other races that come to our ministry, right? And so to create a safe place you need to, you need to see all of your students. So you need to, don’t come in here like “oh, I’m just going to treat everyone the same.” No. Like, that shapes everyone’s experience and it gives you a, you can love them in a specific way when you see those things. And I think that’s could be something where they be like oh we don’t want to talk about race, cause it’s challenging or whatever, whatever, I don’t want to say the wrong thing. But your leaders are experiencing this. They may, or they drop the ball, a kid is hurt and they don’t even realize that they’ve done it. And so I think that stuff like that is the stuff they’re like oh thank you! Oh, I didn’t know how to say it, but that helped me out. You know what I mean?

– [CJ] Yeah.

– That’s good.

– That’s good.

– So, I want to circle back to something Charlie, you brought up a few minutes ago, that we, I think is worth diving into just a little bit more. That I think sometimes when we think about great training events, we also think expensive training events. So what are some lower cost ways we can really create engaging training events for our leaders? I know Ashley already brought up, I mean it doesn’t cost anything to meet 30 minutes earlier before your program starts, all the way up to, you know, renting out a facility or something like that. There are a lot of things in between here. Do you three have any ideas for a church who’s trying to figure out, hey, what can I do to create something engaging here?

– I’m thinking if your volunteers are serving and not getting to attend a service, what about providing a space for them to worship, and having a time of, like communion among them, if they’re not getting a chance to do that with the body of the church because they are serving.

– That’s good.

– That’s good. Yeah that’s really good. I mean yeah, I would reiterate that, my wife and I have a one year old and so it’s been, it’s really really difficult for us to actually attend a service because when we’re at church we’re serving. And then we can’t leave him in the nursery for two, for two services back to back or something like that. That’s like four hours, all that kind of stuff. So I totally resonate with that and I will “Amen” that to you, Charlie.

– It doesn’t cost anything to provide worship, right? Asking your worship band to come in, do a couple songs.

– That’s good.

– Yeah.

– Alright, anybody else, lower cost ways we can really pour into and train our volunteers?

– Well, I mean, “Rethinking Youth Ministry”, we do episodes that are really really helpful for small group leaders, for parents. Some of them are specific to ministry leaders and others are, you know, helpful for all the different groups. And we’ve heard so many youth workers who take one of the podcasts, for example, like the one on self-harm, and send it to all their volunteers, have all their volunteers listen to it. And then they have a conversation about it. Whether the conversation’s in person or the conversation is on a Facebook group or a text thread, whatever it is, that’s a great free way to invest in your volunteers, to set them up too and especially after a school shooting or, you know, a tragedy happens. Like, to really equip your small group leaders with the free resource where they can get their mind and heart in a place that’s a healthy place to lead students from, I think that’s awesome.

– I would love to mention again the trainings that you can do online. Value your volunteer’s time. If they have kids, sports, just driving across town some days is a chore. So, maybe it’s not getting them all in the room together, but maybe this training is going to be online. And you provide them, I think that is a really great way to serve your team. Is, is it bad because maybe I don’t want to show up anymore? Is that why I’m saying this? No, but, yeah.

– There you go, you can do a Zoom meeting or whatever. I know when I was at a church before I was at North Point, that’s what we would do. Like I’d be like, “Alright ya’ll, we’re going to meet at this time.” And I think one of the biggest things you can do is end and start on time. Like I think that’s free, you know?

– [CJ] I’ll “Amen” that too.

– And it shows them that you do value their time. Like listen, if I said we’re going to be here for 45 minutes, when it’s 45 minutes, we’re done, see ya’ll later. So I think that’s just something that’s free that can honor somebody’s time.

– Yeah. And I’ll throw in there, you know, we talked about creating trainings on some hard topics. Well there are a lot of hard topics that maybe, as a ministry leader, you don’t feel equipped to talk about. And that is where you can make some asks or ask around the church if anyone knows a counselor or that kind of a thing to talk about you know, self-harm or talk about suicide or talk about these things and it could be as small as “Hey, could you record a five minute video “on what you would want people who work with eighth grade “students to know about the suicide rate?” And that kind of a thing, or it could be inviting them to come share with your small group leaders. Like there’s a scale there too where you can make some asks and make some smaller asks and some larger asks to create some engaging training pieces.

– That’s really good.

– That’s good.

– And off of that, I would also say one thing, the same way that you would practice a talk in front of somebody, we used to rehearse meetings in trainings. And we would perform, er perform, or practice our parts in front of people, and they would give us feedback. That’s boring, take that out, that doesn’t make sense. That way, when you’re standing in front of the people, it’s not your first time going through the material.

– [CJ] That’s really good.

– [Ashley] That is so good

– Yeah.

– Preparation is free, people.

– And if you’re not leveraging Facebook groups, youth pastor Facebook groups, ya need to be. Like, in the search box, if you want to do a training about this topic, see if somebody’s posted a free training about it. Or a certain video they used or something they’ve done. Or ask the question and get the thread going. You have like so many youth pastors and youth workers at the tips of your fingers. Like, lean into their expertise or their experience.

– Yeah, I know in our Orange Students Facebook group, people are sharing, you know, resources and stuff they’ve created all the time, so that is a shameless plug, but a great resource, truly. Charlie, I’ve got to circle back to you.

– Okay. Alright.

– How are you feeling about small group leader and volunteer trainings now? I know at the beginning of this episode you were foot on the break, because you’d experienced them and experienced some maybe not so great ones.

– Well, I think as a youth pastor, I thought I was doin’ a killer job. And now I’m sitting here listening to all of these ideas. The starting and ending on time. Practicing? Hello, I don’t know that I ever practiced my content in front of somebody. I probably should have, now that I’m sittin’ here. And I love that —

– Tyreke’s like “Yeah, you really should have. You really should have.”

– But I’m also loving all the things that Ashley said, like there’s four key things and this is, they were consistent in that content of the trainings. Could have made a difference too, right? I just wish I had more resources and knew that there were resources to help me be better at the trainings.

– Charlie, I just have to start off by saying, you’re literally one of the best youth pastors I have ever known in my entire life. And I also want to say to you, that you’re saying “You had these four things that you’re” I’m sitting here thinking there are a million things I would do different too.

– Right.

– I just didn’t know, which is why we have these conversations. What are we learning? What did we learn? What do we wish we would have known? Like, what do we still struggle with? Because I think every single person listening is in that boat.

– But I think being a youth pastor’s different than just knowing how to lead a team well too.

– Yeah that’s true.

– Right, when I first started, I only had five kids, so I was doing all the things. And so, I wish I would have equipped myself better to lead a team once I developed a team. And then, I think now, on the flip-side of it, as the volunteer, I think I would be more inclined to attend a training if it was more specific on what the focus is. Please do not make me come and sit and tell me what time youth ministry starts. I know. I come every week. I know what time dinner is. Right? This is logistics again. But teach me something. Teach me how to react to a ninth grader when they say they’re cutting. Teach me how to talk to parents and connect better with parents, right? Parents who aren’t like me. Students who aren’t like me, that don’t look like me and act like me. Teach me those things, because that’s the training I want to come to.

– And I think if it’s part of the initial ask, it’s a different story. So for example, like, when you’re talking to a potential leader for your ministry, you may tell them hey, we want you to come to the retreats or the camps or on the mission trip or whatever. Here are the dates of when they happen throughout the year. But we also have a 30 minute before every ministry training. Or we have a quarterly half-day training. Or whatever it is for your ministry. This is when they happen, and then this is what we cover. If I were to give you a whole like, basically, scope and cycle for the expectations and how we’re going to pour it into you and equip you for the year, and you see that it all makes sense and leads to each other, you’re like oh, it seems like this is, like, purposeful. I think I probably should value it too.

– Yep.

– Yeah. That’s good, that’s really good. Well, as we wrap up, I want to hear if you three have any final thoughts or maybe resources to continue equipping ministry leaders who want to put on great events for their volunteers.

– I want to talk about a resource called Weekly. In my 15 years of student ministry, I didn’t know this resource existed.

– Same, girl. Same.

– Weekly is the best resource I’ve ever found as a ministry coach to point other people to. There’s so many ways that you can lead your leaders, equip your leaders. And then ideas on how to have fun with your leaders. And so, I think Weekly is an incredible resource.

– That’s good.

– That’s good.

– Tyreke, do you have anything you’d —

– I think my final thoughts is like, if you’re not excited about it, they’re not going to be excited about it, so take the time to like, know your material. Take the time to ask why does this matter? And take the time to say okay, how can I communicate this in an engaging way? And I think that people will value that. And end and start on time, that’s the biggest thing. End and start on time.

– Well, since I work on the Orange Students Curriculum Team, I’m going to resort to that, because if you are a subscriber of The Curriculum, in all of the resources, there’s a section on a lot of the guides, on the “Small Group Leader Guide”, the “Worship Leader Guide”, the “Communicator Guide”, the “Parent Cues”. It’s called “Think About This”. And it’s a phase cue for all of those people of hey, before you go into this conversation with teenagers today, here’s what you need to know about developmentally what’s going on with them. And so, when we would have our 30 minutes before meeting, we would look at that phase cue. We would have one person in the room read it out loud, and have a small conversation about it before sending them out to be with the teenagers.

– [Charlie] Smart.

– And so it was already part of the curriculum, it’s already there, it’s just a matter of highlighting it and using it, like showing everybody how valuable this piece of information is.

– Yeah, that’s good. And while that’s in The Curriculum, I’ll make a plug for, we create some free stuff as well. We’ve got free phase videos. I know middle school has some and I think high school is working on them too. But they’re out there and we’ll link to them in our show notes at But they’re little phase videos about what’s going on in the world of a sixth grade student, a seventh grade student, an eighth grade student. And those are really great, easy, turn-key training pieces, truly, that you can access and share with your volunteers. We also have here, at Orange, a resource called the MVP Box, which you can check out through the Orange Store, but MVP stands for Messaging for Volunteers and Parents. And in that box, there are done-for-you training events and materials for, obviously parents, but a lot of stuff in there for volunteers as well. Because small group leaders and parents are the MVPs of your ministry.

– I attended an MVP training.

– Did you?

– And it was, as a volunteer, the best put together training I’ve been to.

– Oh wow.

– Yeah. As a volunteer, that was the best one. So, that’s not a shameless plug, that’s a legit happening.

– Well, Charlie, thank you for the endorsement, as not just an Orange staffer, but someone who actually attended one of these as a Civilian?

– Volunteer.

– Civilian!

– A civilian!

– Yeah. That works. Yeah, that’s fine. We’ll just end like that. And we will wrap things up on that note. I want to say, if you want links to any of this stuff we were talking about, including Jeff Henderson’s book that Tyreke mentioned earlier, we’ll have a link to that at That’s where our show notes live, our resource links and other episodes that you can listen to and watch. On that note, I want to thank you three for joining us. And thank you for watching and listening to this week’s episode of “Rethinking Youth Ministry”. We’ll talk to you later.

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