Most ministries and churches depend on volunteers to teach their Bible classes for kids and teens. Sometimes, the volunteers are professional master teachers. Many times though, your volunteers are people who love God and young people. They want to help kids and teens learn about God. They have the best of intentions, but may not have the skills to be as effective as they could be.
Not everyone has the God-given talent to teach, but most volunteers can become effective teachers. With a little extra help, you may even find you have some undiscovered master teachers in your volunteer pool. Unfortunately, most volunteers never reach their true godly potential as teachers. Our young people aren’t getting the best Bible classes in part because we haven’t better prepared our volunteers to be as effective as possible when they teach.
There are a lot of things you can do to help move inexperienced volunteers towards the master Bible teacher level. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Set ministry expectations. Too often we have accepted the minimum from our ministries and our volunteers because it is the easiest path. Unfortunately, the vast majority of our kids and teens are getting little Bible outside of what they get in our classes. While that is a separate issue that needs addressing, you need to raise expectations for your ministries and your volunteers to the highest level. Everyone should be passionate about raising up the next generation to love and serve God with all of their hearts, souls, minds and strengths. And everyone should be passionate about doing whatever it takes to get there – even when it means extra time and effort on their part.
- Provide pre-teaching guidance. Before a volunteer enters a classroom to teach, there needs to have been an orientation. It should cover safety, classroom management guidelines, an overview of curricula, guidance on interaction with students inside and outside of class (for example your ministry encourages teachers to make home visits or have class field trips), explaining how to find or get necessary resources and materials, and more. You may want to use our free classroom evaluation tool to help them understand what a highly effective classroom “looks like”.
- Provide mentors and/or training classes. If a volunteer has never volunteered to teach before or is teaching a new age group, it is often a good idea to have them “shadow” a more experienced volunteer for a period of time. Starting them off in an assistant role will often make them more comfortable. Encourage the experienced teacher to share with the new volunteer after class why certain things were done or not done during each class. Over time, the new volunteer can take on more responsibility within the class until an entire class is planned and taught by him or her. If you have a group of teens, you may want to consider having several classes allowing them to learn and practice some of the basics.
- Communicate with volunteers regularly encouraging skill growth and giving them the tools they need to grow. Share our daily volunteer challenges by having them like our Teach One Reach One Facebook group. Have them go to our blog to read old posts and sign up to have our weekly tip blog post delivered to their email. Suggest books for them to read or scriptures to study personally for spiritual health. We even have many of our free training tools online you can give them to help them refresh or learn new skills.
- Have regular teacher training events that are meaningful. Nothing irritates a volunteer more than being asked to give up more of their personal time for training, only to feel they have wasted their time because the training contained little of value to help them improve. Consider bringing in an outsider, if you believe that will get more people involved (We offer free and expense-only options.). Many ministries have found they get better participation if they hold classes during a time volunteers would already be present, while others have found a special Saturday or Sunday training works better.
- Observe classes and give helpful feedback. I know of very few ministries or churches who regularly observe volunteers teach. This should be done to improve the program, not attack or undermine volunteers. You can use our free classroom evaluation tool to help evaluators know what they should be seeing in a highly effective Bible classroom. Make sure feedback is given privately and is shared in a non-threatening and loving way. Remember, you are on the same team working to get these kids and teens to Heaven. Olympic athletes would never refuse or ignore helpful feedback and neither should you or your volunteers. The more effective we all are, the more young people we can potentially save.
Does all of this take extra time and effort on the part of leaders and volunteers? Absolutely! But the stakes are so incredibly high, we absolutely must stop accepting mediocre classes for kids and teens. We need to call leaders, volunteers, parents and our kids and teens to strive to reach our godly potential – not just settle for “whatever”.