Outreach ministries rely on an army of passionate volunteers to accomplish their mission. However, enthusiasm alone is insufficient. Equipping these volunteers requires strategic training and discipleship to unlock their potential for Christ.
With hectic schedules and constant demands competing for attention, intentional training often gets neglected. But shaping skills and character should never be an afterthought. Just as Jesus invested deep focus into His disciples, outreach leaders must make developing church members a top priority.
Core Principles of Volunteer Training
Whether leading short seminars or facilitating multi-week courses, several best practices ensure a high-impact training experience:
Know the Learner – Understand church member backgrounds, motivations, challenges, and learning styles. Customize approaches to resonate.
Clear Objectives – Ground training in clear outcomes so volunteers know what they will gain.
Engaging Delivery – Combine lecture, discussion, activities, and practice. Cater to different learning preferences.
Modeled Behaviors – Demonstrate skills directly instead of only theoretical instruction.
Feedback Loops – Provide coaching and encouragement during and after training.
Progress Tracking – Evaluate growth through surveys, assessments, participant reflections, etc.
Ongoing Support – Training is not one-and-done. Reinforce learning over time through coaching groups, refreshers, and more.
The Heart of Discipleship
While skills training focuses on “doing”, discipleship centers on “being” – shaping character, identity, beliefs and habits to become more like Christ. Disciple-making involves:
Modeling – Live out values visibly through actions and responses.
Relationship – Invest in heart-level conversations. Listen deeply.
Teaching – Ground growth in scripture, truth, and wisdom.
Customization – Meet people where they are. Personalize support.
Encouragement – Champion progress. Speak identity and purpose over them.
Accountability – Provide loving structure to spur growth.
Empowerment – Entrust disciples with increasing responsibility. Release them to lead.
Discipleship flows naturally from walking life alongside others. Formal training builds skills, while discipleship transforms hearts. Outreach ministries need both.
Discipleship Making-Movements (DMM)
- Training and equipping disciples with basic tools: The guidebook provides disciples with basic tools like sharing their testimony, telling God’s story (the gospel), making a list of relationships, prayer cycling, prayer walking, baptism, celebrating the Lord’s Supper, and meeting in 3/3 groups. These tools equip disciples to share their faith, invite others, and gather new believers.
- Forming new groups and churches: The guidebook teaches disciples to form new 3/3 groups to disciple new believers. As the groups grow stronger in faith, they are encouraged to become simple churches that practice baptism, the Lord’s supper, giving, and other elements of body life.
- Multiplying groups: Disciples are trained using a model-assist-watch-leave cycle to equip others to start new groups. The goal is to multiply the number of groups and churches, not just add more people to existing groups.
- Developing leaders: Leadership cells and peer mentoring groups are used to develop leaders who can start new groups. Disciple-making movements require an ever-increasing number of leaders.
- Expanding networks: As groups multiply, they form larger city-wide networks of small churches. These networks can collaborate to reach their communities and the world. Generational maps help track growth.
- Focus and accountability: Tools like the 3-month plan and coaching checklist provide focus and accountability for disciples as they implement what they’ve learned. Accountability fuels consistent growth of the movement.
Application to Your Context
With core training and discipleship principles defined, assessing specific needs is next. Possible questions include:
- Where do our volunteers currently need growth? Knowledge, attitudes, or character?
- How are we currently training and discipling volunteers? What works well and what gaps exist?
- What resources or systems could be developed to enhance training and discipleship?
- How can we track progress in volunteer development? What metrics will indicate success?
- What obstacles hinder training and discipleship currently? How can we address them?
Deliberate training and discipleship take commitment, but unlock incredible potential in volunteers. As team members grow in competence and Christlike maturity, they gain capacity to make an even greater kingdom impact. The investment is well worth it.
Making Progress in the Journey
Training and discipling volunteers occurs along a never-ending continuum, not a one-time project. But the next step must start somewhere. Identify a gap to address and get started, one life at a time. In the process, you may find your own growth accelerated as well. As iron sharpens iron, together we cultivate an environment where each person can thrive in purpose and calling.