The summer Olympics are scheduled to begin in July of this year, and many of us will stay up to watch some of the events. As we watch each event, we sometimes forget about the hours of preparation endured by each athlete just to participate. In his book The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown chronicled the story of the US men’s rowing team that won the gold medal in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The team was made up of students from the University of Washington. At the end of their four-year career, the rowers estimated that they had rowed 4,344 miles, and only 28 of those miles were in competition (page 359). The things learned in those other 4,316 miles were required for them to perform in those 28 miles. The training was essential for them to become champions.
Most of us know we need to train people if we want them to succeed. Aubrey Malphurs states: “If we ask our people to lead any ministry of the church, we’re responsible to provide them with continual leadership training. If we cannot do this, we have no business asking them to serve, doing both them and the ministry an injustice” (Building Leaders, page 27). This may seem harsh, but there is a great deal of wisdom in what Dr. Malphurs shares, and we need to heed his wisdom. Some of that training can be done on the job, but not all of it. Ongoing training for our Bible study teachers and leaders is essential if we expect them to succeed and flourish.
Here are six steps for creating an effective plan for ongoing leader training for our Sunday School teachers and leaders.
Step 1: List all the tasks.
Before we can start training people, we need to define what we are training them to do. We begin with the creation of a list of everything we expect a Bible study teacher or leader to do or be able to help someone else do. We cannot forget to include things we expect them to know as well, like who to call if someone in their group needs counseling. We will want to invite some of the Bible study teachers to help us create the list.
Step 2: Categorize the tasks.
Next, we should take our list of tasks and categorize them as either handout, video, or strategic. If that item can be addressed by a handout, then create the handout. We do not need to call a meeting to explain how to make coffee. We might create a list of local resources we have vetted that could be distributed as a handout as well.
Some things can be handled by video, especially things that rarely change. Visiting a hospital today is very similar to visiting a hospital 20 years ago. Shooting the video using a smartphone can be just as effective as a professionally produced video.
The tasks we identify as strategic are the ones we need to address personally. These may be strategic because of the task (like teaching evangelistically) or because of the needs of our church (such as a church without a pastor, so pastoral care may fall on the Bible study leaders).
Within each category, we will want to rank each task. Doing so helps us know where to begin when it comes to creating handouts, shooting videos, and scheduling face-to-face training.
Step 3: Schedule the training.
Now we will need to determine how often we plan to offer training. Most leaders provide either monthly or quarterly training. If we do it monthly, we will most likely conduct nine meetings (we will not plan a meeting in December or July, and the meeting prior to the start of the Sunday School year will be more inspirational in nature). If we conduct training quarterly, we will most likely conduct three training meetings with the one immediately prior to the new Sunday School year being inspirational. In our world today, personally does not necessarily mean face-to-face, but it does mean a live gathering led by us of some sort.
Assign the strategic tasks to each one of the training dates selected. We will want to place the more strategic tasks on the days we anticipate having the largest attendance.
Step 4: Gather our content.
Create a file (paper or digital) for each task, and start placing content in that folder. In effect, we are building a “go to” source for the future. After conducting training on that subject, place a copy of the plans used in that folder. If someone calls us in the future needing help, we at least have a starting point.
Note: I have more than 25 years’ worth of content in my folders, adding articles and ideas regularly. That folder set is invaluable to me.
Step 5: Conduct the training.
Prepare to lead the training, and then do it to the best of your ability. If we are THE leaders, then we ought to be the ones leading the training. If we are not experts on a subject, we need to read all we can about that subject. We can then show them how to do what we are asking them to do to the best of our ability. Training others to lead Bible study groups makes us valuable to the church. Room is always made for a person who helps others succeed.
Step 6. Evaluate.
We want to evaluate on two different fronts. First, we need to evaluate ourselves so we can grow as trainers/coaches. Ask people who attended the meeting to give feedback on things they wish we had done differently or more clearly. Let them know we want to improve and need their help.
We also need to evaluate the training plan. Other needs may have surfaced since we put together the training plan. If we believe these new needs to be strategic, then we may look at how we can rearrange the remaining training sessions.
Look at the Explore the Bible Guide to Reengagement for more things you can do to prepare our Bible study groups for regathering.