How You Can Make Volunteer Training Meetings More Appealing

Volunteer training meeting
Try to spice up your volunteer training meetings. (

Why don't people show up to my training meetings?

This is a common question, (and complaint), I hear from church leaders.

The common response is to fault the volunteers. Among the common conclusions are:

  • They aren't committed.
  • Their priorities are wrong.
  • They are just too busy.

I can understand the leader's frustration, but not the common response.

Here's a simple truth I know about every volunteer that didn't show up to your meeting: They were somewhere!

That means you got out-gathered. Someone set the table better than you did. They made the offer more attractive and captured their attention better than you did.

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Let's acknowledge the reality that not everyone can make every one of your meetings. That's never going to happen. Life won't allow it, so that's not the goal. Instead, let's talk about improving your attendance, for example, from 40% of your volunteers showing up to 60-70 percent ... perhaps even 80 percent! (If you already have over 80 percent of your volunteers consistently showing up to all your meetings, you don't need to finish reading this post!)

Your training meetings are important, but a better approach is to ask the question: What can I do as a leader to make the invitation more appealing?

1. Assume the best about your volunteers. If you think your volunteers are flaky, they will live up to that expectation. If you think they are fantastic, they will live up to your level of belief in them. Remember, they signed up and said yes! They are already among the best of the best! They are fantastic! Always give the benefit of the doubt.

2. Everyone is busy; don't let that discourage you. It's true that schedules are crazier than ever. Your teams are super busy. That's not a problem, that's a fact of life. Lead in such a way that reflects a sensitivity to their schedules rather than feel defeated because capturing a couple hours of their time is difficult. Your job isn't easy, but it's very doable.

3. Make the purpose and value clear. Always be clear about why you are calling a training meeting. "Regularly scheduled" meetings without purpose are demotivating. Make sure you emphasize the vision as much as (if not more) than the responsibilities you are training them for. Give your volunteers a reason to be there. Just because you sent an email saying there is an "important training meeting" doesn't automatically make it important. Tell them why and communicate the specific value and benefit. This will also help you determine the effectiveness of your meeting because you have goals to measure against. 

4. Establish relationships with your key leaders so they want to be with you. One of the beautiful things about the local church is that it's based on relationships. God set it up that way, from the covenant relationship with Abraham to a personal relationship with Jesus. The local church is made up of people moving together toward God, reaching others for God. Let your teams know that you genuinely care about them! Always express gratitude and appreciation. Yes, the mission is essential, but they are part of the mission! People are drawn to people who love them. Love wins.

5. Make every meeting worthwhile. The bottom line is to create a reputation that every time a volunteer gives you an hour, you give them something that was worth that hour. Prepare like crazy. Don't ask a group of volunteers to show up to something that you spent a few minutes throwing together. Candidly, that's why they don't come back. Communicate how valuable and important they are by delivering top-notch, creative and practical training. When they leave, they should feel encouraged, equipped and energized! {eoa]

Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY.

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