Putting a new twist on volunteer training

A former hedge fund manager, Salman Khan, gave us a new idea on how to train our volunteer leaders.

Khan is a brilliant MIT grad who wanted to teach his cousin Nadia math and science. Khan posted math tutorials for Nadia on Youtube. Thousands accessed them, prompting Khan to leave his job as a hedge fund manager and begin The Khan Academy, which produces educational tutorials and recently received a $2 million grant from Google.

Many school districts use Khan Academy now too. Why? Get this: Students receive the best instruction available on their own time via the Web – then process that content with their teachers. It flips the model. Instead of receiving content in class and doing homework alone, students now get content at home via Khan Academy and do their “homework” with the teacher in class. The brilliance of it makes me giddy.

What does this have to do with youth ministry?

When we call “volunteer leader training meetings” at Menlo Park Presbyterian, about 30 percent of our leaders actually show up – sometimes 50 percent or more if we snarl and use words like “mandatory.” The ones who attend are generally our most committed leaders who need less training anyway. Part of our problem is the culture. Finding great people willing to invest time in young people is an increasingly challenging task. “I don’t have time…” is the most frequent excuse we all hear.

So for the leaders we actually DO find, how do we justify spending even more time with them delivering training content? Do we just not train them at all? That CAN’T be an option…

We are experimenting this year with a trick from the Khan Academy playbook. Our leaders now go to a web site we have created and access a “monthly training module.” We have been blessed with enough resources to produce video and write brief training materials for our leaders. Like the Khan Academy, our volunteers are now getting content on their own time monthly, and processing that content with our staff.

While you wouldn’t necessarily have to create videos to replicate this model, you might actually be able to easily and inexpensively do so using the technology available to you. Or you might find some other way to deliver content ahead of time and spend precious time together in follow up conversation and prayer.

So far the feedback has been very positive, but we’re just starting. Come visit our site at www.mppcfamilylife.com. We’d love your feedback and welcome you using the tool to help further the abilities of you and your volunteer leaders to help kids move toward Jesus Christ.

PS, here’s the latest video in the series, with none other than Kara Powell herself!

Kara Powell-Dry Cleaner Parenting from MPPC on Vimeo.