When I first entered into full-time education ministry, I made a conscious decision to provide regular, ongoing training for the men and women who led the church’s Sunday School groups. Being new to ministry “back in the day,” and not knowing any better, I remembered thinking, “We teach every week, so it would be a good idea to train every week.” I scheduled weekly training for all age groups, and the education staff members I supervised implemented the vision. Our attendance rate was about 90-92% of all teachers, each and every week. This took place for 18 years.
Today, times have changed. There are new ways to train in addition to face-to-face meetings. There are electronic delivery tools now such as MinistryGrid (www.ministrygrid.com), and ways to use social media to pass along training tidbits. Skype and FaceTime didn’t exist when I was in full-time education ministry (or those communication tools were just emerging).
Today, if I was back on church staff, I would still implement regular, ongoing training. I’d do things differently today, of course, but the reasons I would train regularly haven’t changed over the years. Here are three reasons why you should be training your leaders regularly:
- Training can be a catalyst for growth. The Georgia Baptist Convention, in a survey of over 2400 of its churches, discovered a connection between churches that have regular ongoing training, those that don’t, and their growth (or lack thereof) over a 4-year period. The findings? Churches that had regular training either monthly or quarterly experienced growth at a rate of 13.2+%. Churches that chose not to provide training actually declined -2% over the same time period. Is there a connection between training and growth? In my experience, absolutely yes. I served two churches in the past, implemented ongoing training in both, and watched as the Lord added to our numbers. Regular training gave us the opportunity to galvanize as a teaching faculty, to have accountability for reaching prospects and inactive members, to train to become better teachers (and the quality of teaching can impact growth positively or negatively), and to become a family.
- People aren’t going to train themselves. People need encouragement to become better teachers and leaders, and unless someone on the church staff has a passion for this, people will tend to gravitate toward inactivity in regard to their own development. Churches benefit when someone takes responsibility for developing a plan for training group leaders. People must be equipped, and it’s a biblical imperative if I read Ephesians 4:11 correctly. Pastor-shepherds are to equip (make ready/mend/repair….those ideas are all behind the Greek word we translate “equip,” katartismos).
- Your Bible study leaders are being trained everywhere else they go. Think of all the professions that require ongoing training for employees: police, fire, other first-responders, teachers, lawyers, beauticians, barbers, nurses, doctors, auto mechanics, store managers (should I keep on going?). Then we come to the church. What’s the expectation there? In too many churches there are no expectations that teachers should be trained regularly. It is often blamed on lack of budget or the attitude of the people (“They won’t come even if we offered training”). That’s “lazy think.” It’s an excuse that some staff members use to hide behind their lack of comfort in expecting their leaders to make training a priority, or their lack of comfort in confronting those leaders who are just “too advanced” to come to training (every church has one or two of those guys!). Church members are getting training every month at their workplaces; they are spending dozens of hours a year keeping up their certifications. Church members’ kids are at team practices getting training for weekend games. Training is nothing new to them (except maybe at church – how sad).
The church is about the only place people are not required to have ongoing training – and teachers handle the most important thing in the world – the Bible! We must be careful not to inadvertently communicate “It’s ok to just show up and teach – don’t worry about getting better – we know you’re busy.” We are all pressed for time, but teachers have the privilege of teaching the very Word of God. Let us not squander an opportunity to help God’s people improve. Let’s push them to new heights of skill as teachers. Budget for ongoing training. Schedule ongoing training. Require ongoing training. It’s time for someone out there to lead! I hope it will be you.