Most churches have more help than they need in the form of volunteers. But to leverage their gifts effectively, your church needs to have a clear process in place regarding how church volunteers engage and participate in the Information Technology ministry. The Bible states in 1 Peter 4:10, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”
Church members bring the gifts but you must train them on how to best utilize their talents and gifts to support your IT infrastructure. This is the key to ensuring a stable, secure, and scalable environment capable of supporting the growth of your organization. The following steps will help you build that foundation and have a strong technical volunteer group.
- Have a plan in place for what volunteers will do and how much time you require of them. This plan will act as a volunteer “job description” that clearly states everything you expect from them and how the job is to be carried out.
- Since they will have access to potential confidential and restricted areas, they need to sign a Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure agreement to protect your organization’s data and infrastructure. This ensures that all your volunteers understand the importance and the criticality of the roles and functions they are performing.
- Put a process in place to validate their expertise and knowledge. This can be done with a quick knowledge test or exam to see where they are and to help fill any gaps that may be present for the volunteer assignment.
- Have regular meetings with the team to discuss how things are going and what needs to be changed. Get their opinions and recommendations on how and what to do next. It is highly important to keep the volunteers involved throughout these processes so there is a sense of ownership. Volunteers like to help and not just be told what to do. Regular meetings will help ensure everyone is on the same page.
- Develop a clear list of tools to train and advance the volunteer team on a consistent basis. Here is a list of some that I highly recommend.
- Lynda.com is an online learning platform that helps anyone learn business, software, technology, and creative skills to achieve personal and professional goals. Choose wisely: there are thousands of hours of material and you’ll want to make sure your volunteers are spending their time on relevant material.
- ITProTV – ITProTV is an online IT training program that lets you learn wherever you go. With lessons streamed live every day, you can watch from your desktop, tablet, smartphone or via a dedicated Roku channel. Again, pick out the most relevant videos for training to make sure your volunteers are spending their time wisely.
- Leverage online tools and search engines to help you quickly identify problems and their solutions. YouTube and Google can help you find solutions and how-to videos that will help you diagnose (or solve) issues. These are a great training tool to share and leverage time and time again.
- Chalk Talks – These are technical talks to train and share your knowledge with others on the team. These sessions will help transfer technical knowledge and experience across volunteer teams. Make sure everyone participates in these chalk talks so that no one person has a job that cannot be fulfilled [with] another volunteer.
- Standard Operating Procedures (SoP’s) – These are processes, lessons learned and the proper ways to do all tasks in the organization to ensure repeatability and consistency. SoP’s are a great training tool for new volunteers because it produces a step by step approach to many different scenarios that have been performed and validated in the past by other volunteers. You must also remember that SoP’s change so they need to be updated and maintained accordingly.
- Lab environment – If the resources exist you should have a small lab (or, “sandbox”) for setup, training, and practice for all or most of the software and hardware the volunteers support. This environment allows you to test and validate software and hardware before it’s implemented.
- Assign a mentor to everyone on the technical team to help him or her grow in the ministry. This can be from a technical and also a spiritual accountability perspective.
- Make sure some sort of Bible study or prayer is taking place. You need to make sure we keep God’s word and purpose first and foremost on everyone’s minds.
Once you decide to leverage volunteers to help support your church or organization, you will need to properly manage and train them. Just like employees, volunteers need oversight. Develop a plan and have meetings to keep them up to date on your organization’s processes and policies. Be sure your volunteers know that proper documentation (and using/following documented procedures), as well as creating documentation is expected and necessary for how the train up others that may come after them.
The bottom line: by creating an effective volunteer training plan you will eliminate unnecessary problems and create an environment where volunteers will have the most complete and effective volunteering experience possible. With the proper process in place, your efforts will produce an energetic, willing, and skillful volunteer team that is engaged and ready to support your organization.