Leaders who are well equipped, resourced, and supported are a key part of every Dwell program. A great way to equip and support leaders is by planning a simple Dwell training. Many churches focus on beginning-of-the-year trainings, giving their leaders basic information about the curriculum and how to best use it in their setting. But I always liked to do a mid-year training as well, focusing on developing a specific skill in Dwell leaders.
A great starting point for something like this is the book Dwelling: Helping Kids Find a Place in God’s Story. Written as a companion for the Dwell curriculum, Dwelling includes short chapters that walk leaders through various aspects of children’s ministry, equipping them to lead to the best of their ability. Here are five steps for using this book to plan a Dwell training:
Pick a topic: Start with the Dwelling table of contents, exploring what is covered in this helpful book. Decide what you’d like to discuss, and pick which chapters you’ll have your leaders read. This can be an area your volunteers have expressed as a struggle, or something you’ve noticed could use some work. If you don’t have anything particular in mind, focusing on questions is a great option (chapters 13 and 14), particularly as wondering questions, which are a key component of Dwell, might be a new concept for some of your leaders.
Order copies of the book: Dwelling can be purchased from FaithAliveResources.org for $7.00 ($9.31 CDN). At the time of this writing you can get 50% off copies of this book when you use the code Advent19 and order by the end of December 2019. Don’t have money in the budget to buy a copy for each leader? The two chapters about questions are available on the Network: Questions about Questions, and Wondering about Wondering.
Plan out your training time: Decide how you’ll fill your time. I liked to include lunch for my volunteers. I let my leaders order whatever they wanted from a nicer restaurant, and used this meal as a way to further show my appreciation for their work. Starting your time with a shared meal provides a great opportunity for fellowship. Often I would learn more about how our Dwell program was going in that 30-minute meal than in the rest of the year.
Toward the end of our meal, I would move into the training time. Many of my volunteers had been teaching Sunday school for years, and I wanted to give them a chance to share their experience while also equipping them as volunteers. So I structured my time as more of a discussion, summarizing the chapters and then having leaders share how they could implement these concepts in their Dwell time.
If you’re using the questions chapters, you could also spend some time applying the content to a Dwell story. Read through a story that’s included in several levels, such as Jesus’ birth, or Daniel and the lions, and then work together to come up with questions for that story, using the chapters you read to direct your questions.
Contact your leaders: Once you have your training time figured out, you’ll want to schedule it and get all of the information to your leaders. I usually tried to get the date to my leaders a few months ahead of time and then would send more details and the reading assignment about a month before the training. Then a week or two before, you’ll want to send a reminder and (if you’re including food) a deadline for them to give you their meal order. It’s helpful to give an overview of the training in these emails, and to give a specific time table, with a firm end time. I usually planned for two hours, starting right after church, and was intentional to end on time.
Hold your training! Once you’ve completed the four previous steps, everything will be in place. All that’s left is to lead your training.
Remember that many Dwell leaders have no professional training that equips them to work with children. Providing regular training helps to form them as a Dwell leader, and gives them a greater confidence in their own abilities. It may seem like one more thing that you’re asking volunteers to do, but in reality it’s an additional blessing you’re providing to these gracious volunteers.