Site term 1 session 2: Creating a training culture.

Session 2 2016; Creating a training culture.

  1. Why and what.

Ok, creating a training culture. Let me show you a clip from a movie that I think really grasps and summarizes the WHY of what we’re doing today. Mel Gibson, (back when he had a career) plays Lt. Col. Hal Moore, commander of the mobile infantry, the first ground force to engage hostilities in the Vietnam War.

Here’s some super important phrases I want to pull out of the scene:

  • We will be the best platoon in this outfit.” -All the positive talk in the world is not enough if we’re not prepared for any eventuality. Drive is not enough if you don’t have the correct directions.
  • Nothin’s wrong except that there’s nothing wrong.” -We’re working with kids. Nothing goes exactly to plan. Ever. If everything did go to plan, we wouldn’t need training. Expect things to occasionally blow up in your face. Get OK with making split-second judgements.
  • Oh, he hesitated, now he’s dead, what are you going to do?” Be ready to replace anyone or replace no one. If no one is making ‘that call’, make it. Not you own interpretation mind you, but what you know the procedure is.
  • That goes for every man in this outfit.” Training is everyone’s responsibility.
  • We will be landing under fire gentlemen… will die.” It’s not just a kid’s group. It’s ministry. It’s a spiritual battle. We are landing under Spiritual fire. It’s not being dramatic, it’s being aware. Every ministry worker has wounds, every Christian fights not against flesh and blood. I know people I have ministered beside who are at this moment lost. This is about loving each other and training up each other in righteousness. Some of the most ‘difficult things’ that have been said to me ended up saving my life.

So, what is a training culture? It’s when everyone takes responsibility for the personal and competence development of the person next to them. It’s following Christ’s example of finding the lessons in every step of the journey.

So how do you do it?

  1. The power of deliberate feedback.

We each have a role to train each other but we have to be thoughtful and deliberate about it. Nothing but negativity results in a shattered team spirit (obviously) but also, nothing but constant back-slapping guarantees ineffectiveness and it actually undermines future encouragement because when encouragement does come, it doesn’t mean anything. (No one keeps their ‘certificates of participation’.)

  1. Set feedback rules and boundaries.
  • Put a time limit on it. Use a phone timer if necessary.
  • Conduct it according to a particular focus concerning that session. (For example: how did we go achieving our main goal today of making everyone feel included?) Otherwise, it’s extremely easy to ‘chase rabbits’ all over the place.
  • Save the outside conversations for…..outside. “I’m sure the movie you saw last night was awesome, but can’t it wait until we’re finished this?”
  • Record insights and nominate a group ‘cop’ to make sure those insights get action-ed in future weeks.
  • Do not interrupt. Caveat; unless the point has clearly been made and the conversation has degenerated into mere allegorizing. (a good way to do it, is the ‘group cop’ to speak up and say ‘Sorry to interrupt you Jack, but let me ask; “are we all clear about what Jack’s saying?” (Everyone nods their head. Jack learns. Others get to speak. Happiness abounds.)
  • Seek the truth, not opinion. Don’t say “I think the way you handled that situation was rubbish.” State it as a fact: “That situation wasn’t resolved,”
  1. Put it in a ‘sandwich’

Here’s the magic sandwich:

A positive about the person, (“Terry, I love how you really notice people.”)

What they need to improve in relation to the day’s major goal, (“But maybe it might be great to not simply pursue conversations with newbies but talk to folks who have been here for a few weeks now as well, they might really miss chatting with you.”)

A positive way they fulfilled the day’s goal in some way. (“Because so you’re great at talking to new folks, we should learn some of your ‘tricks’ so that we get better at it!”)

  • What not to do.

When receiving feedback, do not take negative but true feedback as a personal attack. Trust the leader to enforce the boundaries. No one is perfect, therefore at some stage, you are going to hear where you are ‘dropping the ball.’ Don’t pick it up and go home, get back in the game. Jesus loved his disciples, that’s why he rebuked them when they needed it.

Also, don’t pass the blame onto others. This is probably the most common defense mechanism people have. But here’s the thing, if you own the mistake, you get the lesson and therefore growth thrown in for free!  But if you disown the mistake, you miss out on the lesson therefore you miss out on growth.

Lastly; Don’t say the first thing into your head, say the second.


Ok, so let’s do a little role playing. I have some pre-arranged volunteers and we are going to arrange a group feedback using these principals. See if you can tell us what the issues were, what the victories were and how the next session might look different.

  1. Moving from expectation to informed suggestion.

Leaders can only do so much to encourage an atmosphere of training. A key measurement that every member of a ministry group ‘get’s it’ is when people start suggesting the things that they need to learn.

This is kid of the holy grail really, when people are not only taking responsibility for the person next to them but when they become passionate about self-learning. Two things happen:

  1. A person committed to self-learning actually has something to say. Because, yeah, they’ve actually ‘done the reading.’
  2. A person committed to self-learning is teachable because they (obviously) see the value in learning. They accept and action feedback from peers so much more calmly and effectively. On the other hand, the less informed people are, usually the more defensive they are about their opinions.

So we can serve God and each other by self-learning and sharing (or suggestion) Striking this balance is one of the best ways in which anyone can contribute to a training culture. It’s important because, a know-it-all is the ‘spanner (literally) in the works of a training culture.

Extreme 1: ‘Social commentator guy’ (Never actually gets informed but is always sharing opinions/super-weird facebook memes. Uninformed know-it-all.)
Balance: Effective person, informed but is open to being moderated by the opinions of others. (be this person)
Extreme 2: ‘Ivory tower guy’ (All study, refuses to interact. Becomes an Un-moderated know-it-all.)

Notice how the extremes produce know-it-alls. Also, both extremes don’t like genuine, accountable community. Balance produces effectiveness. But this balance can only occur in accountable community where everyone is responsible for the other.

Embrace community (mental group hug!) Embrace insight but also embrace being ‘pushed back on’ and be an effective leader.


Think of something new you’d like to learn about in the youth/kids ministry space. What are you going to do about it? Is there a place where you can get great resources? Is there someone you know that you suspect may be able to direct you to the right place for it? Do you think we may need to cover it in Site?

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