Most pastors know having well-trained volunteers and lay leaders is essential for the health of any local church.
But few have a strategy for training, said Todd Adkins, director of leadership at LifeWay Christian Resources.
Enter MinistryGrid.com, a new online training site designed to deliver easy, affordable, and high quality training anytime, anywhere.
The site features more than 3,700 original training video sessions on topics from church leadership and finances to parking ministry and childcare.
The idea behind the site is to give churches a framework for their training programs, said Adkins.
“If you don’t give people a framework, they won’t grow,” he said.
Adkins said in the past, local congregations sent volunteers to conferences or used denominational programs such as Training Union to equip church members for ministry. That’s no longer the case.
“People used to take a week of vacation to attend training events like Sunday school week at Ridgecrest,” he said. “They don’t do that anymore. It can even be difficult to get them to show up for evening or weekend training seminars at their churches.”
Instead of sending volunteers or staff members to an event, Ministry Grid allows churches to bring the training to their people via computer, smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device. There’s also an app for off-line viewing.
“We want to focus on training being available anytime, anywhere,” said Adkins.
However, Ministry Grid doesn’t replace face-to-face training. Instead, the training model is based on the idea of a “flipped classroom” now common in high schools and colleges.
In this case, volunteers and church members learn by watching videos and reading resources on their own time. Then they’ll be better prepared for in-person discussion.
It’s all part of creating a culture where leadership training and personal development are a normal part of church life.
“The Church wins when ministry is handed back to the people,” said Eric Geiger, vice president of LifeWay’s Church Resources Division, which oversees Ministry Grid. “I am excited about Ministry Grid and how it will help churches more intentionally invest in leaders.”
The site is easy to use and takes just a bit of set-up. Once a church subscribes, church leaders can group users based on what ministry they are part of or oversee—Sunday school, small groups, nursery, student ministry, or any other. A training plan can be created for each group.
When members first log in, the site will automatically set up a personalized profile page where they will see any videos their leaders have already assigned. From there users can watch those videos, search for others, read resources, and keep track of their progress. It’s as simple as point, click, and learn.
A “group at a glance” feature allows pastors and church staff to track members’ progress.
For users, the site is part Facebook, part Candy Crush, part Netflix, and part Baptist Training Union. They can have some fun along the way by earning badges similar to Boy Scout patches or Sunday school bars for completing parts of the training process.
Adkins said the badges were inspired by his experience growing up in a Baptist church in Kentucky and going to church training classes on Sunday evenings.
“It’s a combination of old-fashioned accountability and achievement psychology,” said Adkins.
Ministry Grid organizers are seeing churches of all sizes benefit from the site’s training options. Church leaders choose built-in tracks or existing video sessions, upload their own video content, link to additional articles, turn off unwanted content, and even put their church’s name and logo on the site.
Videos on Ministry Grid’s free preview site include Melita Thomas, of LifeWay Kids Ministry, discussing the eight approaches to how children learn; Danny Franks, connections pastor at The Summit Church in North Carolina, considering the importance of preparing for guests who visit your church; and Mark Marshall, pastor of First Church, Conyers, Georgia, offering pastors practical tips and information about the “what” and “how” of baptism.
Among other contributors are Tami Heim, president of the Christian Leadership Alliance; Mac Lake of The Launch Network; Kevin Peck, pastor of Austin Stone Community Church; Derwin Gray of Transformation Church; and Aubrey Malphurs, professor of leadership and pastoral ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary.
Malphurs, who serves as an advisor to Ministry Grid, says most congregations don’t do enough to develop leaders and volunteers.
“Churches don’t do training,” he said.
Malphurs finds Ministry Grid’s content and its use of technology appealing.
“I am the kind of guy who likes to think ahead, in a positive way, about what is coming down the pike, and about what we need to do to develop leaders,” he said. “And I think Ministry Grid fits that.”
Ministry Grid has also partnered with congregations like Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas; Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tennessee; and Sojourn Church in Louisville, Kentucky.
Subscriptions start at less than one hundred dollars annually for individuals and $180 annually for small churches. Church subscriptions are based on weekly attendance, and are tiered in such a way as to be affordable for churches of any size.
Church leaders can visit MinistryGrid.com/HowItWorks to sign up for a free weekly online demo of the site to gain a better understanding. Participants will receive a free thirty-day subscription so they can explore all the features of the site and share them with their team members and fellow staff members.
“At LifeWay, we’ve made this issue a major priority,” said LifeWay President Thom Rainer. “We see a great opportunity to provide almost unlimited training in this digital age that could not be done in earlier years. We’ve created something that will be convenient for church leaders and those being equipped at an affordable cost for all churches.”
Bob Smietana is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources. Carol Pipes contributed to this story.