5 tips for leading volunteers through a curriculum change
Some volunteers love change, others are praying for the second coming of the felt board. Whenever you make a change in your KidMin, it's critical that you keep that in mind.
I learned that the hard way when I was the Children's Director at my previous church and I tried to remove some of the tables and chairs from the 2 year old room. I made the move without getting the buy-in from the volunteers and, well...there were meetings.
Relatively speaking, tables and chairs are small potatoes when it comes to change. A curriculum change, on the other hand, is the whole potato casa-role. That certainly doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. If your curriculum isn't working for you or if there's a curriculum that will serve your kids better, you need to make the change. For the sake of your volunteers, though, you'll want to do it thoughtfully and carefully.
With that said, here are 5 tips on how you can lead your volunteers through a curriculum change.
1. Involve your volunteers. A lot of people who seem adverse to change really aren't. They just need more time to process and they want to be involved in the decision, even if it's in a small way. Involving them in the decision doesn't mean handing them the reigns and giving them total power of choice, but it does mean asking their opinion and inviting them to speak into the change. For bigger churches, it might be too much to consult with all of the volunteers, but you'll still want to involve a handful of key volunteers. If the key volunteers have buy-in, it will often trickle through the ranks.
2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. You might think you sound like a broken record, but for every 10 times you say something, your volunteers may have only heard it once. Let them know a change is coming. Then let them know a change is coming. Then let them know a change is coming. (You get the point.) Cast a vision for why. Highlight a key problem that you were experiencing with the old curriculum, then tell them how the new curriculum is going to help you change for the better. For example, "The old curriculum is Biblically rich, but our kids are bored and disengaged. The new curriculum has the same Biblical depth, but it's a lot more fun and interactive. Our kids will be so much more excited to come to church and bring their friends."
3. Train your volunteers on the new curriculum. No matter what curriculum you're coming from or going to, there's going to be a bit of a learning curve. The look and feel of every curriculum is a little different. Pull your volunteers together for a meeting where you introduce them to the new curriculum. Get them excited about it. Walk them through a lesson. Point out the differences from the old curriculum. Some curriculum even include video resources that you can send to your volunteers or show during the meeting. For example, with GO! curriculum we encourage leaders to show the "ex-plainer video" to give volunteers the big picture of GO! and we have a series of "demo videos" that walk them through the lessons.
4. Consider test driving the curriculum first. If your volunteers are very change-adverse and you fear a revolt, sometimes it's better to walk them through the change more slowly. Tell them that you're going to give something new a try for just a month, then stay true to your word. After a month, go back to the old curriculum, but ask volunteers what they thought of the new lessons. Getting a small taste of something new might make them more ready to jump in with both feet, then you can propose the idea of making a more permanent switch.
5. Gather feedback after the change. Ask your volunteers how they're doing with the change. What do they like or dislike about the new curriculum? But consider waiting a month or two before soliciting serious feedback. That gives your volunteers time to get through the transition period and helps you avoid negative feedback that essentially boils down to, "This curriculum is different from the old one." If necessary, use the feedback to make appropriate adjustments.