Certification and Training
Whatever type of program you choose, your volunteers will need to be trained for their roles. Many volunteer positions require little training for success. Other roles require the volunteer to become a childbirth professional. You can either only accept volunteers who are already childbirth professionals, require them to be properly trained or train them yourself.
Currently, there is no legally recognized standard of training necessary to provide services as a doula or a childbirth educator. You do not need licensing or education to advertise these services. However, there are some good reasons to consider formal training. Likewise, there are some good reasons why formal training may not be the answer for your ministry.
Participation in a national certification program as a childbirth educator or doula can give your ministry respect from other members of the childbirth community in your area. It reassures them that your program is interested in meeting the highest standards available. It also demonstrates that the members of your team have a basic minimum level of knowledge they work with. There are even organizations that will certify your volunteers as Christian birth professionals.
However, there is the danger that participants who go through these programs may become proud of their knowledge and put great faith in their own understanding rather than in God. A new childbirth educator or doula often projects the attitude that she "knows it all," makes quick judgments about other professionals in her area and even believes she can make better decisions for her clients and their caregivers than they can for themselves. It is not until she has been to 10 or more births, or taught 5 or more class series that she begins to soften herself and can project a more humble attitude.
For the purposes of a childbirth ministry, a humble attitude that is willing to allow people to sometimes fail may be more desirable. It is not that the knowledge or skills are wrong, it is the misapplication of knowledge that can turn people off. Christians are always under the watchful eyes of those who already believe Christians are judgmental, arrogant, hypocrites and want everyone to do things their way. It is very important that those involved in your ministry share the truth, but share the truth in love.
Formal training can also give your volunteers the confidence they need to be comfortable in their positions. However, it is important to understand that when interviewed, most attendees of formal training programs do not feel they were ready to attend a labor or teach a class after having been trained. Part of the problem is that to teach a class or to attend a labor requires a mastery of knowledge and skills. There is not enough time spent on the hands-on learning of the skills to leave the attendees feeling ready for the task at hand.
One of the biggest obstacles to formal training for your volunteers will be the commitment involved in both time and money. Most certification programs require attendance at a two or three day training program, required reading and attendance at labors and childbirth education classes. Most of these requirements will be met by your volunteers anyway, however the two or three day training program involves an attendance fee, travel and housing expenses and in some cases will require setting up alternate childcare. When volunteering for your ministry means paying their own way to be gone for a few days, many women simply will not make the commitment.
You should be sure all of your volunteers are well trained for their roles, however this does not mean they need to work through a formal certification program to act as a doula or childbirth educator with your ministry. A private training program for your volunteers will usually provide them with enough knowledge and by mentoring new volunteers they can learn the skills needed. This will save your ministry valuable time and money.
Another option you might consider is hiring a trainer from one of the national organizations to provide training for your volunteers, but not use that training as a part of certification. The cost of the training could either be absorbed by your church, raised by your ministry volunteers or paid for by the volunteers. You could give your volunteers the option of certifying if they choose, which would allow them to advertise their services and perhaps make some money as a childbirth professional.