There are going to be many opinions and approaches to this topic. Welcome to mine! The purpose of this post is to give you permission, nay, the freedom to let go of a volunteer who is just not a good fit for your ministry. Of course I recognize that they aren’t getting paid. They are there because they choose to be. I also have had my fair share of experiences with volunteers who are there to fulfill their own needs and agenda, and not to walk alongside you with the vision that God has given for your youth ministry. Some may just not be gifted in the role you have placed them. I also recognize that each situation has its own factors and nuances. Hopefully this just gives you a helpful perspective to draw from for your own situation.
The purpose of this post is to give you two tools. First, criteria to judge your volunteers by that will tell you if there is a problem or poor fit. Second, some simple steps on how to let a volunteer go in the best way possible. So without further ado…
If you are wondering whether a volunteer is helping or hurting your mission, just consider them in light of the following two lists:
Volunteers who are a good fit are:
- Proactive – they see the need and fill it. The best volunteers are the one who don’t need constant (notice I said constant) direction.
- On the same page – they have the same approach and philosophy of ministry as you do, with the same goal for your youth in their heart. They always seem to just click with your ideas and plans.
- They minister to you, not the other way around. This is a tough one. As pastors we believe God has called us to minister to everyone in our sphere. If a volunteer is difficult because of personal circumstances, shouldn’t we take the time to pour into them? I may get some disagreement on this, but I don’t think so. You have been called by God specifically to minister toward your youth. Volunteers should walk alongside you and make that work easier, not add to the plate (contrary comments and opinions are welcome below J). Now, if you want to minister to them as a friend, that is fine. It just should not be in the context of their involvement with your youth program.
Volunteers who are a poor fit are:
- Always in need of training and direction for the same tasks – I am sorry but you need volunteers to lift the burden, not add to it. If they create more work than they produce, there is a problem. They are going to add to your stress level.
- Always arguing with you on how you do things – differences in philosophy of ministry aren’t a bad thing. They just get in the way of forward momentum if they can’t be resolved. You need your whole team going in the same direction, not playing tug of war.
- Consistently vocal about their dissenting views behind your back – not much explanation needed here. You should not need to be doing damage control on issues caused by your volunteers.
“So how do I let them go”, you ask? Let me just share a few simple tips.
- When you sit down with them point out their strengths and let them know how thankful you are for all the effort they have put into your youth.
- Next identify the disconnect, deficiency, or difference in philosophy. Don’t make it personal. You need to clearly identify the issue, behavior, or disconnect that is making the relationship ineffective. In some cases you might even dig up the real issue at hand and work through it.
- Help them find a place where they might be happier volunteering. I have had to point out to people that they would be much happier if they were volunteering in a place that better fits their personal skills and passions. And this is not a lie. More often than not, they will return at some point in the future and tell me how happy they are volunteering in their new role. I should note that this could be another role within your ministry. Perhaps their skill set would make them better suited to help administratively rather than directly with the youth. You should always seek for better fits within your ministry before cutting ties completely.
- Thank them again and pray with them. We are both Christians. Letting a volunteer “move on” should not get ugly. Sure, there may be instances of hurt feelings, but you both need to remember that we are all seeking to fulfill God’s work. Prayer at the end helps remind us who is truly in control, and that he wants what is best for both of us.
Hopefully this provides some practical guidance for you. Have I missed anything? If so, please share your thoughts.