Why Volunteers Quit, Part 2

Here is part 2 of Why Volunteers Quit.. After years of working with volunteers I’ve found that there are simple things you can do which will frustrate them to the point of quitting. Hopefully you haven’t experienced these. If you have, I’m sorry. If you haven’t, please learn from my mistakes.

5) Only communicate with your volunteer when something goes wrong

We all know what happens on a Sunday when a mic doesn’t come on at the right time, or the video freezes, or the system starts to feedback… everyone looks to the back. This is usually the only time tech volunteers get recognition. I’d rather they be noticed for the 50 weeks of flawless service, but instead, this 30 second blunder is their moment in the spotlight. It could also be a volunteer who misspells a ministry name tag, or someone who updates your Facebook or Twitter streams. Somehow we don’t remember they are there until they mess up and we are quick to give them our full attention. Be intentional to encourage and inspire your volunteers whenever possible.

4) Never affirm the contributions of your volunteer, especially in front of others

Never being affirmed is frustrating. Maybe you give a pat on the back, or a “thanks” in an email, but those types of interactions happen inside Brookstone after you buy foot massager. If you really want your volunteers to internalize the vision of your ministry tell others what a reward it is working with them and seeing them serve in their strengths. Do things to appreciate them and show them that you care about their projects and them as a person.

3) Bad mouth others in front of your volunteers, better yet, bad mouth others who serve in front of a volunteer

There are times where a volunteer has done something incorrectly and it causes a problem. No matter the mistake it is never appropriate to speak poorly of them in front of others. When you do this you are a poor leader. If you find yourself speaking ill about someone who has selflessly given their time as a response to Christs’ call to serve, stop and consider your actions. You can ask questions like, “what am I really upset about?” or “do I really believe these things about this person?” or “how would Jesus respond.” We can lose focus of the goal to elevate Jesus above all and and replace it with church promotion or self promotion. When this happens, the problem doesn’t lie within the volutneer, it lies with your heart.

2) Don’t look for the signs of volunteer burnout

New volunteers bring a lot of enthusiasm. When they lead the Bible study for the first time, or when they run lights for that midweek event, it’s exciting. Ministry leaders tend to mistake that enthusiasm for TOTAL COMMITMENT! We look at it like “oh, they must want to serve every Wednesday night for 5 hours” and suddenly they become our only person in a position. As I lead teams I do come across those volunteers who want to scheduled ever week and it’s a tempting proposition. I feel a responsibility to know my volunteers personally and based upon their personality types, moderate how often I schedule them. For that drummer who plays every week, it can be a very refreshing experience to attend church on a Sunday. At the very least a break will energize them to return to the kit the following week. Remember that we all experience burn out. Do you want to be the leader who burned out your volunteer?

1) Throw your volunteer under the bus from the platform on Sunday morning

Years ago I was attending a service where the pastors mic wasn’t turned on in time for his message. He committed the ultimate leadership folly; he threw his volunteer under the bus. “Can you hear me now? Okay, good. I guess we’ll be looking for a new sound guy this week. Feel free to let us know if you’re interested.” There was an uncomfortable snicker which came from the audience. The pastor tried to maintain his composure at the sacrifice of those who give of their time to support his ministry. How dare any of us put down, from the platform, any person who loves Jesus. Their desire to give of their expertise for the edification of the Church should be celebrated. But, there is forgiveness. If we find ourselves in this situation, whether by accident or intention, seek out the one who you’ve offended and ask for forgiveness. I have found that those serving in my areas of influence are much more forgiving of my mistakes than I have been of theirs. It’s a great lesson in humility.

Ultimately this list is only the compilation of my experiences and may not reflect the reality of your experiences. However, I have found these to be 10 of the most frequent reasons I’ve lost volunteers. I’m proud to say I’ve learned over the years, but I also have a lot left to learn. Feel free to share your tips below. Perhaps you could offer insight and help preserve a relationship on its last leg.