4 Areas to Consider Before Removing A Church Volunteer

Before removing a church volunteer, take these 4 areas into consideration to ensure you are communicating effectively.

Aaron Buer

Digital giving apps and tools

Unfortunately, there are times when a ministry volunteer needs to be removed from their volunteering position. 

In a church setting, this process can be particularly challenging.  So, how and when might this need to be done?  Let’s talk.  

Clear Expectations

The first thing we need to talk about is clear expectations.  Most volunteers want to do a good job and are capable of doing what you need them to do—as long as they’re clear on what that is. 

Often, the frustration lies in the lack of clarity around what is expected.  You, the ministry leader, are frustrated because the volunteer isn’t doing what you need them to do. 

At the same time, the volunteer is frustrated because they know you’re unhappy but they think they are doing what you wanted them to do.  

The solution to this is clarity around expectations.  I’m talking about a written job description.  Each volunteer position in your church should come with written expectations and an in-person conversation.  And, it’s unfair to volunteers when a ministry leader fires them when there never were clear, written expectations.  

So, if you’re experiencing challenges with a volunteer, step one is to clearly articulate the expectations for each volunteer position.  


Performance Problems

Maybe you have clear written expectations but you are still experiencing problems with a volunteer.  The question to ask is, “What kind of problem are we dealing with?”  Remember, different problems require different responses.  

Sometimes the problem is a performance problem.  In other words, the volunteer isn’t performing the assigned tasks.  They are supposed to show up at 6:00 and they routinely show up at 7:00.  The expectation is that they show up prepared to teach kids the Bible lesson but they clearly haven’t prepared.  These are performance problems.  

In my experience, the best way to approach performance problems is with clarity and question.

“Hey, I’ve noticed that you’ve been showing up at 7:00.  Did you know that our meeting starts at 6:00?”  

Then, just listen to how they respond.  Sometimes they misunderstood the expectation.  Some people need to hear that the expectation is actually an expectation.

Sometimes there is something significant going on in their life that you were unaware of.  And, sometimes there is an attitude problem going on.  We’ll return to that last one in a second.  

Most of the time, volunteers will listen and respond appropriately.  However, if they prove to be incapable of meeting the expectations, even after a conversation, it is appropriate to have a follow-up conversation that goes something like this: 

“Hey, part of the expectations for this volunteering role is showing up on time.  That doesn’t seem like something you can do right now.  I’d love to help you find a volunteering role that better fits your schedule.”  


Attitude Problem

Unfortunately, there are times when a volunteer has an attitude problem.  They’ve been showing up late to meetings and when you pursue a conversation with them about their performance problem, they roll their eyes and act like your 16-year-old daughter. 

Worse, after that conversation, you find out that they’ve been talking negatively about your leadership among the other volunteers.  

When it comes to an attitude problem like this, my advice is to remove the person from their role quickly.  Attitude problems are toxic to organizational culture.  I’d handle the conversation like this: 

“It’s come to my attention that you’ve been talking negatively about our leadership with other volunteers.  If you want to serve here, this has to stop immediately.  Can you do this?”

Let them respond.  If they respond with more bad attitude, then remove them from their role immediately.  If they commit to bringing a better attitude, set the expectations: 

“This can never happen again.  If we have to have this conversation again, you will be removed from this role.”  

Maybe this sounds overly harsh to you, but attitude problems are lethal to organizational culture.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t listen to negative feedback and constructive criticism, but that should come directly to you and not to other volunteers.

One way you can help volunteers avoid this is by creating open avenues of conversation regarding feedback.  If you seek it out and listen well, it’s far less likely that volunteers will complain among themselves.  


Behavior Problems

There is one more type of problem that we encounter with volunteers, and that is a behavior problem.  I’m guessing that you have policies regarding the behavior of your volunteers.

For example, you expect that your youth ministry small group leaders would set a good example for your teenagers.  Maybe you ask them not to post pictures with alcohol on their Instagram. 

When a volunteer has a behavior problem, it is important that ministry leaders don’t approach these problems like an attitude problem. Behavior problems are a care and discipleship opportunity.  

Let me give you a scenario.  You find out that one of your youth group volunteers has not only been posting pictures to his Instagram that contain alcohol, but also getting drunk most Friday nights.  

This is a care and discipleship opportunity.  This person is obviously struggling and needs spiritual guidance.  Do they need to be suspended from their volunteering role?  Probably.  But, what often happens here is that the volunteer gets fired and ministry leaders just move on.  

There is a huge opportunity here for repentance and restoration.  But, the volunteer will need help.  

My advice here is to meet with the volunteer, confront the behavior, and recommit to the relationship.  

“Unfortunately, this behavior has to change if you’re to continue volunteering.  I’m going to ask you to step away for a few months but during that time, we’ll pay for a Christian counselor and I would like to connect you with a spiritual mentor.  We are willing to walk with you toward restoration if this is something you are willing to do?  

Sometimes this conversation goes nowhere because you discover that you are dealing with a behavior problem and an attitude problem.  But, other times, this conversation can lead to a powerfully transformative experience for the volunteer and the people he serves.  

Wrap Up

So, how and when do you remove a volunteer?  Well, it depends on whether the problem you are facing is a performance problem, an attitude problem, or a behavior problem.  Each situation requires a nuanced response. 

If you're having an opposite challenge, and need tips on how to grow volunteerism at your church, then check out this related post.

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