3 Critical Steps in Dismissing a Volunteer

We’ve discussed in a previous blog that we should aim for the right kind of volunteers. So what do you do with the wrong ones that are currently serving in your ministry, or a new one that doesn’t seem to work out?

First of all, you have to start by telling every volunteer what you expect of them. Training them well upfront will curb a lot of issues before they ever arise. Tell them what you do want–joyful leaders who love kids, courteous, respectful, team players, etc. And tell them what you don’t want–no physical discipline, no short tempers, no inappropriate social media postings.

(Check out the Ministry Covenant included in our free Volunteer Guidebook that you can download and give to your volunteers.)

But after you’ve done your due diligence in training, if you still find a volunteer who isn’t working out (you notice she’s habitually unhappy or you get complaints about her), it’s time to address it.

1. Invite God into every aspect of the situation.

Yes, prayer is step one! Ask the Lord to give you insight and discernment as you go through this process. He alone knows the heart of every person. He has seen all the circumstances unfold (even the ones you are completely unaware of). He ushers light into areas of darkness. He brings peace to volatile situations. It’s amazing how beautifully things resolve when God is invited into the center of them.

 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

2. Evaluate the problems of the volunteer to see if they are solvable or not.

Find a time and place where you can get together to have a real conversation with the volunteer. Questions are always a great starting point. Non-accusatory questions show that you care and they allow the recipient to give you her perspective. We learn so much by asking good questions.

“How is it going with your 2nd grade small group, Sarah?” If at first you get a, “fine,” keep delving. “Do you like working with that age group?”

Listen for answers. If you still don’t get much information, gently state your concern.

“I’ve noticed that you seem a bit stressed when I’ve seen you with your group over the past few months. Is there anything I can help with?”

In many cases, the volunteer will do the work for you. She’ll tell you her list of complaints. For you, the director, this is the best-case scenario. Chances are, when you hear her response, you’ll know whether these are real and solvable problems, or if kid’s ministry is just not the place for her.

Solvable problems:

She is truly outnumbered. Solution: Find her a co-leader.

Her co-leader rarely shows up or is unprepared. Solution: Address the co-leader.

She’s having a temporary problem at home. Solution: Give her time off to focus on home/family.

She’s not confident working with kids. Solution: Spend more time observing and training her.

Not-so-Solvable Problems:

She really just doesn’t have the temperament to work with children.

She’s high-drama or self-centered.

She’s rude or belittles others.

Her own walk with the Lord is not where it should be.

She’s with kids all day, every day, and really wants to be with adults.

Once you have identified the problem(s) and determined that there is a better place of service for this volunteer, how should you phrase it? If a volunteer knows she’s not happy, you can easily parlay the conversation into finding a place of service that is a better fit for her. If she has been unaware of how badly it’s been going, the next step will be a little more tricky, but the more you talk through what you are seeing, the easier it will be.

3. Release the volunteer from their current position while offering a positive alternative.

Before you say anything, pray some more. Ask God for the right words (Luke 12:12), the right tone, and even the right look on your face. Ask Him to soften her heart and receive what you are saying in the loving way you are offering it.

It’s always a good idea to “sandwich” your comments by giving encouragement at the beginning, stating your concern in the middle, and speaking a blessing over the volunteer at the end.

“I really appreciate your dedication to be here every week. It sounds like working with kids is not a perfect fit for you right now. I think you would be amazing in the coffee ministry where you can meet and greet adults every week.”
“I absolutely love your perfectionist nature and attention to detail. From what you’re telling me, though, the way 4th grade boys are always chatting and wiggling really goes against your nature and is sort of wearing you out. Have you thought about helping with administration? We could really use your keen eye in keeping records and getting everything ordered every week.”

Win/win

The truth is, if someone is unhappy in any ministry, you’ll be doing them a favor by helping them articulate it, and by giving them a graceful way to leave. God wired each of us differently (1 Corinthians 12:27) and there is a place for every person to serve in their sweet spot.