Volunteers

How to Deal with Challenging Volunteers

By Karen Kogler

Most volunteers are wonderful, self-giving people. But when one is a challenge, you not only can do something about it, you should!

“Alice is wonderful with the kids in the church Nursery, but she’s late half the time and I have to cover until she shows up. But I’m afraid if I say something she’ll quit and we’re already short-handed.”

“Elton complains no one helps him on the committee, but it’s because he has such a negative personality. We’re all just waiting and hoping he’ll retire.”

“Sherry has run the annual fund-raiser every year for 10 years now. She never considers new ideas and she controls every detail, so her only helper is her long-suffering friend Emily. We raise fewer and fewer dollars each year, and that hurts our program. But what can we do? She’s a volunteer.”

Here are three effective steps you can take to deal with challenging volunteers:

1. Prepare

First, don’t put off dealing with it. Delay only makes it harder to solve. Start by praying for wisdom and Christ-like love for the challenging volunteer. Then carefully examine your own role. Are there things you have done, or not done, that contributed to the problem?

2. “Speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15)

Meet in private, at a time and place comfortable for them. Explain the specific behavior that’s a problem and explain the consequences of the behavior. Admit and ask forgiveness for any role you had in the issue. Look for common ground. Ask the volunteer to suggest a solution. Listen to their concerns. When you agree on a solution, write it down, along with a plan for following up later.

3. Follow up

Do follow up as planned. If the first solution didn’t work, is there another possible solution? If you and the volunteer honestly cannot find a solution that works, you may need to ask the person to accept another position. Throughout the process, and no matter the outcome, assure them of your concern and love for them, and demonstrate that concern in your actions.

By the way, prevention is easier than problem-solving!

• Give clear expectations, in writing, at the start
• Have an initial trial period, so both sides can see how it works
• Plan regular “how’s it going?” meetings, where all can be open and honest about concerns
• Invest in your leadership skills. WLI is a great resource for that!

In the church, there are no “wrong” people, just people in the wrong position. Every person has a place that suits their gifts. “Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a part of it” (1 Cor. 12:27). “From [Christ] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Eph. 4:16). It can be a challenge – but it’s also a great joy and privilege! – to help each person in Christ’s body find their place to serve!


Karen is Director of Equipping and champions the “Equipping Each to Serve” value at St. Peter Lutheran, Arlington Heights, IL. She also maintains www.TheEquipper.org and can be reached at Karen@TheEquipper.org.

Effectively Leading Volunteers

Organizing a project can be exciting. Blazing a new trail of ministry can be exhilarating. But that energy may dissipate when struggling to manage teams of volunteers. Frustration mounts when those who have committed their time drift away to other priorities or fail to follow through on their commitments. What if there were practices and skills to be learned that would avoid some of the tough barriers to effectively leading volunteers? If that sounds appealing, then read on!

In his book 8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders, author Dr. Dave Earley describes several habits for a vibrant ministry. These practices transfer easily to the role of an effective leader of volunteers. Developing habits for effective leadership is important and God provides us with many examples in the Bible.

Cast the vision

In Matthew 5:3-10, Jesus casts his vision for the Kingdom of Heaven. The effective leader dreams about and sets goals for the health of the ministry, the number of people who will be impacted, the number of volunteers, and the multiplication of volunteers. Then the leader casts that vision – again and again – to maintain the momentum towards achieving the dream.

Pray for them

Effective leaders spend time each day praying for the spiritual health of their volunteers. They pray for the new volunteers that their current volunteers are recruiting; they pray for the multiplication of volunteers. In John 17:6-23, Jesus’ prayer shows us the world is a battleground when you are attempting to carry out God’s plan and purposes.

Invite others

In Mark 1:14-20, we observe Jesus inviting others to join him in ministry. Effective leaders don’t just focus on their current volunteers. They have a heart for those who are not yet volunteering. Effective leaders must set the pace by inviting new people into the ministry. They help the leaders under their authority discover potential volunteers and recruit them into the ministry. They help the leaders under them develop their apprentices into effective volunteers and leaders who apply the leadership habits to their lives.

Love them

No leader can be effective without loving the volunteers that God has placed under their care. In I Corinthians 13:1-8, God shows us what real, relational love looks like. Effective leaders make sure that their volunteers are contacted frequently, consistently, and effectively. They put in the time necessary to build strong relationships. The key to any effective ministry is the ongoing care of the people in the system. When volunteers do not feel cared for they lose interest. It does not matter how leaders are contacted. What matters is that they are contacted. This can be via phone, email, texting or having touch-base conversations over coffee.

Be prepared

Hebrews 6:7-12 describes diligence and faithfulness to the task that we are given. Effective leaders prepare for their meetings with volunteers. They must invest time preparing to share with those under them. Volunteers’ time is precious and so is yours. Don’t waste it by being unprepared. Make these times as Christ-centered and encouraging as possible. By modeling preparedness and timely completion of commitments, leaders demonstrate expected behaviors to their volunteers.

Mentor future leaders

An effective leader needs to be mentoring future leaders in order to multiply the ministry. Successful leaders are constantly multiplying themselves by developing successors. Mentoring prepares the ministry for greater harvest. If a ministry has a strong mentoring process, trouble will be avoided if God sends a growth boom. It will be able to capture and go with the growth that God sends. Exodus 18:14-23 and Matthew 28:19-20 give a sense of how God uses mentoring to expand His kingdom.

Personal growth

Growing leaders will lead growing volunteers. Personal growth is very important for the leader of leaders. They need to continually learn, grow, and improve. Having intentional growth plans will set the pace and guide their volunteers to do likewise. Effective leaders set the example for those under them by following challenging growth plans and sharing them with those under them. Set a growth climate and a leadership atmosphere. Pass on helpful articles, books, websites and podcasts to the leaders under you. In Hebrews 5:7-6:3, we learn of God’s desire for us to grow and mature.

Enjoy fellowship

Finally, effective leaders use the power of fellowship to build up those they oversee. They especially need times where they don’t have to be the “workers.” They need times when they get cared for. They need time to blow off steam and relax. Effective leaders will create times and opportunities for those under them to enjoy fellowship with one another. The concept of “doing life together” is described by Paul in I Thessalonians 2:7-9. The relationships of Christians go beyond just completing tasks together.

Learning and practicing these habits can help you to become an effective leader of volunteers. But more importantly, you will serve God with excellence and love like He loves.

Linda Arnold, RN, MS, has led teams of volunteers as director of community impact, foreign and domestic missions, and through her work as a volunteer leader with Lutheran Women’s Missionary League and Women’s Leadership Institute. She currently teaches future nurses at Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois.

Resource: Earley, D. (2006). 8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders. Houston, Texas: Cell Group Resources.

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Servant Leadership: Motivating Volunteers

“He called the crowd to him along with His disciples and said, “If anyone would follow after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)

Leading volunteers often comes with a cost. You are asking busy people to add another commitment to their lives and possibly make big sacrifices in the process. You know these people: the Children’s Ministry Leader, the Head Elder, the Worship Design Leader, the Music Team member, etc. As a servant leader, you must not only recruit volunteers, you need to keep them engaged and remind them of their value.

According to Janet Thompson in The Team That Jesus Built, “As Christian leaders, our responsibility is to educate team members in how to prioritize life so there’s always time to serve the Lord. That means we need to know how to do this ourselves.” It’s important to demonstrate a life that is Gospel-led. Volunteers and leaders alike need to set their minds on God’s plan!

INVEST IN TRAINING

A primary responsibility of a volunteer leader is that she provides ongoing training for those who serve on a regular basis. Training helps a natural talent to accelerate. There is always room for improvement. Remind people that when God gives us a task, He also promises to give the ability and strength to complete the task.

Volunteers stay committed when they know you care about their opinions and ideas. Volunteer leaders stay humble by being open to change. Everyone’s goal is to make a positive impression by serving others in the best way possible!

APPRECIATION IS ESSENTIAL

One of my favorite people is Lynn Wrightson, the Director of Volunteers for Mission Opportunities Short-Term (MOST) in Ann Arbor, MI.  MOST is a mission organization that depends on volunteers to collect, sort, and wash eyeglasses for use in the mission field. Specially trained volunteers are also needed to read prescriptions and grind lenses to fit donated frames. According to Lynn, volunteers are “the bread and butter of any organization. The volunteers here at MOST are all so wonderful and unique. They need to be appreciated…told how much the tasks they are doing are making a difference in the lives of people all over the world.”

Lynn stays in touch with her volunteers throughout the week and checks in on those who are sick, sad, or have a prayer request. She truly loves their servant hearts and dedication. As a leader, she expresses that love through acts of affirmation and appreciation. Every year Lynn celebrates volunteers by treating them to lunch and providing special gifts and treats that say “thank you.”

Fellowship is essential to healthy relationships among volunteers and can include a Bible or book study along with food, games, and entertainment. According to Lynn, “People need to know that you care about them for more than just what they can accomplish.”

EXPECT MISTAKES WILL HAPPEN

Volunteers are going to make mistakes and miss opportunities. They’re only human! As leaders we don’t expect 100% perfection, but we can equip volunteers with tools to make their job easier for them. We can help them see value in changing their approach to a task before they get discouraged and give up or quit. Jesus was patient with the disciples and sent them out time and time again. Above all, cover the ministry in prayer, especially if you’re rebuilding or refurbishing. The role of a leader is to encourage and not become discouraged. Resist the temptation to do a task yourself rather than empower someone else to learn from the experience.

Is there a place or time for leaders to express dissatisfaction with volunteers or confront them about a problem that threatens ministry? The answer is “Yes,” particularly if conflict resolution is called for between brothers and sisters in Christ. Whenever possible, begin the process of conflict resolution in private. And to avoid potential problems, include the biblical (Matthew 18:15-17) approach to conflict resolution in your training events. This is a valuable tool that emphasizes the power of forgiveness.

ORGANIZATION IS A MUST

Jesus provided many other excellent examples of leadership among volunteers. He was organized and knew how to delegate. Teams benefit by seeing organizational charts, so individuals know who to ask for help and who holds them accountable. Volunteers want to be held responsible because it places value on their role in the organization. In turn, leaders want to make sure that volunteers are serving for the good of others, not to benefit themselves or draw attention to their own accomplishments.

PARTNER WITH PEOPLE

Volunteers are special people. Leaders are special people too. Each one has a heart for ministry, but views it from a different perspective. Learning to appreciate one another’s position is essential and leads to cooperation and moves the church or organization forward. This positive bond among staff, lay leaders, and lay volunteers is priceless and easily spotted from afar. Guests and visitors can tell when there is harmony among those who provide the worship experience each Sunday and lead ministry throughout the week. 

Resources

Janet Thompson, The Team That Jesus Built; (Birmingham, AL: New Hope Publishers, 2011)

Jim Wildeman, “Recruiting Volunteers Like Jesus Did

Church Volunteers Recruiting: 7 KEYS to Helping Believers Discover their Spiritual Gift of Faith and Rewards of Service 

Related Resources

Click here to learn more about Spiritual Gifts Assessment.

Click here to learn more about Equipping Volunteers.

 About the Author: Linda Murdock is the Ministry Assistant at Living Water Church in Whitmore Lake, MI. Her job description includes Assimilation and Volunteer Recruitment along with responsibilities for administration, hospitality, publicity, and ministry planning. Linda is the Recording Secretary of the Women’s Leadership Institute and also serves on the Board of MOST Ministries (Mission Opportunities Short-Term). She and her husband Frank reside in Ann Arbor, MI where they have raised three children.

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Servant Leadership: Recruiting Volunteers

“Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvests, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest fields.” (Matthew 9:37-38)

Have you ever wondered how Jesus was so successful at making disciples who followed Him to the cross? Have you ever longed to be that charismatic leader who attracts others to your vision for ministry in your church? If you’ve found yourself identified with a job description that includes “Director of Volunteers,” you may quickly find it’s a formidable challenge. That’s why it’s important to understand what makes volunteers step up and stay connected to ministry both inside and outside of the church community.

In Matthew 20:28 Jesus said “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” The heart of a volunteer leader must have the determination to love the Lord and then the willingness to work alongside others for the greater good. Jesus showed others how to make a meaningful difference in the lives of hurting, helpless, and unbelieving people.

JESUS SET THE EXAMPLE FOR LEADERS

 “Come follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men. At once they left their nets and followed Him.” (Mark 1:16-18)

Jesus built a ministry team made up of gifted individuals who would carry out His earthly mission and vision for the Kingdom of God. He recognized their potential and promised to make them “fishers of men.” They recognized Him as the wholly trustworthy God and followed His example. He demonstrated authenticity and integrity.  Jesus knew the disciples would need education and encouragement before they were ready to serve, but the disciples stepped forward in faith and eventually grew to spiritual maturity. Jesus allowed them to take baby steps and knew they would flourish.

GIFTS AND STRENGTHS ARE KEY

Sometimes “giftedness” is very obvious and there is no doubt that a certain individual is the right fit for a ministry task. Other times gifts may require some assessment before being identified. There are many spiritual gift identifying tools available which are helpful to some extent. However, nothing is more reliable than trying a job “on for size” to see whether it ultimately brings joy and contentment. Potential volunteers might even shadow another volunteer for a first-hand experience to check out a task with “no strings attached,” followed by a self-evaluation to see if the ministry fits. Remind volunteers that their gifts and their progress in developing those gifts is a blessing from God.

For example, Sunday School teaching is a bit out of my comfort zone. It’s hard work that always requires preparation and rehearsal. But the spiritual growth, fun, and happiness brought to children far outweighs the task and ultimately provides me with meaningful satisfaction and valuable life lessons. When you think about volunteering as discipleship, it affords a wonderful opportunity to experience Christ by serving others. 

HELP OTHERS FIND THEIR SWEET SPOT

Writing for Proverbs 31 Ministries, Ruth Soukup speaks about finding your sweet spot, meaning: “embracing the God-given talents you already have, rather than the ones you wish you had.” A sweet spot is that place where your most heartfelt passions and talents intersect. Ultimately “it’s that special place where we feel most called, that thing we love, that thing we’re great at that makes life worth living.”

According to Soukup, each of us has different gifts and they all come from God. Finding your “sweet spot” is sometimes a messy process. Fear of failure can deter volunteers from trying, but your role as leader is to reassure them that mistakes are part of the process and will help them to discover their identify in Christ. Above all, encourage potential volunteers to pray about finding the right place in ministry! Mobilize a prayer team to pray for the right people with the right gifts to join you in ministry.

RECRUITMENT IS FUNDAMENTAL

Recruitment is the most time-consuming aspect of volunteer leadership. It’s not uncommon for churches to have 20% of the membership doing 80% of the work at hand. Announcements in the bulletin or from the pulpit are rarely productive in terms of getting volunteers to emerge. A face-to-face invitation is usually more effective and requires a genuine expression of confidence in another’s ability to serve. It’s also helpful to make an interview appointment to get to know someone better before drafting them for a position.

Recruitment is not a sales job nor a desperate plea for help. It’s simply a way to ask someone to think about serving and finding their place in the church community. No volunteer job is a lifetime commitment. There’s always a chance to move on to something else that’s better suited to a person’s skills and abilities. However, just as volunteers need time to get better at what they do, aspiring leaders know that leadership is a long-term commitment because it takes time and experience to become competent.

Humor is another great way to promote the need for volunteers. Drama and videos announcing the need for VBS workers, greeters, etc. can go a long way to put potential volunteers in a good frame of mind while they think about volunteering to serve. Consider tapping into the careers of professional actors or performers in your congregation to help in this way. (Check out the video by The Skit Guys)

Ministry fairs or UServe events are additional ways to demonstrate and celebrate volunteerism in a community atmosphere. The goal is to let people know that serving can be fun and won’t be work in the sense of drudgery. 

PROVIDE JOB DESCRIPTIONS

One of the obstacles to obtaining volunteers is that people do not understand what is expected of them. A simple job description is a helpful tool to explain the scope of work before they agree to take on a task. Jesus described the role of a disciple and provided instruction throughout the Gospels.

Job descriptions are best if they are not generic, but appropriate to the setting and situation. Make sure volunteers know the positive impact they will have on others’ lives. Ideally the job description encourages volunteers to pray before and after their time of service.

TEAMS THAT ARE PURPOSE-DRIVEN

Every ministry needs a mission statement and every team position requires a short purpose statement that supports the ministry. These statements need to be regularly reviewed, because over time the ministry will evolve from when you first started leading. No matter what, each team member is a contributor and works together toward the good of the whole.

Jesus recruited with a purpose because He was gradually building a team. He knew what His purpose was on earth and chose the right individuals with specific gifts to help fulfill His ministry. He knew the importance of blending talent and skills when forming teams and that engagement increases when leaders focus on volunteer strengths. Allow time between the initial “ask” and following up with a prospective volunteer. They will appreciate the opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns.

Follow Jesus’ example in recruiting people for ministry by displaying your trustworthiness. Discover the strengths of your volunteers and help them find their sweet spot. Help others find their place the church community. Remember the needs of the volunteers to know what is expected of them and their part in the greater purpose of ministry.

Volunteer leaders have a formidable job when it comes to recruiting people. However, the work becomes less burdensome when looked at as a partnership and a blessing.

About the Author: Linda Murdock is the Ministry Assistant at Living Water Church in Whitmore Lake, MI. Her job description includes Assimilation and Volunteer Recruitment along with responsibilities for administration, hospitality, publicity, and ministry planning. Linda is the Recording Secretary of the Women’s Leadership Institute and also serves on the Board of MOST Ministries (Mission Opportunities Short-Term). She and her husband Frank reside in Ann Arbor, MI where they have raised three children.

Resources

Ruth Soukup, “Finding Your Sweet Spot,” http://proverbs31.org/devotions/devo/finding-your-sweet-spot-2/

The Skit Guys, Church Announcement: Greeters, https://skitguys.com/videos/item/greeters

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.