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Top 10 Ways to Discourage a Church Volunteer

CTA - Christ to All /Feb. 06, 2018
Female volunteer sitting at desk with laptop

By Karen Kogler

Recognizing the many ways to do something the wrong way can help us learn to do it the right way. No one ever plans to discourage church volunteers. But we can easily (though unintentionally) discourage, confuse, and burn them out. Let’s start the countdown!

10. Motivate by guilt. When recruiting, focus on the shoulds and oughts. Remind them that their kid is in the program, it’s their turn, you’ve been doing it yourself for 14 years, and so on. Don’t ask about the gifts, skills, and passions God has given them. That might lead them to volunteer for a different ministry.

9. Ask the same people again and again. Add a note of desperation to your voice. Note which people usually have trouble saying no—and ask them first. Wait until the last minute to begin recruiting, and you’ll have no trouble sounding desperate.

8. Avoid job descriptions. If you have written a clear, one-page summary of the tasks and outcomes, how can you be vague and evasive when your potential recruit asks about the duties of the position?

7. Don’t show them what to do or coach them through the first few months. When you’ve got someone hooked, don’t stick around. They’ll eventually figure things out on their own. If you disappear, you can avoid their questions or suggestions. “Sink or swim” worked when your uncle tossed you into the lake at age six, didn’t it? (You have been an avid swimmer ever since, right?)

6. Avoid problem solving. This is another reason to disappear; you won’t have to deal with problems. If you notice a problem anyway, quickly stick your head in the sand.

5. Avoid new ideas. New volunteers often bring new ideas. Simply saying, “We’ve always done it this way,” will keep your life simple.

4. Hang on to your volunteers at all costs. No matter what they’re dealing with at home or at work, remind them that their volunteer work at church is more important. Find ways to make them feel guilty if they mention quitting.

3. Avoid feedback. If there’s a problem with their service, tell several other people, but don’t address it directly with the volunteer. That way, you can relieve your frustration while avoiding potentially messy confrontations. Just hope your volunteers will hear about their faults through the grapevine, and you can avoid the difficult job of speaking the truth in love.

2. Reserve thank-yous and recognition for those who have served 25 years or more. This lets newer recruits know how long you expect them to continue in their position.

1. Waste their time. You’re the leader; your time is more valuable than their time.

All of us have been guilty of fueling discouragement in one or more of these ways from time to time. What a blessing that God’s forgiveness is always full and free in our Lord Jesus. He also gives us power to change our ways, to encourage others, and to treat other members of the body of Christ as we’d like to be treated.

Recruiting honestly, and providing training, support, and affirmation is almost always more time consuming and challenging. But, it better equips every volunteer to serve as the Lord’s disciples and then to go and make disciples.


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