YOU CAN’T DO EFFECTIVE MINISTRY IF YOUR VOLUNTEERS KEEP QUITTING

Here’s the Top 5 Reasons Church Volunteers Quit. Learn Team Building & Leadership Skills that can help, especially for Women in Ministry in Small Churches.

  • If you spend tons of time finding new volunteers because your old ones keep leaving
  • If you feel like you are working overtime just filling volunteer spots
  • If you are doing too much yourself because you don’t have enough volunteers

Then you’ve got a leak in your volunteer bucket! And maybe a few of them.

Instead of wondering why…

  • Others are so uncommitted
  • Whether you are the right person to lead
  • If God is calling you out of this ministry-thing
  • Why no one wants to work with you

… Let’s Uncover the Top 5 Reasons Volunteers Quit

UNLOCKING THE REASON WHY VOLUNTEERS QUIT UNLOCKS A WHOLE LOT OF JOY

Some of my greatest happiness come from seeing people grow in their gifts and confidence. Knowing they are making a difference.

A volunteer in the right spot oozes life and energy and joy. And it’s contagious!

I love the spy-work and investigation of figuring out what makes people tick. What makes them unique. Seeing God’s thumbprint on their being.

Everyone has much to give in a small church. They just don’t always know what it is.

Unfortunately, sometimes even when we do the work of getting the right volunteer in the right spot, they quit anyway.

They start off excited and serving.

The shock hits when they stop abruptly. Or slowly fade away. Or the dreaded phone call comes, “I need to step back. I’m just too busy right now.”

PEOPLE DON’T QUIT BECAUSE THEY ARE BUSY

I know they say it.

But it’s not true.

Most People Hate to Give Negative Feedback

The truth is, most people avoid conflict and don’t want to hurt feelings. Especially with a person they will actually see again.

I’m one of those people.

I’ve had lots of bad haircuts. And when the stylist says, “What do you think?” I say, “Oh, it’s different. But I think I’ll like it after I’m used to it.” And then I cry in the car the whole way home.

Same thing when I’m out to eat.

If I’m unsatisfied at a restaurant, unless there is a blatant offense, I don’t tell them why I didn’t like my experience. I just don’t come back.

Same thing for your volunteers.

How much harder is it for a volunteer to tell you the real truth? It’s a negative truth, or they wouldn’t be quitting.

It is much easier to say “I’m just too busy”

If you’re just too busy, then no one is to blame. There is no fault. And next Sunday, we can all smile and hug and wish each other well.

Sadly though, it’s not true.

And if offers no resolution.

It also steals the possibility for heaps of joy and scads of personal growth. Both for the volunteer and the leader!

SO, LET’S STRIVE FOR HEAPS OF JOY AND SCADS OF PERSONAL GROWTH!

Let’s find out why volunteers really quit. And figure out how to plug the holes in your volunteer bucket.

(To connect with other people in small churches with similar struggles, consider joining The Creative Little Church Facebook Community!)

THE TOP 5 REASONS WHY CHURCH VOLUNTEERS QUIT

#1 VOLUNTEERS QUIT BECAUSE THEY DON’T FEEL NEEDED

If they don’t feel needed, you have 2 possible scenarios:

Scenario 1) They really are NOT needed.

You will lose volunteers and have a hard time getting them back if you constantly over-staff. If you need 3 craft leaders, and have 2 more with nothing to do, they will eventually quit.

And you will have a harder time recruiting in the future.

People don’t like having their time wasted.

TO PLUG THE LEAK:

  • Staff Realistically. (If you don’t know what you will need … then have 2 extra backups but let them know ahead of time they might not be needed. And during the event, if they are not needed, thank them profusely and give them permission to leave or just enjoy the food!)
  • Clarify what responsibilities are.
  • Write friendly job descriptions.

Scenario 2) They ARE Needed, but just don’t know it.

Years ago, in youth ministry, one volunteer was losing interest. She was an introvert. She saw other volunteers that seemed more skilled with kids. More energetic. People magnets & leaders. She felt like she didn’t fit the youth ministry mold.

I’m so glad we talked before she quit. Because I was able to tell her that was EXACTLY why I needed her. Why the kids needed her.

And everything changed.

You see, I needed her because she noticed the kids who were hanging back. Who weren’t included. She quietly connected with them. She was non-threatening to the introverts, the nerds, the artists. The ones who didn’t fit the loud, crazy youth group mold either!

The loud people-magnets don’t always notice. They are busy having fun and leading the crowd. The truth is, she had an invaluable position. I just hadn’t clearly explained it.

TO PLUG THE LEAK:

  • Let volunteers know why you need them. Why you chose them. Specifically. And individually.
  • Check in with them often.
  • Give lots of feedback.
  • Ask lots of questions.

#2 VOLUNTEERS QUIT BECAUSE THEY DON’T FEEL CAPABLE AND/OR SUCCESSFUL

Although being capable and being successful are two different things, I’m grouping them together because the fixes are the same.  

Again, 2 scenarios…

Scenario 1) They Really are NOT Capable and/or Successful

Sometimes they are really just in the wrong position. Other times they need more training to succeed.

TO PLUG THE LEAK:

If they are in the wrong spot:

  • Affirm them and help them find another spot.
  • Encourage them to try a new ministry area.
  • Create a position that uses the gifts they have.

If they need more training:

  • Develop a training plan. Be specific. Work together.
  • Let them see you in action first and then partner with someone the next time.
  • Set them up to succeed.

Scenario 2) They ARE Capable & Successful, but they don’t know it.

Sometimes this is a lack of self esteem.

Other times, they are unclear about what they are supposed to do. If they are unclear what success looks like, they’ll have no idea if they hit the mark.

TO PLUG THE LEAK:

  • Friendly written job descriptions are a must!
  • Give lots of reassurance and specific feedback. “That was amazing. You did such a great job making that…”
  • Ask questions after serving together, “ What went well? I really appreciated …”
  • Affirm. Affirm. Affirm.

#3 VOLUNTEERS QUIT BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE GOOD RELATIONSHIPS ON THE TEAM

First, is there a team?

People show up for people. It’s human nature. You need a team, a ministry family. Even if it’s small.

I’ll do anything for my friends.

I bet you would too.

(so would your volunteers)

Don’t just do ministry SIDE-BY-SIDE. Do ministry TOGETHER.

This requires intentional, skilled conversation. Growing in depth of knowledge of each other. Sharing lives. Hopes. Concerns. Joys.

Is this always easy? No. But the effort is worth the reward!

TO PLUG THE LEAK:

  • Focus on team building activities & sharing.
  • If you are uncomfortable in conversation, learn to initiate conversation. Ask open ended questions.
  • In your Team Meetings, include routine time to share highs and lows from the week.
  • Serve in teams as much as possible. Because sharing a job builds relationships.
  • Make time for 1-1 conversations and coffee dates.

#4 VOLUNTEERS QUIT BECAUSE THEIR INPUT IS NOT VALUED (OR EVEN ASKED FOR)

Volunteers work harder when they feel ownership. They are more committed when they have bought into the vision. When they are part of decision making.

People might give a little time for a project they are not invested in. But those who stay devoted, they have deeper ties.

If the only good ideas you have heard are your own ideas, then you will lose volunteers!

TO PLUG THE LEAK:

  • Help volunteers share the vision.
  • Create an environment open to new ideas.  
  • Ask for input.
  • Listen well.
  • Evaluate as partners.
  • Plan the future together.

#5 VOLUNTEERS QUIT BECAUSE THERE IS GENERAL LACK OF GOOD LEADERSHIP

While Reasons 1-4 could also fall under Leadership, number 5 is more General in nature.

Top complaints about General Leadership include:

  • Poor Communication
  • Not Enough Communication
  • Don’t Plan Far Enough Ahead
  • Lack of Professionalism
  • Wasted Time/Unproductive meetings
  • Lack of Integrity
  • No Follow-Through

We all need continual growth in leadership skills. If volunteers know you are growing, trying and learning, they’ll have more grace.

However, a this-is-what-you-get-attitude doesn’t attract volunteers. If you continue to come late, complain about people, run boring meetings, and communicate poorly, the volunteers you find will quit.

TO PLUG THE LEAK:

  • Learn how to lead a great meeting. Turn your meetings into productive parties that no one wants to miss.
  • Do what you say you are going to do. Don’t over-commit. Live your schedule. Come on time. Follow through.
  • Over-communicate. Use multiple communications platforms and communicate often. Communicate with a BOTH/AND philosophy. Use Social Media. Email. Phone calls. Fliers. Calendars. AND face-to-face. It might seem like overkill, but I have NEVER heard anyone complain, “That church leader communicates WAY too much.”
  • Create a positive environment. Don’t gossip. Season your conversation with gentleness. Don’t allow unproductive criticism from other team members. Have fun.

IT’S WORTH YOUR TIME TO PLUG THE LEAKS

As a Woman in Ministry, you are living out the big “C” Church.

The Body of Christ.

As our Creator designed it.

Every part of the body is Significant. Valued. Needed. Essential for the perfect functioning of the church.

If you team-build well, you will see people transform before your eyes as they ….

  • Cultivate their gifts beyond their own expectations
  • Foster relationships that last through life’s storms
  • Expand their passion for ministry
  • Become mentors for newer volunteers
  • Increase their confidence with every success
  • Evolve into ministry leaders themselves

IT TAKES A LONG-TERM VIEW TO BUILD A HEALTHY TEAM

If you have lots to improve, don’t let the feeling of overwhelm stop you from starting.

Overwhelm has a way of stealing our dreams.

DON’T LET IT STEAL YOURS!

Instead, pick just one thing from this post that stands out to you.

What is just ONE THING, you could start doing or do differently?

Here’s a few ideas:

  • Write some friendly job descriptions.
  • Meet 1-1 with a frustrated volunteer. Ask questions and listen.
  • Design a Volunteer Evaluation Survey for your next event.
  • Put a Team Evaluation Party on the calendar!
  • Brainstorm a list of needed skills so you can start a volunteer development track.
  • Read some blogs on how to become a great conversationalist.
  • Meet with a volunteer just for the purpose of getting to know her.
  • Tell a volunteer why she is important to your team.
  • Ask one of your safest friends what she loves about your leadership and also one thing she thinks you could improve on.

COMMIT TO DOING ONE THING TODAY

As your starting place, would you share your ONE THING with me?

My desire for The Creative Little Church is to develop a community of people in small churches who bring out the best in each other. Share Resources. Encourage Each Other. And Strive Together.

Maybe this is your starting place for this community!  

You can leave your ONE THING in the comment section below. Or, if you aren’t ready to go public or have questions, let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

READ MORE ABOUT WORKING WITH VOLUNTEERS:

How to Keep Your Cool with Angry People

The Ultimate Guide to Working With Volunteers