Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Top 7 Reasons Volunteers Quit

I recently participated in a very good webinar via the Church Volunteer Central website. Church Volunteer Central is a wonderful resource for churches and worth every penny for the yearly membership.

Here's my summation of what I learned:

1. The position is not suited for the volunteer's gifting or passion.

This would be like buying shoes for the style, with no concern as to the fit or comfort. You won't wear them long.

I recently talked with a church member about volunteering in the children's ministry. With a big sigh, she told me in what capacity she was already serving. She said that she hated every minute of it and dreaded when her (once a month) turn would come up. Why? Because she does not feel equipped to do what she is doing. When asked why she did not, instead, volunteer in another area, she sighed again and said, "I'm just one of those people who sees a need and fills it."

It is just a matter of time before she will be completely burned out. Tragic.

Solution: Interview about passions and interests prior to serving, or a spiritual gifts assessment. There are so many ways to serve in a church, it is needless to stick people where they feel unprepared or ill equipped.

2. The volunteer has unclear expectations for the position.

I talked with another volunteer who thought he knew what he was signing up for, but had no access to a written ministry description with clear expectations for the volunteer position. So he felt trapped, with no way out.

Solution: Ministry Descriptions, which include: the title of the position, its purpose, who the volunteer will be responsible to, a description of the duties, time requirements, term of service, training and resources available, and qualifications, skills, and gifts needed.

3. The position no longer excites the volunteer's passion and does not provide growth opportunities.

Even as adults, we grow and change over time, often as we enter a new phase of our lives. What would it look like in a church if we were so connected among ministries, that if I saw that you were no longer interested or passionate about the area in which you were volunteering in my ministry, that I was able to help steer you toward another ministry that might be more suited to you?

Solution: Redirect volunteers to another ministry opportunity. Some churches use a Referral of Volunteer Prospect form which is passed from one ministry leader to another as appropriate. Once received, the ministry leader follows up with contact within two weeks to discuss with the prospective volunteer their interest in exploring a new ministry in which to serve.

4. Volunteer feels a lack of appreciation and recognition.

All too often, churches operate in "warm body mode." We make a general announcement about a need for teachers, which communicates that anyone will do. Then, when some sweet soul offers to help, we quickly stick her in the classroom and with a quick, over the shoulder, "Let me know if you need anything!" scurry away before she can change her mind.

Or, how about the teacher who signs up to teach for a quarter and is left there for years without a break? This demonstrates a huge lack of respect and appreciation.

Solution: Show thanks and appreciation. How often? You can't do this too much. It begins with the initial request. The plea for workers should communicate that what they do matters. It should be one-on-one whenever possible and personal. For example, "I have heard that you are a talented teacher. You are just the person I am looking for to teach 5th grade." It should continue throughout their term of service. It should include private words of appreciation and public recognition whenever possible and appropriate.

5. The volunteer lacks training to be successful in that position.

All too often, teachers are placed in the classroom and left to write their own curriculum, make their own handouts and attendance charts and find their own subs. There is no excuse for placing a volunteer in a position, then not providing the training, equipping, or support for the volunteer to be successful.

Solution: Providing a library of training resources, having in-house teacher trainers, providing on-line training, classes, or resources, providing lesson plans, books, articles, workshops, and conferences. This communicates that the church thinks their service is important. It prepares them to succeed in ministry, and builds their confidence. Trained, equipped, and supported volunteers are essential to an outstanding ministry.

6. The volunteer has over-extended his commitment and no longer has adequate time to do the job as he would like.
"I have so much on my plate the food is falling off!"

Solution: Encourage the volunteer to balance church and home. Provide resources; provide assistance or a replacement if needed. Change the size or the portion of the food on their plate so it fits better.

7. Lack of confidence in church leadership.

Solution: Church leaders need training, equipping, and support as well. They need resources, networking, and continuing education.

You cannot teach what you do not know
You cannot lead where you do not go

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