How To Lose Volunteers In The Small Church

Like it or not, the church is a volunteer-driven organization. Unless, of course, your church is so small (how small is it?) that you are the volunteer. That’s pretty small. In fact, the smaller your church is the less you need leaders and the more you just need helpers or…volunteers. Now apparently some of you are pretty good at losing volunteers because so many pastors want to talk to me about how frustrated they are with their dysfunctional and dwindling volunteer base. There’s always room for improvement. I want to share with you how you can become more effective in helping your volunteers quit.

First of all, over commit the few volunteers that you have. Volunteers love this. If they are good at doing one task they will probably be good at two, or three, or four. And especially if they were stupid enough to tell you “Anything you want pastor, I’m here to help.”, they have to expect that you will not pass up an opportunity like that.

It’s important for volunteers to confuse their commitment to the church for their commitment to the Lord. You see it as one and the same, so should they.

Keep them in the dark as to what exactly it is you want them to do. For example, if you want them to do A, B, C and D, only tell them about A and C. It’s best to spring things on them after they’ve signed on the dotted line. But don’t have them sign anything. Whatever you do, don’t give them a job description (wait, you’d better call it a ‘ministry-description or you’ll be accused of running a church like a business.) The bottom line is…don’t put your expectations down on paper. This way you can add things to their job without them knowing which will give you the freedom to be irritated at them for not doing what you never told them to do.

Whenever you meet with them limit the conversation to how they and their ministry are doing. Don’t check in about their family, their marriage, their soul. You only have so much time…focus on the important things, i.e. how they are helping you grow the church. Volunteers love this.

Oh…when you do meet with them make sure to list off what needs improvement. Volunteers love this. And whatever you do, never let them tell you what they think needs improvement in your areas of responsibility. Hey…who died and made them the boss.

Don’t bother praising them for a job well done in front of others. You don’t want this to go to their heads, after all, they should be looking for the praise of God, not man. Don’t feed that thing.

Make sure that their commitment is until Christ returns. Jesus didn’t take a break. You don’t get a break. Why should they expect one? Believe me, volunteers love open-ended commitments.

Training? Who needs training? You’re an intuitive leader, they should be an intuitive volunteer. And don’t go quoting Eph. 4:11,12 to me. That was easy for Paul to say because he never had a busy schedule like yours.

And finally…always, always, always expect your volunteers to be as committed to the church as you are. You don’t have a life outside of the church, why should they? And if they dare to admit that they don’t have enough time to volunteer any more than they are you can always resort to guilt and shame. Guilt and shame are very effective motivators. In fact you should plan to regularly preach on how screwed up Christian’s priorities are. Volunteers love this.

I hope you’ve found this helpful. Now go out there and lose some volunteers. God be with you.