Dealing With Volunteers Who Chronically Show Up Late

One of the realities of a volunteer-based ministry is volunteers who run late. Occasionally you will have a volunteer show up late for any number of reasons but sometimes we encounter volunteers who build a reputation of being chronically late. As a leader, at some point you will probably have to manage volunteers who consistently show up late. Here are some leadership tips in dealing with late volunteers:

Set clear expectations early. The easiest way to avoid the problem of chronically late volunteers is to set clear expectations in the application and training phase of a new volunteer. At LifeCC, we ask our volunteers to be in their classrooms 20 minutes before service begins. Being early allows volunteers to prepare themselves and their rooms as well as welcome families who arrive early. All volunteers agree to this expectation before they begin serving. Setting that clear precedent can clear up any ambiguity in expectations.

Hold tight to grace. Jesus is pretty clear. Just as he shows us grace we must show grace to others (Matthew 18:21-35). Every now and then I encounter people who require some extra grace. This basically means to stay cool and not lose your temper…especially in public settings. Remember, that you are the church and you will always encounter people that will challenge you and stretch you. Keep your cool and always strive for grace-filled solutions.

Establish communication systems.  At LifeCC we over communicate. We have established systems to communicate and reiterate expectations to our volunteers. We do this by emailing and calling our volunteers every week to remind them they are scheduled to serve. We remind them that a) they are scheduled to serve, b) please be there 20 minutes before service begins, and c) to know their lessons ahead of time. The reminders may seem repetitive but it helps to minimize frustration on Sunday mornings.

Keep record of chronically late volunteers. Generalities usually end up bouncing off people however, having specific examples can help solidify your point. For instance, “you are always late” is an extremely general statement that can anger a person. Be more specific by saying “you were late the past two Sundays.” Let me be clear, keeping record is not to rub a volunteer’s nose in it but to help present a case that is concrete.

Re-emphasize expectations. Finally, if the volunteers continue to be late then you need to set up a meeting, confront the volunteers and re-emphasize the ministry’s expectations for its volunteers. Remember to hold tight to grace, explain your observations and re-iterate what the ministry expects. Remind them of the importance of showing up on time and thank them that they have made the decision to serve on your team.

As we manage our ministries, it’s important to remember that your volunteers will go through seasons that can challenge and affect their commitments. It’s crucial to always show appreciation. It’s just as crucial to communicate and uphold clear expectations. Do not let chronic issues, such as tardy volunteers, fester to the point of frustration. How have you dealt with chronically late volunteers?

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