As a leader who depends on volunteers, the phrase “I need a break…” drive me nuts. For many ministries losing volunteers can serious jeopardize your ministry. That one particular volunteer might have filled a slot that no one else could fit or had a certain set of skills that made them vital to your program. Whoever they are and whatever they did the realization that they will no longer be part of the team can be a bear to wrestle with. Here are a couple of things to remember:
- God is in Control: At the end of the day God is in control and losing a volunteer will not throw God’s plans off. There have been countless times when I lost a volunteer and thought irreversible damage will be caused. Then later God rises up a new volunteer to fill that empty space. We may not see the “light at the end of the tunnel” but God does…trust Him.
- Love the Person: Volunteers are not “spot fillers”, they are not pawns and they are not indenture servants…they are God’s people. Your first responsibility as a leader is to love & serve them as brothers or sisters in Christ. Do not allow yourself to fall into the habit of using them, fall into the habit of empowering them as Christ disciples!
- Get Deeper Leadership: If losing one or two volunteers serious wrecks your ministry then you as a leader are not filling in behind yourself. Grow your ministry team in anticipation that people will leave. In today’s mobile world there are uncontrollable circumstances that will make people leave but also bring people in. Always be recruiting, never settle for the volunteers you need, focus on the people who God desires to lead His church.
- Keep the door open: When a volunteer leaves, remember that it may only be for a season. For that reason it is important to always end on a positive note. If you end the partnership with anger and bitterness there is a solid chance they will never consider volunteering for you again. Be appreciative of their investment and time; by them knowing you value them, they will likely return to your volunteer team.
- Should they Serve Elsewhere?: As much as I dislike losing a good volunteer, my loss could be another ministry’s gain. The church offers many ways for a person to serve. Offer departing volunteers to continue to serve in another capacity. A true leader focuses beyond their realm of responsibility and helps forward the “big picture” goals of the church.
Ministry is full of curve balls. Volunteers are never predictable but they are vital to a ministry’s health and effectiveness. They are valuable and God has entrusted them to you so that the church will advance…not make your job easy or increase your reputation. What encouragement or advice would you give to leaders who might periodically lose volunteers in the ministry?