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9 Mistakes You Could Be Making With Volunteers

There is no greater volunteer organization in the world than the church. We rely on volunteers for about everything. Here are some mistakes you might be making with the very people you need the most…and how to avoid them!

1. Use the church bulletin as your main source for new volunteers. This doesn’t work. In fact, the bulletin is the worst place in the world to recruit more help. Every now and then someone will respond, but it’s the exception, not the rule.

2. Give volunteers the grunt work. They’re not paid; right? I learned a long time ago that if I’m going to give someone grunt work, I better be willing to roll up my sleeves and help.

3. Give them a job and tell them that they are there until Jesus comes. This is a bad approach. Give new volunteers time to experience the job and see if it’s a good fit for them. Allow them to “test drive” the experience, so to speak, by connecting with another person serving in that role before committing entirely to it.

4. Give them a job with no instructions, expectations or feedback. Ministry descriptions (or job descriptions) along with clear vision and expectations are keys to making sure volunteers thrive.

5. If people are doing their job well, leave them alone. I have made this mistake over and over. Make sure your good, faithful volunteers have what they need, are getting fed themselves, and get breaks when they need them.

6. Keep volunteers in their current roles even if it is the wrong fit. This is a deadly mistake. Never leave a volunteer in a role very long without making sure it’s the right fit for that person. If it’s not right, end it immediately and give them something different to do in the church.

7. Direct the ministry or program from the Ivory Tower. The Ivory Tower is your office and your novel ideas. Don’t ask someone to do something you haven’t done yourself. Volunteers are partners. Allow them to speak into the ministry and program and take what they say seriously.

8. Take the credit for everything and ignore your volunteers. Don’t say a word about what they accomplished for your ministry. Don’t save your “thank you” for the annual volunteer appreciation event. Make them look good. Make them the heroes.

9. Be disorganized. This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Nothing will drive volunteers off any faster than wasting their time because you aren’t organized. People are attracted to excellence.

So, what do you think? Do you agree?  

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Ryan Frank, a veteran in children’s ministry, has served as a children's pastor for fifteen years. Ryan and his wife Beth are leaders of KidzMatter and publishers of K! Magazine. Ryan is also the Vice President of Innovation at Awana. The Franks reside in Converse, Indiana, with their two daughters, Luci and Londyn.