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Is It OK to Fire Volunteers?

Yes. I believe that volunteers must be accountable, and accountability includes the potential for removing someone from a volunteer position. Every church deserves our best effort and fervent commitment regardless of our employment status.

What I am not advocating is a license to remove volunteers because you don’t want to take the time to develop relationships with them. As leaders, we must pour into our volunteers and give them the love and care that they need. All too often, we unintentionally abuse volunteers because we expect them to serve, but we fail to serve them.

Furthermore, we must set goals, establish boundaries, and reiterate the vision so that our volunteers know how much we value them, what we expect from them, and what they can expect from us. If after taking these steps and loving on even the unlovely, you still have problematic volunteers, then it’s time to ‘fire’ them. Unlike in the corporate world, giving them the pink slip isn’t the best method. Instead, work with them to find out where their gifts and their temperament can best be utilized in service to the church. This is not the same as shoving a problematic person onto another ministry. Instead, it is an honest assessment to try to keep the person involved and serving. If necessary, provide counseling and a road map for recovery to help them become healthy.

Finally, if you’ve done everything above and just have a volunteer with a hard heart or a rebellious attitude, then it’s time to tell them they need to move on. Don’t let them sit and stew. If they can’t buy into the vision of the church, they need to find a church where they can follow the leadership. It’s better to remove these people than it is to let them poison the water in your vision well.  

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Anthony has worked in the secular world of A/V, the ministry world of church staff and the para-church ministry of three companies that serve the church space (Auxano, Fellowship Technologies and Worlds of Wow!). Today, his consultancy focuses on helping churches and para-church ministries leverage appropriate systems, processes and technologies for more effective ministry. Anthony leads out of his strengths of effectively caring for people, efficiently managing resources and enabling scalable growth. He has been consulting, teaching, writing and speaking to church and business leaders for nearly 20 years.