Home Youth Leaders Articles for Youth Leaders Secret Words That Drive Volunteers Away

Secret Words That Drive Volunteers Away

Today I’m sharing the code words that you and I accidentally use …

… that make people NOT want to volunteer in our ministries.

We’ve heard plenty of excuses from people who would be great leaders.

And while those can be legitimate reasons, there’s a dirty little truth about those excuses.

Sometimes their real reasons are because of something WE did.

If we’re not careful, it’s easy to drive away potential volunteers without even realizing we’re doing it.

When we’re trying to recruit new volunteers, there is often a massive difference between what we say …

… and what they hear.

But because we live in a polite society, they don’t always tell us what we did wrong. They just tell us they’re too busy, not ready and maybe later.

Sometimes people are too busy to help and sometimes they just say that because we’ve scared them away.

If we’re not aware of it, even a seemingly innocuous sentence can send potential volunteers running for the door, never to return.

If you want to get better at bringing in quality leaders, start by avoiding ALL of the following phrases:

1. It’s really hard to find leaders for this program.

You’ve just invited a new volunteer to a party and then told her that no one wants to go to the party. Don’t be surprised when she doesn’t show up.

This is exactly the kind of throw away sentence that we don’t even notice we’re using, but that sends up red flags for your potential volunteer.

If she gets any hint that this ministry is flawed or unhealthy, she’ll find another ministry. She’ll wonder about the ‘real reasons’ that so many other smart people are staying away from your programs.

And she won’t say yes.

2. We’re trying to rebuild or rejuvenate something.

Sometimes the idea of bringing new life into something that’s dying can be inspiring and can convince people to jump onto your side.

After all, there are people who love to flip houses.

Then again, no one likes to do boat restoration, especially while the boat is actively sinking in a tumultuous ocean.

If you talk about rebuilding, expect your new volunteer to wonder about everything that’s broken.

3. If you have a pulse, you can do youth ministry!

We say this so innocently because we want to assure people that they are, in fact, qualified for the mission of ministry.

We want people to know that we value them even if they’re not super-cool, guitar-wielding, skateboard-flying Bible scholars …

… but statements like these communicate just the opposite.

If we communicate that we’ll literally take anyone, then everyone will expect someone else to do it. After all, you’ve just qualified 700 other people for ministry at the same time you asked me to do it!

4. Don’t worry if you can’t make it every week.

We say this to try to encourage busy people to be a part of our ministries. After all we’d rather have them sometimes than not at all.

But this message gets heard in a very different way.

It tells the volunteer that the role you’ve got for him might not be terribly important after all; that he’s not really needed.

If the youth ministry will be just fine twice a month when he’s not there, then won’t it be just fine every week if he’s not there?

It’s okay to allow volunteers some time away if they need it, but do it in away that communicates that they are important and valued, not easily replaced.

This is an incomplete list …

If you’re in youth ministry, or even in the business of recruiting volunteers, I’d love to hear more about how you’re doing it smarter.

What do you avoid when you’re talking to volunteers?

What do you make sure you always say?