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Youth Ministry Essentials: Before You Part Ways With A Volunteer

Guest Post by Chris Wesley

Here’s a moment of transparency: I’m sad to say there have been times when I’ve grown resentful toward one of my volunteers because he or she just weren’t gelling with our ministry. The actual source of the conflict was hard to determine. So I would just feel anxiety or frustration when it came to dealing with these individuals.

It may sound harsh, but these feelings developed because I didn’t know how to handle a volunteer who wasn’t a fit for our ministry.

How do we get ourselves into these messes? It could partly be that we accept volunteers, who might not be a great fit, simply because we need “warm bodies.” But even the most prudent interview process isn’t foolproof. So before you panic, hide, or decide to relieve a volunteer of his or her duties, consider these four actions steps to handling a volunteer who seems to be misplaced:

Seek An Outside Opinion

The reason you might not connect with this minister is because there is something about them that triggers a feeling in you. They might remind you of someone that you have clashed with in the past. Or it might simply be that your respective personalities don’t mesh. Sit down talk with someone you trust in your ministry to give you an outside perspective. If it’s about you and not them, you won’t make something out of nothing.

Move The Volunteer Within Your Ministry

If you have the wrong person in the wrong role you will constantly find yourself frustrated. Sometimes the best solution to a problem is a simple realignment. For example someone might have signed up to lead a small group because it seemed like fun. What you find is that their gifts are more useful in planning activities. But don’t just move the individual; work with him or her to discern the right area.

Give The Volunteer A Season Off

Your frustration with this volunteer might be due to something happening in his or her personal life. Maybe it’s a problem with family or a job and this individual just can’t shake. Give him or her time off to focus on what’s important, but when you do it, ensure that you will be there to welcome him or her back. And be sure that during the time away, you stay in touch.

Redirect The Volunteer’s Path

When a volunteer is no longer a good fit for student ministry, our tendency is to just cut him or her loose. Maybe we should consider helping this individual find the next step of his or her faith journey. So sit down and help the volunteer discover that place. Have a discussion with the individual about his or her passions and gifts.

Too many times we think the easiest solution to a volunteer that clashes in your ministry is to pray that he or she takes the initiative to leave. If you feel that way ask yourself, “Why do I fear the conflict?” What you need to do is lean into the conflict.

There is no easy or healthy way to avoid these situations, but the best way to prepare yourself for them is by creating a culture of investment in your ministry. If you are involved in your team’s life handling a crossroad like this will have clarity.

  • What other steps do you take in handling out of place volunteer ministers?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. With over 6 years of youth ministry experience you can read more about his journey on his blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

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Andy Blanks is the co-founder of youthministry360, a ministry committed to equipping youth workers through resources, training, community, and networking. Andy is passionate about God’s Word and the transformation it brings in the lives of God’s people. Andy is a writer, teacher, speaker, and a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan. He lives in Birmingham, AL with his wife and three daughters. Check out Andy’s youth ministry posts on the ym360 Blog (www.youthministry360.com/blog).