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Thursday, May 13, 2010
Ask the Matriarch - Dealing with Volunteers
When almost everyone you work with is a volunteer, what do you do when the job isn't being done well (or at all!)? Our question this week comes from a minister wrestling with this very delicate issue:
Dear ATM- here’s something they didn’t teach us in seminary……how to (don’t like the word ‘fire’) ummm- find new opportunities to serve….yeah, that’s the ticket! Someone who has served the church well, but is too old/too tired/too divisive in their volunteering and ministry….any thoughts?
You are so right! Not every volunteer is a good volunteer, and sometimes ministry needs change and it’s time for a new direction, and sharing that news is not always easy.
It’s always good, I think, to make these decisions with others. Doing so alone renders you too powerful and too vulnerable (plus it’s just not fair to make the pastor do all the dirty work) Gather the appropriate people who should make such decisions with you, and determine what you, collectively, and by the Spirit’s leading, would be most helpful. They’ll have good ideas about what’s best and most fitting in this situation.
You’ve said an important thing—this volunteer has served well. Whatever your plans, I think it’s important to share with the person privately what’s unfolding, so that he/she can get used to a new plan. It’s important publicly thank and bless the person for his/her service to the church. After church coffee hour in their honor, words in worship or wherever this person’s ministry has been most visible are great places to thank them and God for their gifts. From there, move with care but speed to work with the appropriate persons or group to chart a new course.
Ya know, I vote with Jennifer, because she says it so well.
We don't call them volunteers at this church, we call them members in ministry. We also are working on getting everyone to identify their spiritual gifts along with their strengths so that they are putting those to work, not just volunteering to volunteer.
However, in a small church people feel like they have to volunteer for everything or not and consequently are not always happy or get burned out. Then you can also have people who are controllers. Then if the system allows unhealthy people to control others then it is hard to help them move on or to be in ministry where they best fit. That then means the whole system needs some treatment to help it get healthy to allow all to be in ministry where they best fit and to be able to deal with the ill health. (This can happen in large churches too.)
What about the rest of you? What is your experience in dealing with this tricky issue? Many churches struggle to fill all their volunteer roles and are ready to take anyone willing to do the job - regardless of ability or temperament. How do you manage such situations? Share with us in the comment section!