the shape of leadership

Five Reasons Your Volunteers Quit

Help make serving a blessing rather than a burden

Influence Magazine on July 12, 2018

Do you have a volunteer problem? Hopefully not. Many churches go through times when they just don’t have enough hands on deck. Finding people to fill positions is challenging but rewarding.

What happens when a volunteer quits? Before you see another volunteer walk out the door, ask the right questions. Here are the top five reasons volunteers are quitting, and what to do about it:

1. Lack of Time

Many volunteers walk away from their positions because they just don’t have the time. Work commitments, children’s activities and family responsibilities can make volunteering a challenge. Even when the volunteering commitment is only monthly, some people bow out because of time constraints.

Find ways to engage people outside the normal volunteering schedule. Maybe they’re too busy on weekends but have time on Tuesday afternoon or could do something remotely from home. Get creative about finding time and space for people to use their gifts for the Kingdom.

2. Unclear Role

Another big reason people quit is because their role was poorly defined. Whether it’s leading a small group of kids or simply greeting at a door, it’s important to offer clear explanations of all volunteer roles. Never assume people know the job you’re asking them to do.

Continual training is vital to the health of all your volunteer positions. Provide clear training at least twice yearly, and follow up with refreshers regularly.

Get creative about finding time and space for people to use their gifts for the Kingdom.

3. Silenced Voice

When volunteers feel no one is listening to what they have to say, they will invariably quit. It may be as serious as voicing a criticism of a leader or procedure, or as simple as telling someone when supplies run low. If you are not listening to your volunteers when they speak, expect them to leave.

Make sure to provide plenty of feedback and allow for it as well. You can do this informally as you walk through your area on a weekend. But you should also provide a system for feedback, such as through email, a suggestion box or anonymously via the website.

4. Unmet Expectations

Leaders are really good about hyping up the power of volunteering before the task, but not so good about following through on the promise. If you have set an expectation that volunteering is great, your volunteers may check out when it’s not so great.

Instead of creating tasks, create experiences. Regularly celebrate their accomplishments. Make sure each volunteer, no matter what area they serve in, understands how their role fits in to what God is doing each week. Make volunteering fun!

5. Burnout

You can never completely avoid burnout among your volunteer staff. The pressures from daily life and the stresses of difficult circumstances can influence their decisions to quit. When you see a volunteer approaching burnout, treat it like a fire alarm, and get some help.

The best way to help a volunteer through burnout is to let them quit. That may seem counterintuitive, but once volunteers realize they have the freedom to step back once in a while, the pressure of obligation will recede. Give them a break, let them take a breather, and they will return stronger later on.

When you take proactive steps to address these problems, you will create happy volunteer experiences and strengthen your entire church.

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