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How to Fire Your Volunteers

By Doug Franklin September 8, 2015

When I was a youth pastor, the hardest thing I ever had to do was remove an adult volunteer. Student problems were easy to deal with in comparison. There’s no easy way to tell an adult that their behavior is inappropriate and they need to take a step back.

Firing a volunteer starts when you “hire” them. That may sound like a tough way to start a relationship, and some of you are probably thinking, I never actually hired them; they just appeared. Or maybe they were already volunteering when you first started in the ministry. But if you never explain expectations, cast the vision of the ministry, outline policies and procedures, or give them a job description, then how can you expect them to be the kind of volunteers you want them to be? How can you hold them accountable?

If you “hired” this volunteer the right way, sit down with them, go over what they are missing, and explain how it is affecting you and the ministry. Share your heart. Hopefully they will listen and be open to correction. If they respond in bitterness and nastiness and you can’t work with them moving forward, take a mature staff or ministry member with you and ask the difficult volunteer to leave for the sake of unity in the ministry. Help them find a new place to serve that better fits their gifts.

If you didn’t “hire” them properly or they’ve been around longer than you, sit down face to face and explain your expectations. Be open and honest about the problems. Start over by giving the vision, expectations, and a description of the volunteer duties required. Then meet with them weekly or monthly based on the severity of the issue. Use these meetings to give them feedback and accountability.

Consider using the following steps when you think you have a problem with an adult volunteer.

Step 1: Be Preemptive.

Firing volunteers_quoteAlmost every problem with adult volunteers starts with unmet expectations. Unless you are clear in your communication, your volunteers will create their own expectations. Most youth workers are so focused on students and logistics that they forget to communicate expectations to their volunteers.

Step 2: Be Consistent.

After communicating your expectations, it is important to uphold them consistently. Make sure volunteers understand the reasons behind what you are doing. Hold yourself and them to a high standard.

Step 3: Be Decisive.

When the time comes to take action, don’t hesitate. The longer you wait, the worse things will get. Decide on your course of action and follow through. Volunteers will appreciate your honesty, and consistency will convey care to the rest of your team.

Often the best thing you can do for a volunteer is to fire them. We learn the most important lessons in life from these pivotal moments. The other volunteers will be happier too. If you’ve noticed an issue, chances are, they’re being hampered by it as well. Being a leader requires commitment to your team, so pledge to always doing what is best for all of your volunteers. Just watch how it helps the whole team. 

CC Image courtesy sharyn morrow on Flickr.


About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More