Updated: Aug 25
Church and ministry leaders have a perennial struggle in finding and keeping good volunteers. Let’s face it, without volunteers the ministry of the church would come to a grinding halt.
Today the ministry landscape for keeping good volunteers has become even more difficult. I'm going to cover this issue in two parts. My next article will focus on gaining and maintaining ministry volunteers. Right now, this article lists five reasons your ministry volunteers quit. Here we go!
1. It’s Out of My Control
I’m not giving this first reason just to make you feel better, but I hope it does. Sometimes volunteers quit because of things out of your control. Perhaps a volunteer has had a change in life. Maybe they had an addition to the family, or a job change that keeps them from being able to serve for the immediate future. I know of people who have stopped volunteering in church ministry because of aging parents who needed them more often. This is exactly what they should do. They need to take care of their family. We can all understand this. My point is simply this: You must prepare for life changes to happen in your volunteers that are out of your control.
2. I’m Burned Out
This is a common theme in our post-pandemic world. Many of our volunteers have heroically held things together. They’ve persevered through stress and trauma such as: life changes, job changes, loss, and health threats. When the pressure eases up, they begin to realize their emotional and perhaps even spiritual “tank” is empty. You’ve heard the saying, “You can’t give what you don’t have.” Well, they don’t have much left to give. It’s gone and so are they.
3. It’s Not a Good Fit
A volunteer may agree to join in a ministry, but later find out that it just is not a good fit for them. They, for whatever reason, are not passionate about it. It’s good to discover what your volunteers are passionate about, but that's for later.
Besides the “passion” issue, volunteers may not have a good experience in that ministry. Ministry expectations on the part of volunteers is an important thing and may contribute to more defections than you may realize. Some church leaders, in their eagerness to recruit volunteers, have painted a picture of a volunteer role that isn’t accurate. Be careful in your eagerness not to cause more problems down the road by mis-characterizing the experience of that ministry to a potential volunteer.
Sometimes it's not passion or experience, but an issue of skill that causes a volunteer to bow out of a ministry. The volunteer could come to the place where they believed his or her skills were not best utilized in this ministry.
4. I’m Not Being Supported
It’s common for volunteers to feel forgotten. A lot of attention was showered on them in recruiting and once they started, that attention went away. Hey, I’ve been there on both sides of it. We are busy people. There are so many things a church leader is trying to do. They don't have a lot of time to check up on all their volunteers to make sure they're okay. But it still needs to be done! They need to hear from you. Develop a system, offer some training, do an orientation, and find a way. More on that in the next article.
5. I’m Not Appreciated
Your volunteers will probably not come right out and say, “I’m not appreciated.” That would sound just a little too needy. However, they will quit if they feel like this for very long. Your volunteers need to know they are making a real difference to others. They didn’t volunteer because they didn’t have anything else to do. They volunteered because there was a need and meaning behind that ministry. Lack of appreciation translates into “not important.”
As you read through this, you likely had faces of volunteers appear in your mind’s eye. Why not take a moment to show some gratitude for them? Send a text, email, or a handwritten note. Think how you would feel if someone took a moment to express appreciation to you. You have in you the power through gratitude to lighten someone’s day and perhaps keep them as a ministry volunteer.