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Are You Sabotaging Your Ministry Volunteers?

Membership Level Guest

Author/Source: Mimi Bullock

Topic: Leadership, Volunteers, Partnering

We know it's not intentional. You would never purposely sabotage your volunteers. But what if it's happening anyway? These quick tips may help you become more aware of how you may be jeopardizing the volunteers in your ministry.

I am about to be very transparent here--learning how to manage people kindly and thoughtfully didn’t come easily for me. I have been blessed to work with some wonderful people, but working with me--a creative, sometimes unorganized children’s pastor--hasn’t always been easy. We’d show up to teach and realize I didn’t delegate a craft properly, or forgot to mention we needed a snack this week. I’m sure God has a special crown laid up for these first few groups of volunteers.

Twenty years later, I am happy to say that things are better, but I am of course a work in progress. In a recent heart-to-heart with a volunteer who used to work with me, I learned something surprising–this kind lady left my ministry feeling sabotaged. Looking back on the events, I could see how she would come to this conclusion. Now here’s the tough question: “Are you sabotaging your volunteers?” Well, maybe not, but I am willing to let you learn from my mistakes.

I didn’t share the lesson plan with the whole team. It was an oversight but it could have helped me communicate my vision better to the ones I depended on. When everyone can see the “big picture” they will understand why you’re plastering a giant paper whale on the wall or asking them to plug in four bubble machines. They never complained but they would have appreciated a bit more of a peek at the monthly or quarterly plan. My takeaway–share the plan!

I corrected volunteers in front of the children. Even if you wouldn’t have mediated a situation like your volunteer did, you shouldn’t correct them in front of little eyes. Now if they defer to you, that’s one thing, but if they’ve been called upon to make a decision in a situation, let them. (It’s not likely that you’d have a volunteer that put kids in danger.)

I put volunteers on the spot. In an abundance of excitement, I from time to time asked volunteers to share a testimony or tell a story, without prior notice. I’m a fly by the seat of my pants kind of gal, but not everyone is. I had to learn to resist the urge to put a helper on the spot. Now, I ask in advance how they feel about “on the spot” tasks.

I didn’t have a lesson ready, just in case. This is a rookie mistake but it took me forever to remember to correct it. Once in a blue moon, when you just can’t make it, have a lesson plan ready. I now have a plastic bin with everything my volunteer needs for a quick lesson. Everything is layed out and ready to go. It’s not fair to sabotage a volunteer who isn’t prepared to teach.

What mistakes have you made, that may have unintentionally sabotaged your volunteers' efforts? Share lessons that others can learn from your mistakes.


This post is located in the following zone(s): AdministrationArticlesRecruitingVolunteers
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