Do you ever have a volunteer that is not a great fit for your team or the position they are in on your team?

Do you worry about dealing with the situation because they are a volunteer?

I’ve been there.

You want to be gracious, but they feel entitled to their position or they have had a certain role or the same responsibilities for the last 50 years.

Or you may be in a situation where you don’t have enough people to remove any one on your volunteer team. You have a bad apple but are dependent on them or your services will not happen.

I’ve been there too.

Let me offer you several ideas for how to “fire” a volunteer. Before I do, let me mention a few things to keep in mind:

  • You’re their pastor first. It’s your job to help them find a place where they feel fulfilled. Be incredibly gracious and loving when you’re dealing with anyone on your team. Put on love!
  • God has put you in the position you’re in. You must be willing to step into the uncomfortable for the good of the culture of your team. Don’t be afraid to shake things up, try new strategies or do something different. God, and the church that’s paying you is holding you responsible for how you lead your team.

If you need to “fire” a volunteer, here’s how I’ve done it in the past and I pray these suggestions may help you if you’re in this very delicate situation. Sometimes you may try these in order or pick one that best meets your need:

1. Repurpose them to another position on your team

I found the best way to fire a volunteer, is not to flippantly get rid of them, but to strategically help them find a place of service that’s both a good fit for them and a good fit for your church.

The first strategy I would try would be to repurpose someone to another position on our team. Someone might not be a good fit as a camera operator but they would be a great ProPresenter Operator.

Have a one-on-one conversation with them.

Be very careful with your language in how you discuss this with this person.

Don’t say, “You’re terrible at camera, we’re going to move you to ProPresenter because I don’t think you’ll suck at that.”

Say something like, “Hey Bill, I’ve been thinking about you and praying for you lately man. I’m so grateful you’re on this team. As I was looking at our structure and how we are organizing our team, we had some openings in the ProPresenter position, and I thought of you. We have a ProPresenter training opening next Monday night. Would you be available to come to it? I think this would be such a great fit for your skill set.”

2. Create a new position that uses their skill set

I realized after years of leading teams and a major part of my job was to find ways to create as many serving opportunities on my team as I could. If someone wanted to help our team, they could – we had all ages and skill sets on our team. We had people that had no technical know-how but wanted to serve our team in some way. We built our org chart in such a way that those people had an easy on-ramp into a position. But sometimes, we even created new positions based on someone’s skill set.

When I had a volunteer I needed to “fire”, I would spend time praying about what they were really good at. I would pray for God to show me their abilities and skills. I would pray for Him to lay something on my heart that they could do for our team that would allow them to feel fulfilled and would help our team succeed.

Try creating a new position on your team – “Volunteer Headquarters Coordinator”, “Scheduling Coordinator”, have them help sign people in each Sunday morning, have them help make breakfast for your team, have them up coordinate events and have them serve as the Grill Master… try finding a spot where they can thrive and your team can thrive.

Use the same language I mentioned above. Bring this to them as a new opportunity in which God placed their name on your heart for. Bring this to them with excitement. I’m not suggesting that you deceive this person. I am suggesting that you propose the transition as just that – a transition into a new, needed position on your team.

I found that some volunteers that just weren’t cutting it in one position were a perfect fit for something else on the team. I could tap into their skills and abilities and keep their loyalty to our team.

3. Help them discover another ministry they can serve in

You may have a volunteer that may be in the wrong ministry. This person may be incredible with children but they are serving in production. Or they may just not be grasping the production experience but would be great on the parking team.

Here’s how I have handled this – I have a conversation with my staff team members in private. I explain that I think Bill isn’t cutting it in production but I think his skills would be great for their ministry. If they agree, I would have them approach Bill or us approach bill together and propose the ministry opportunity on their team.

4. Stop scheduling them

There are a few things on the teams I’ve led that I have little patience for. For instance, not showing up multiple times is something I don’t tolerate on my teams. I am gracious and make sure they knew they were scheduled and work to fix the problem. Remember to pastor first – they may be going through a life struggle that you need to help them through – and if that’s the case, sometimes a break from serving might be the best thing that needs to happen.

One way to “fire” a volunteer that’s not cutting it is to simply stop scheduling them as much. Or schedule them for a less crucial position. This may sound harsh on the outset, but think of it this way – in my case we had thousands of people gathering for a worship experience to worship and exalt the Creator of the Universe. When you don’t show up to a major position to create that experience, thousands of people suffer.

I’m not trying to lay a guilt trip down or intimidate, but I do want volunteers to realize the importance of their service. People get saved in our worship services. People are encouraged in their walk with Christ in our worship services. You not showing up is unacceptable and I once I see that happening on a constant basis, I stop scheduling you. Of course, be gracious for emergencies, sickness, and things of the like, I’m referring to this being a on-going issue with a specific volunteer.

Try to coach them in this situation. Have a conversation and explain to them that you’ve seen them not be as committed lately and would love to have them be more committed to what your team is after. Lead and coach in these moments with love.

If the problem still exists after that, I would stop scheduling them as much.

When I stopped scheduling them, I’ve had one of two things happen:

1 – They get disinterested in the team and ask to leave the team. Be okay with this! If they aren’t in it to win it, let free birds fly to somewhere they can serve with passion! Be sure you aren’t losing them from the church, and work to step in to make sure they still attend and are plugged into community at your church, but be okay with people that aren’t passionate your team leaving.

2 – They would come and ask why they haven’t been on the schedule as much lately.

5. Set Standards for your whole team

My last suggestion for how to “fire” a volunteer is to set standards you want to see in your team culture.

What I mean by that is this – it’s not about an individual, it’s about a team. It’s about creating opportunities for people to serve their church and to serve other people.

Let me give you a quick story here:

I had a volunteer at one church I served that was serving as a Director for our worship services every Sunday for every service. He had been in this position for years. In fact, his family rarely took a vacation because he felt the service could not go on without him. He also never actually attended a worship service and worshipped with his wife and family. When I came on staff, I had the vision to create multiple opportunities for many people to learn that position and all other positions on our team. He did not like this approach. He got so upset that he left the team for a while.

As harsh as it may sound – this is exactly what the team needed and exactly what his family needed. He eventually came back to the team and we had him serve once a month as a Director and help train other directors. His wife later came to me and thanked me – telling me that the only way she was able to worship with her husband was to sit in the back on the control room. She told be that he was very upset, but eventually realized that it was important to actually be in a worship service with his wife and family.

You don’t want to lose people, I get it. But sometimes shaking things up a little and letting the chips fall where they fall is a good thing.

It’s not about an individual – it’s not even about you, hello.

It’s about the ministry that God has placed you in, in this season of your life. Lead well.

You may have to set standards for your team that people don’t like but you feel is for the good of growing your team.

If I had to take a guess, if you were to ask the teams that I’ve led if they knew a volunteer had been “fired”, I can with confidence say that very few people knew what actually was going on. Don’t be deceptive – but have integrity and a servant spirit. Be intentional about serving volunteers that may be in the wrong spot.

There are no bad volunteers. Every person matters.

There may be volunteers that are misplaced and it’s your job to help them discover a place of service where they feel valued and fulfilled.

Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash