How To Keep Your Volunteers From Hating To Volunteer

Square Peg Round Hole

A few weeks ago I was out getting a gift card for someone. As I went to the cashier to pay for it I quickly sized up which line I thought would go the fastest. I almost always do this whenever I’m out running errands and it almost always blows up in my face. This time, I thought, might be different.

It wasn’t. As I stood in line, watching the customers in the line I almost choose zip through like they were on a conveyor belt I couldn’t help but wonder what the hold up was. There weren’t a lot of people in my line and most of them didn’t have a lot of stuff. Needless to say I was pretty frustrated.

By the time I got to the font of the line I realized this was our cashier’s first day. The guy ahead of me was trying to counsel her after she had messed up his order pretty bad. Here’s how their conversation went:

Her: “I am SO sorry about the mix up!”

Him: “It happens. It’s your first day. I’m sure you’ll get better at it…or they’ll send you back to stocking shelves.”

Her: “I wish they would. I’m terrible at this! I’m much better at stocking shelves.”

As I was listening to their conversation I couldn’t help but wonder if her boss knew how much she hated her new job and how bad she was at it. Whenever I see people in situations like that I always wonder what in the world their managers are thinking.

I think this is a mistake that we in the church make, too. We’ve got a hole that needs to be filled and we’ll plug the nearest warm body in it so we can cross that off our list and move on to the next problem. While that’s not always a bad thing to do sometimes, if we find ourselves doing that more times than not then we’ve got a real problem on our hands.

Great ministries are good at not making their volunteers do things they aren’t good at.

It’s easy just to plug holes. But they never stay plugged for long, do they? Fill a hole with a person doing something they hate for long enough and you know what you get? Another hole. Why?

Because people don’t volunteer to do things they hate to do for very long.

You ministry has needs. I get it. Mine does too. We’re all guilty of putting people in spots they have no business being in. Sometimes it’s on accident. And sometimes it was to plug a hole “for a season.” The more we do this the more we’ll just have to go back and refill those positions later. And the more we do this the worse the reputation our ministry gets because people talk to people about great experiences and terrible ones. Let’s make a commitment to getting the right people in the right places. It’s hard to do, but it’s even harder not to in the long run.

How can your ministry get good at not making your volunteers do things they aren’t good at?

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