Dealing with Uncommitted Volunteers

For the past few weeks, in my series on Leader’s Always Hurt and Get Hurt, I have spent time sharing about the fact that we sometimes hurt others when we are in roles of leadership in ministry.

Now, we shift views. For the next few weeks, I will share how leaders are hurt by those that follow. Leadership is not easy and sometimes pain is a part of the process.

I once had a volunteer who volunteered to do everything in my ministry. He was enthusiastic, passionate about youth, and was ready to serve. As I began to work with him, I started to give him certain tasks for our youth ministry program. I asked him to lead some community builders, followed by some prayers. I eventually asked him to do an important task: lead a talk and reflection at one of our youth ministry nights. This was a big deal because he was ultimately in charge of the bulk of the program that night.

The evening comes. The youth are gathering in the meeting room. I notice that we have a higher number of youth in attendance that night. My volunteer is not there yet. I began to welcome the youth and open in a prayer. Still, not there. I finally realize that he is not going to come.

Now, I’m stuck. I spend the rest of the evening trying to make something up so that the night would be meaningful. The night was not a huge success. Because of that, I noticed that our next youth event had less numbers. I was bummed. I was hurt that my volunteer didn’t show up. Him not being there negatively impacted the ministry.

The next day I called him to find out what happened. He forgot. That did not make me feel better.

The lack of commitment and follow through by one of your team members can hurt, especially when you are relying on them in a big way.

When a member of the team fails to live up to their commitment, a response from you is necessary. Here are three steps that I recommend:

1. Immediately talk to the team member. Find out what happened. My volunteer may have had a legitimate excuse. In my case, he didn’t. If your team member doesn’t have a legitimate excuse, then I need to let him know the negative impact his lack of commitment had on the ministry. Most team members will be apologetic and fix their behavior. If you don’t speak with your team member, then the behavior will not change. You will continue to find yourself with the same problem because your chose not to do anything.

2. Monitor their performance and provide ongoing feedback. The feedback could be ways that the team member needs to change or it could be affirmation. Either way, it is necessary to help the team member either change their unacceptable behavior or reinforce their good behavior.

3. Fire the volunteer, if necessary. If your team member continues to let you down, then it might be time to remove them from that particular ministry.

Back to my volunteer who hurt me and let me down. Eventually, we discovered that his behavior was not going to change. I found myself in a pinch a few more times because he failed to do what was expected of him. He did eventually decide to leave my ministry. I hope that you find yourself in a different situation.

Question: How would you go about sharing your feedback with an uncommitted volunteer?

John Rinaldo

As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.


John Rinaldo


As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.



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