Expecting More From Our Volunteers

photo by marynbtol

Who says we can’t expect a lot from our volunteers? In fact, one of the biggest mistakes I make on a regular basis is not expecting a lot from them. There are times that I expect very little. And what do I get in return? Very little.

Unless I change my expectations.

I think we worry too much that our volunteers are going to leave the ministry or the church if we expect them to perform with excellence in their ministry. Yet, I don’t know a single volunteer that joins a ministry and hopes that it fails. In fact, they all want the ministry to succeed. If they didn’t expect it to succeed and grow, then they wouldn’t have volunteered in the first place.

As we continue our series on Leaders Always Hurt and Get Hurt, we need to find a way to have high expectations of our volunteers without hurting them in the process. It’s tricky, but it can be done.

How do we go about expecting more from our volunteers? How do we challenge them to go further without hurting them in the process?

  • Change your attitude
    First things first, change your attitude. It’s okay to expect results and high performance from our volunteers, as long as it is reasonable and realistic. Don’t assume they can’t do it. Assume that a volunteer is going to step up to the plate.
  • Define what success means for your volunteer
    When a volunteer signs up to help, inform them right up front what you expect from them and how they know they are succeeding. Similar to Key Results Area, we need to find measurable ways to help volunteers know they are succeeding. What does that look? It could very well mean connecting with three new youth during every youth night, inviting five friends to a new young adult program, or successfully getting everyone to share in their small group. It could be anything. Be specific and make it measurable.
  • Provide ongoing and immediate feedback, both positive and negative
    Most of us in ministry are not good about providing feedback to our volunteers, especially if it is negative. However, the only way they are going to know what to work on and improve is by us providing continual feedback. When a volunteer is leading a small group of youth, but not doing that well of a job, the time to provide the feedback is immediately after the small group meeting. Share with them what you observed and how they could do it better. Next time, the volunteer knows how to lead their small group better. The bar has been raised and you have set a clear expectation.
  • Provide ongoing training
    Send them to a conference. Do annual summer leadership trainings for your volunteers. Provide something to help them improve their skills. If you don’t provide training, they are not likely to improve and the results of their volunteer work will not increase.

If you follow those steps and they still feel hurt by you and decide to leave, then we need to be okay with that. Most likely, they are not in a place to serve well in ministry.

I learned early on that hurting people hurt people and are easily hurt by people. If that describes one of your volunteers, it is probably best that they leave.

If they are a hurting person or are not living up to the expectations that you have set forth, is it appropriate to fire them as a volunteer? If so, how do we fire them?

That will be the discussion for the next blog in this series.

Question: What has been the reaction from a volunteer that you have challenged with high expectations?

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.



Questions or Comments?

Join the conversation about Expecting More From Our Volunteers over in our Facebook group. GO THERE NOW

Try Out Our New Online Membership Community for Free!

Click the button below to find out more about Thrive and claim your invite to a free trial of the new community created exclusively for Catholic youth ministers.

CLICK HERE

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Become a ProjectYM VIP



You have Successfully Subscribed!