Out of all the tasks I have ever had to do in ministry, the one I liked least was having to fire a volunteer. In most every case, they have been good people trying to do their best, but the situation warranted me having to let them go from a specific ministry.
This is one of the most hurtful experiences that can happen in my series on Leader’s Always Hurt and Get Hurt.
As I mentioned last week, there are usually two good reasons to fire a volunteer. But the process of firing a volunteer can be a tough one. In fact, I would bet that most of us have avoided firing a volunteer even though we had good cause. It’s just a really hard thing to do.
Although I am about to share my strategy for firing a volunteer, I cannot guarantee that it will make the process easier. But when the time comes, at least we can have some steps to follow.
- Gather accurate information: Know exactly what behavior is causing you to consider firing the volunteer. The more specific and accurate you are about the situation and behavior, the easier it is to point to the “data” to show that a change is needed.
- Self-assess: Once you have gathered the accurate information on the volunteer, assess first if this is just someone that really bugs you or it is truly a behavior issue. Firing a volunteer because they annoy you is not a good reason to actually fire them. Really spend time praying and reflecting on the situation to determine if this is a situation that requires a change in attitude on your part, or a change of behavior on their part.
- Talk to your pastor/supervisor: Before you consider firing a volunteer, sit down and explain the situation with your pastor or supervisor. Don’t do something as difficult as firing a volunteer in a bubble. Get perspective from your pastor. Another reason to talk to your pastor in advance is that when this particular volunteer comes complaining to your pastor, you know that your pastor will have your back and not reverse the decision. If you skip this step and your pastor or supervisor does reverse your decision, then you have lost a great amount of influence and your ability to lead will have diminished.
- Sit down with the volunteer: When you fire a volunteer, it has to be face to face. You need the opportunity to explain yourself and they need the opportunity to ask questions. Explain that if they are going to continue to serve in this particular ministry, then their behavior needs to change. If they are not willing to change, then hopefully they decide to quit on their own. I know of one pastor who told me that the best way to fire someone is to help them realize that they are not a good fit and they decide to quit. That would be ideal, but does not always work.
- Do nothing: Once you have fired your volunteer, they might start to complain, talk to the pastor, or spread rumors. No matter what happens or what they say about you, you must not speak about the situation in public with anyone except your pastor/supervisor. No one needs to know why you fired a volunteer. It is a private situation, not a public matter.
- Properly document: You should write up a report for your files as an official record of the event. You may not ever need to refer to the report, but it is helpful to have just in case.
- Pray throughout the entire process: Ask God for the guidance you need to make a right decision, even if it a tough decision.
Firing a volunteer is a tough job and many times, the volunteer will feel hurt by you. There are good reasons to fire someone. If you ignore the situation because you can’t bring yourself to fire them, then it only makes your ministry worse and low morale starts to creep into your ministry.
Question: have you ever had to fire a volunteer? What was the experience like for you?