When Volunteers Fail

Have you ever had this experience: A great person becomes a volunteer in your ministry and then does not follow through. He misses meetings. She doesn’t complete the task that was given to her. He flakes out on a lot of things. In the end, you end up doing the things that were assigned to this person.

Frustrating.

So you think to yourself: why is it so hard to find good volunteers? Why can’t she just do what she said she was going to do? I always have to do everything!

Yup. Frustrating.

I can’t control people’s behavior. People will do what they do. But what I have discovered in situations like this is that it’s usually my fault. You heard me right. Someone else not fulfilling their obligations is my fault.

Here’s why:

  • I didn’t set clear expectations. I find that I often bring a volunteer into ministry with a high level of excitement and energy, but I don’t provide enough clarity. When people get excited about the vision of the ministry, it’s easy to get prospective volunteers to jump on board. What I have found helpful is a simple job description that describes the expectations. Time commitment, skills needed, and expected responsibilities. A half page to one page is enough.
  • I didn’t offer enough support. As a leader, I not only need to offer good direction, I need to offer ongoing support. I need to consistently check in with my volunteer team to see how they are doing and what they need from me. This is about servant leadership, which I think is the highest form of leadership. I need to do whatever I can to help my volunteers be successful in their ministry roles.
  • I didn’t offer enough praise. I once heard someone say that the last time most people received applause was at their high school graduation. This means praise and affirmation need to become a daily part of my ministry as a leader. I need to find creative and consistent ways to affirm those that work with me. One caveat: don’t fake the praise. It needs to be authentic.
  • I didn’t properly interview them. That means this volunteer was a wrong fit. These are the types of things that are good to know before I bring a volunteer team member on board, not after they are on board and make mistakes. Never underestimate the power of a simple interview with a volunteer to find out a little about them and see if they are a good fit. The other side of the stone is to invite the prospective volunteer to check out the ministry first before they say yes.

Okay, enough focusing on my mistakes.

What are some things you do to avoid these mistakes?

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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