The reality is that many of us have churches that are in transition, rapid growth, or undergoing leadership challenges. Aversion is the common response to change—especially so it seems within the local church. People are not paid to sing in choir, usher at the door, or teach a kids class. So, how do you fire a volunteer and make them still feel like heroes? There are a few lessons I have learned from experience and others that might work well for you, too. Most of the issues we have with people have to do with our ability to lead them. With that, here are five lessons on how to fire church volunteers while making them our heroes.
5 lessons on How to FIRE Church Volunteers While Making Them Heroes!
Be a casting director not a boss. When in leadership, the worst thing you can do with volunteers is simply fill a slot. Instead, why not cast a person? Are you valuing who they are, or only what they do for you? Cast out of the skill, passion, and experience each one has. In days past, the boss thought he or she had to be the expert to dictate what people did—even in church work. Remember this: It’s not just about the task. It’s about the person.
Make change the new normal. The church may be that one place where your people feel things should remain familiar as the world around them reinvents itself every season. How do you combat this thinking? You must teach the value of change as what the new normal is. This means you point out that it is OK to paint the church building in intervals that are less than 30 years! This means you spread awareness about the changing neighborhood around the church. For your volunteers, some events that worked in the past simply do not need life support in perpetuity. To pull the plug, in this case, means you may be open to new and better discoveries.
Redeploy whenever possible. To employ as many in the work of your church is to include more people in the life of the church. As you fire volunteers you must look to redeploy them to a better fit or a more needed ministry. The biggest barrier to this is not your volunteer, it is the competition other teams or leaders and yourself may have. Imagine if all ministry leaders collaborated to put their respective team members in the best possible spot? It may hurt your own team to lose one. But, it might also breathe new life into a ministry that needs that volunteer more! As a leader, have an open hand and more may come to it than leaves it. Redeploy rather than remove.
Model servant-leadership. If you want to garner influence in making a difficult change, you have to model that it is not about you, the leader. If the congregation and the mission come first, the volunteer must learn that from your example. Just as the purpose of a ministry team is to serve others, the leader of that team must make it clear his or her role is to serve the team. Entitlement is not defeated from the bottom—it is stopped at the top. Lead in this way and you will have a much better time removing a person from a team.
Be a family not a factory. If in removing a team member from a role means you remove them from relationships, you have lost. A factory is about the assembly line. The final product comes out the end of the line and all involved serve the process. In ministry, people are both the product and the process of ministry. You do not fire a person from a family. You might change the chore duty up a bit, but the relationship is based on more than a task. The goal then is to value relationships while you change your volunteer team personnel or structure.
All of these do not make the process enjoyable to all and 100% safe. Keep focus on the mission which keeps people as the business of the church. When we lead this way, it’s more likely to make a hero out of that volunteer you fire than a bad fit would. You are kidding yourself if you think you can hold back change. Worse, you are hurting your church if you don’t retool your teams as needs change. If needed, are you ready to fire volunteers?
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