How to Lose Volunteers (and Possibly Church Members) – A Tutorial for Pastors

  • Don’t keep people’s talents in mind when asking them to volunteer for things. Example: Ask someone with paralyzing stage fright to sing in front of the church.
  • Make sure people know that some volunteer work is more important than others. Example: Really push people to show up to a workday but not to join the choir.
  • Pile down people who are willing to work. Example: Have someone who is leading a Bible study, teaching a class, running a small group, serving on committees, working in the music program every Sunday, helping with VBS, attending work days, and more. They can balance that with their kids, spouse, job, and other parts of life. Burnout, shmernout.
  • Have more programs than your church can reasonably sustain. Example: Your church has 60 members. Have tons of classes, small groups, Bible studies, VBS programs, children’s programs, men’s and women’s group programs . . .
  • Schedule volunteer events at the worst possible times for the people you want to come. Example: Schedule a young parent event at 8 am on a Saturday or an event for older saints at 9 pm on a Friday.
  • Shame those who choose to not volunteer for certain events (or allow others to do so publicly). Example: Say from the pulpit, “It really is too bad that more of the young people in this church don’t come to the women’s group events.” Better yet, allow someone from the group in question to make such a statement and don’t say anything about it.
  • Prioritize where volunteers are needed based on how much you like the person or people who are running them. Example: Does your favorite person in the church work in the nursery but complain about needing more people? Make sure you push people in that direction, no matter what.
  • Don’t take into account other things that are going on in someone’s life. Example: Tell the young mother of two who works 50 hours a week, cares for her home and husband, and runs a women’s prayer group in her home that she needs to also be on a committee.
  • Don’t take into account how much work someone is doing in other areas of the church. Example: Tell someone that their work is required in programs you think need volunteers, regardless of the fact that they are volunteering in three or four other areas in the church.
  • Don’t require the same amount of volunteer work from everyone. Example: Really push heavily for some people to volunteer, but ignore the fact the many others do no work in the church at all (and are never asked to do so).
  • Make “volunteer” work non-optional in some instances. Example: Tell people that their child cannot be in the children’s program if they aren’t going to “volunteer” in said program.
  • Talk badly about those who don’t volunteer as much as you think they should behind their backs. Example: Tell everyone at a committee meeting that person x (who is not there) doesn’t work at the church as much as you think they should. Imply laziness.
  • Say nothing when your volunteers are treated poorly by members of the congregation. Example: Do people in your church yell at, belittle, gossip about, or insult your volunteers? It probably will help grow your volunteers holiness. Besides, you don’t want the people who act so poorly to leave the church, right?

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