I passionately believe that volunteers are and should always be a key part of any church/ministry media team. Because of that, how we work with them is a critical part of our leadership. In this post I want to look at how we address a situation where the volunteer isn’t working out for us.
The first thing I would say is that you MUST have these conversations and you need to have them in person. When someone isn’t working out, the worst two options you can choose are: a. Ignore the problem and hope it goes away or b. Use backhanded comments etc. in the hope they will “get” it – neither is a good way to deal with this nor will it help you longer term. So, how do you tackle this? Let me give you five keys I believe will really help you:
- Don’t let it get this far before you speak – it’s unlikely that this will be a sudden thing. It has more likely been building for a while and now needs confronting. Essentially, you need a policy on HOW to tackle this before it gets to the point you can’t take it anymore. The first time they hear you say they are underperforming should NOT be when you are trying to get rid of them – instead make sure you have regular and thorough feedback loops open with your volunteers so they know where they stand with you.
- Be open and honest – don’t hide what you think but equally (and most importantly) deal with YOUR OWN dysfunction and emotion first – what I mean by that is that if you feel anger or frustration, get before God and deal with those feelings – allow Him to bring healing and comfort first BEFORE you confront – that way you can leave the emotions out of it and make this a much more pleasant experience for both you and (most importantly) them.
- Make connection the aim of your conversation – so often we prioritize being “right” over being in relationship and that comes out in the way we communicate. When we are “listening” we often are only listening in order to rebut, defend or react (often to prove our point) rather than to understand. When we can take the emotions (see point 2) out of a conversation then we really can listen to understand – and then out of understanding, we can have compassion and empathy for the person we are speaking with. One way we can do that is to allow people the chance to speak WITHOUT interrupting and really listen to what is being said – it will help the person sitting opposite you to believe you are listening.
- Ask them what they think is going on – we often want to give our thoughts and launch into giving them feedback on all we think is wrong etc. However, a better way is to ask them questions: Prepare some questions ahead of time, ask open-ended questions (not that they can simply give a yes or no answer to) and try NOT to ask “leading” questions – for instance, “What do you think are the implications of when you don’t perform well?” is a leading question (you are giving them the answer you think you know already in the question). Instead, how about asking, “Tell me what you see as the main challenges when things don’t go as we plan?” That way you will get THEIR answer and they won’t be defensive either. The key though is that you want THEM empowered to give you THEIR thoughts before you dive in and give them yours – you may even find that they already know it’s not working out but didn’t want to let you down.
- OK, here is the MOST important thing – they are a “child of God”, so when you are talking with them and communicating with them, remember you are talking to one of His kids. Be honoring, be kind, walk in love and be grateful for all they have given to you, your team and the vision – it may not have worked out but still honor them for what they gave. Plus, you have the chance to encourage them into the next part of their journey – they are clearly keen to serve – so consider where can you steer them that will see them flourish and blossom – that’s ultimately what we all desire for ALL the members of His body – right?
I believe that if you do follow these tips, then dealing with volunteers who simply are not cut out to be on your team will be MUCH easier – both on them and also on you. It will grow your leadership to a whole new level and yours will be a team that people can’t wait to be a part of!
About the author
Graeme is a pioneer in Christian Media with over 25 years of experience. With a particular skill in live television, he has produced and directed some of the largest Christian events over the past two decades. Having worked in the USA, UK, Europe, Africa, Israel, Hong Kong, India, South America and Australia, Graeme is highly regarded within the industry as a Christian media professional. He has produced thousands of hours of world class Christian television, won numerous awards and worked with some of the best-known Christian ministers. Before founding Media Mentoring, Graeme was the Chief Operating Officer of GOD TV.