Published: 3 weeks ago

Q&A: How Do I Handle A Problem Volunteer?

Q:

We have an older lady that serves at one of our Worship Center doors. I did not ask her to serve, she just showed up and some of the other ushers gave her some bulletins to pass out. She has a somewhat forceful personality and I’m sure they just did what she wanted. She does not have the presence and personality that I want on my team.

Can you give me some guidance on how to handle this? I do not want to hurt her feelings. A while back, I tried giving her another job of picking up the bulletins, refilling pens, and checking on the bathrooms but that didn’t stick. She really likes having a position where she can be seen.

Thank you for any advice you can give.

[submitted via email and reprinted here with permission; I am choosing not to include the emailer’s name and church for obvious reasons 🙂 ]

A:

Here’s my advice:

Run. Run like the wind. Start a new life somewhere else. Don’t look back.

I’m kidding. Kind of. I’ve been down this road and I know what it’s like. There’s no easy fix for those of us who love people and don’t want to hurt their feelings. Neither is there an easy fix for people like me who aren’t fond of confrontation. With that said, a few thoughts:

1. Try to make a friend first.

Most of our people problems are relationship problems. Invite her out for coffee or lunch and get to know her as a person before you tackle her as a problem volunteer. Hear her heart and why she wants to serve. It may give you insight into a better place for her to use her skills.

2. Training should be a non-negotiable.

If she’s not willing to submit to training, she shouldn’t serve. Period. That gives you the chance to explain exactly what you need and expect from her. (Careful, though: don’t make a requirement of her that you haven’t given to others.)

3. Pair her with a rock star.

Put her beside someone (preferably her age and life stage) who is knocking it out of the park. If this is a trusted leader, let them know that they are her unofficial mentor. Give them the assignment of helping her improve her skills.

4. Find your win-win.

The bathrooms and pen refills didn’t work because it sounds like she wants to be at the door. But what if you helped her find a place she wanted to be more? That goes back to point #1…you’ll never know this if you don’t know her.

5. Give her a role with trusted friends.

If she’s not the kind of person you want to expose your guests to, then find a place where she can lead and make a difference, but that is more behind the scenes. Help her see that this is not a “lesser than” role. Serving in volunteer headquarters is one idea…she can serve your vols who understand and love her, rather than serving guests who may find her personality difficult.

6. Be direct.

I said it earlier: I’m no fan of conflict. But you don’t do your volunteer or yourself any favors by beating around the bush. Don’t start with the negative (“You’re not a good fit for this team and you’re fired.”). Appeal to kindness and attempt to develop her (see point #1). But if that doesn’t work, you need to be direct on expectations and consequences.

 

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