Volunteer Problems and Solutions

My DCE professor, Mark Blanke, used to say that working with volunteers was like managing a company. The main difference is that in the “company” called the church, workers weren’t paid and didn’t have to show up to do the work they were asked to do. If you are a volunteer youth worker, part-time, or full-time and working with volunteers, you know that sometimes things can get a little dicey. Below are some potential volunteer problems and solutions. We’ll talk about a couple each post for the next few posts. Feel free to add your own in the comments and we’ll try to cover that one too!

Problem 1: It’s not the right fit

Youth ministry has a long history of simply shoving “warm bodies” into the volunteer void. Sometimes, there are volunteers who are enthusiastic to serve in an area that doesn’t match their skill set–and they seem to have no idea. So what do you do when the person serving is willing but they are not gifted to serve in that capacity?

Solution: Help find the right spot to serve

Chances are the person who is willing to serve wants to find the place that’s the right fit for them. Several years ago, we had a mom who wanted to help the youth ministry program here. However, she didn’t really care to chaperone or teach. Instead, the mom gladly volunteered to help organize fundraisers (and workers) for the National Youth Gathering. This woman also helped keep track of all monies that were earned, who earned them, etc. She was an invaluable asset to our ministry because the role fit her gifts and passions in a way that both encouraged her and benefited the kids.

Bottom line: talk to your volunteers. Observe your volunteers. Give them a “trial run” teaching Sunday School or helping out with a smaller event before you make any final decisions. Find out what they’re really passionate about and things at which they excel. Not everyone is a teacher or suited to be a retreat chaperone. And they may not know that about themselves. Your role as “equipper” means that you might have to take some extra time with them to find their spot serving in the body of Christ.

Problem 2: I didn’t sign up for this!

I’d love to say that I’ve taken perfectly prepared youth workers on every trip. I’d also love to say that I’ve had leaders who were ready to teach Wednesday Bible Studies. But, I would be lying. As a full-time youth worker, I live, eat, sleep, and breathe the youth calendar at Messiah and I sometimes make the mistake of assuming that volunteers are the same way. News flash: they aren’t. Along with work, family, sports, and other events, volunteers have lots of things going on besides church. Sometimes, you get a volunteer who signs up to help and realizes that they are in over their heads. What do you do then?

Solution: Clear Expectations

The best thing you can do is have clear expectations. Sit down with the volunteer BEFORE they begin and outline the things for which they will be responsible. Allow them time to ask questions and clarify things. That also means allowing the volunteer an “out” if what they were signing up for isn’t what they thought. Several years ago, our church attended a middle school weekend event. I hadn’t spent much time preparing the volunteers and the weekend was spent in chaos. The next year (and all the years after), I’ve taken some time to sit down with the adult leaders attending, talk about responsibilities and what’s expected. It’s been much, much smoother.

Next time we’ll talk about two more problems and solutions. Have any suggestions? Leave them in the comments!

About the author

View more from

Related Resources

Why Build Resilient Youth in Youth Ministry?

Why Build Resilient Youth in Youth Ministry?

What is a resilient identity in Christ and why is it important for a healthy youth ministry? Check out this blog from the Seven Practices of Healthy Youth Ministry to find out more.

The Habits That We Make – Fundraising

The Habits That We Make – Fundraising

Should youth ministry, or any other ministry for that matter, rely on fundraising to significantly support their ministry functions? Sometimes the habits of fundraising get youth ministry into trouble. This article is designed to help you think more strategically about fundraising.

The Habits That We Make: Parents

The Habits That We Make: Parents

We all have harmful habits, even in our churches. This article helps us think about how we might have habits where parents are not growing in their own Biblical education or even expecting the church and its workers to be the primary teachers of the Christian faith for their children. By identifying these kinds of habits, we can see how we might change them.

The COVID-19 Pandemic: Change or Experience?

The COVID-19 Pandemic: Change or Experience?

As youth workers, we need to remember that this cohort that experienced the COVID pandemic during their younger years experienced it differently than adults. Through research, Dr. Tina Berg has been able to identify key learnings that can help us care for young people, particularly confirmands, in the wake of the pandemic.

The Habits That We Make – Isolation

The Habits That We Make – Isolation

We all have habits, some intentionally developed and others not. Knowing our habits in ministry can be important. For example, we may tend to isolate kids and/or youth from the rest of the congregation. This article talks about how to identify this habit and push against it.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How do I know if our youth ministry program is healthy and properly caring for our teens?

Discover how you can enhance your youth ministry and serve the youth in your church with Seven Practices of Healthy Youth Ministry.

Share This