Let Your Volunteers Go

When I married Erin, one of our vows was, “Till death do us part.”  That’s great for your marriage, but bad for your volunteers.

In ministry, we spend hours recruiting new volunteers, training those volunteers, and creating environments where those volunteers can use their spiritual gifts.  There’s a lot of time, energy, and resources poured into people.  The thought of letting your volunteers go seems counterproductive.  If volunteers leave, then we have to spend more time recruiting and training more volunteers!  Sounds exhausting!

Actually the opposite is true.  When you give your volunteers the freedom to go, you may begin to see more volunteers willing to sign up, more leaders being developed, and less burnout and exhaustion.

Here’s the key: New volunteers want to see there’s a way out before they commit to a way in.

If a volunteer can’t see a way out, he/she feels trapped.  No one wants to fall into a trap.  Sure, you can set a big piece of cheese in the trap to coerce people to sign up for your ministry.  But pretty soon they’ll stuck, burnout, and unwilling to serve again.

Our volunteers deserve better.  Our ministries deserve better.

Here are a few benefits of letting your volunteers go…

Benefit 1

Letting volunteers go isn’t about what you will lose, but what you will gain.  

You could argue that people today are unwilling to commit.  I would argue that people are readily willing to commit, they just don’t want to commit “till death do us part.” When you ask someone to serve for 6-9 months in a certain area, they are more willing to sign up again next time around.

Benefit 2

Letting volunteers go increases buy-in and reduces burnout.  

When someone says, “I’m burnout,” what they really mean is, “I feel stuck.”  When you ask people to serve in seasons (for example “Can you serve in this area for a semester?”), they know there’s a break just around the corner.  There’s hope when there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

Benefit 3

Letting volunteers go forces multiplication to happen.

We tend to do things ourselves when we think we are going to be around forever.  However, just knowing our time is coming to an end in a certain ministry, forces us to develop other people around us.  The ministry is bigger than one individual.  When we are aware of our own exit, we tend to pour into others around us.

Does your church/ministry let volunteers go?  What benefits are you seeing?  I’d love to hear about them!

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