No matter how much screening you do, you can never screen out
difficult people from your ministry. Because the church is a “grace
place,” people come to your ministry with their “issues” — God
love ‘em. And try as you might, love and understanding may not be
all these people need. At some point, you have to manage them. Read
on to discover how to lead 10 of the most difficult volunteer
personalities (these are listed in no particular order, by the
The Big Talker
Usually Volunteers For: Anything and everything!
The Challenge: Talks a good talk, but never follows
This volunteer is easy to recruit but doesn’t get the job done.
Often The Big Talker, after saying yes, calls back weeks later and
says, “No, it won’t be possible for me to organize next week’s
vacation Bible school after all!”
The Solution: Establish evaluation checkpoints.
Clearly outline the responsibilities of the position in a job
description. If you go over the duties of the job with The Big
Talker, you may get a more sincere commitment. Don’t accept a “yes”
until the person has had time to think, pray, and consider the
position. In the job description, build in checkpoints or a
timetable so you can check to see if the volunteer is staying on
schedule. With this tool, you’ll know in advance if nothing has
been planned for VBS early in the game so you can find another
volunteer, or divide and reassign the tasks to others who can do
Usually Volunteers For: Committees, small groups, or
any role with a captive audience.
The Challenge: Focuses on the negative.
This volunteer always looks at what’s wrong with the situation
and rarely offers suggestions for improvement. The Whiner complains
about anything and everything, but continues to serve.
The Solution: Give this person short-term
Being a round peg in a square hole can often pave the way for
unhappiness and complaining. While this characteristic may be just
a part of an individual’s personality, you can often prevent it
from surfacing by placing the person in a ministry that gives him
or her great joy and fulfillment. Start with a personal interview
to find the person’s passion. Assessment tools such as spiritual
gift indicators and personality profiles can help you make a good
match. Place these people in short-term “trial” positions so they
can determine if a ministry is something they enjoy. Finding a good
match may not make them smile more, but it may cut down on the
Usually Volunteers For: Decision-making positions,
policy-setting boards, or planning committees.
The Challenge: Ego and pride.
This volunteer has been in control for so long that he’s become
a part of the foundation. The church will fall down if The Pillar
leaves, he thinks. This power (and self-deception) creates an
unwillingness to let new people participate in any significant
The Solution: Assign specific lengths of service.
Term limits for volunteers? You bet! Every position needs a job
description that clearly states when the position begins and ends.
This has two advantages. First, it prevents The Pillar from
monopolizing ministry so roles, tasks, and groups are available to
new people. Second, it prevents volunteers from burning out. Many
may want to step down but feel obligated to continue because “no
one else will do it.” You must change the culture in your church to
promote the idea that no one person does it all. As ministry is
shared, the load becomes lighter. Pillars need to understand that
the goal is to equip others so ministry is multiplied, rather than
trying to become Superman or Wonder Woman to keep the church