Follow this leader for five weeks as
she struggles with confronting volunteers.
If only volunteer management were as easy as it
sounds. But few leaders relish the tough side of management —
confronting problem behavior or asking volunteers for even more
In this first installment of a two-part series, Children’s
Ministry Magazine paired Denise Silva, a children’s ministry leader
at Gospel Tabernacle Church in North Bergen, New Jersey, who
struggles to confront volunteers, with Amy Dolan, founder of the
children’s ministry consulting company Lemon Lime Kids (www.lemonlimekids.com),
writer, and children’s minister. Over five weeks, the two tackled
Denise struggles with approaching volunteers who aren’t doing a
good job. She admits she’s reluctant to talk to them about
problems, and she feels as though some volunteers don’t respect her
I asked Denise to create a list of expectations for her volunteers
— for example, attend church services weekly, follow the
curriculum, live a holy life, provide a safe place for kids, and so
on. I wanted Denise to be clear with her volunteers about what’s
expected of them. I asked her to have her volunteers commit to
those expectations by signing a copy and then file each volunteer’s
signed copy. That way, when an issue arises she can refer back to
it with the volunteer.
I followed Amy’s advice and created a form with expectations. I
presented the expectations to my pastors, who approved them. I then
met with all my volunteers, explained the form, and asked them to
sign it. Everyone was willing to sign, and the forms did spur some
feedback, which was great because I got to answer questions and
clarify my thoughts regarding expectations. The questions also
allowed me to have one-to-one contact with certain
Implementing these expectations established consistency and unity
in our purpose for everyone. Now everyone knows the expectations.
In the future when I need to approach a volunteer, I’ll feel much
more confident because they’ve committed to and acknowledged the
expectations in writing.
This week I asked Denise to encourage the volunteers who are
following her expectations. When she sees someone praying for the
kids or following the curriculum, I asked her to encourage that
person specifically for following through on the
I also asked Denise to think about — but not approach — five key
volunteers who are consistently committed to her leadership. I want
her to consider these people as potential members of a key
volunteer leadership team. Denise has admitted that she’s tired and
needs more help, and I believe a key leadership team will relieve
some of her workload and stress each week.
I’m still excited with the results from setting my expectations!
Even so, I have concerns about some volunteers and, honestly, don’t
expect too much from them.
Amy’s next assignment is to encourage my volunteers when I “catch”
them doing the expected. So I mailed these volunteers encouragement
— cards with hot cocoa packets inside to warm them, just as they
warmed my heart.
The second part of my assignment is to list five volunteers who
consistently follow my leadership. After thinking about this for a
few days, I sent my list to her, and together we began praying for
Denise has great news! She had strong concerns about two specific
volunteers, and she was amazed this past Sunday when they arrived
early to volunteer and served faithfully and wholeheartedly the
I asked Denise to list the tasks a leadership team could
potentially take on to help lead the ministry, such as planning the
curriculum schedule, recruiting and coordinating volunteers,
purchasing supplies, helping plan VBS, and more. These should be
great big tasks that Denise would only give to people she fully
trusts and who respect her leadership. These people will team with
her in leading the ministry so she has more support.
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We’ve been praying the entire week for my five key volunteers. I’m
excited about the idea of establishing a leadership team — but I
have lots of uncertainties. I gave the questions to God. Having
more people on my leadership team to relieve some of my stress and
workload…what a dream and blessing!
I’ve written tasks for each person, such as recruiting volunteers,
preparing classrooms, directing a program, and so on. And I began
to pray more because I’m wondering, How am I ever going to ask
these people to do more, since they’re already involved? I
definitely need God here!
Denise has approached some volunteers she had concerns about. It
was difficult for her, and I’m proud of her effort. She’s nervous
about approaching her five key volunteers and asking them to do
more. I coached her on approaching volunteers whether they’re doing
an outstanding job or a poor job, and I encouraged her to remind
volunteers of the vision and purpose for the ministry.
I encouraged Denise to continue approaching volunteers, and I
reminded her that as the children’s pastor it’s her job to support
and represent the children. That means having difficult
conversations when necessary.
This week I had a very serious confrontation with a volunteer who
decided to place himself in another ministry. It was very difficult
for me. I asked for God’s help and was able to approach the
situation with love and sincerity. He didn’t see that he wasn’t
helping the overall ministry. I told Amy about my confrontation,
and she encouraged me. I’d been afraid of being hard on this
volunteer, but Amy agreed I was right and this was part of my job
in representing the kids.
About that encouragement card I sent — most of the volunteers
really liked it! One said, “I feel so special when I get mail from
Denise feels successful, but still overwhelmed. I assured her what
she’s doing is a process that’ll take time, and I encouraged her to
I asked Denise to make a list of five top reasons approaching
people intimidates her; for example, “I’m afraid people won’t like
me” or “I’m afraid people will talk about me.” I encouraged her to
pray about her list and ask her pastor, mentor, or best friend to
help her conquer the fears. By identifying the fears and working
through them, she’ll gain strength and power over them.
I approached one of my five volunteers and asked her to be in
charge of training and encouragement, and she said yes! Another has
stepped in and helped wonderfully in this process.
Amy and I agree that it’s not only hard to approach people for
unpleasant reasons, but also when we need people to take on more
I’m writing a list of my fears about approaching people, praying,
and finding someone to help me face them.
Best of all was when Amy said, “I believe in you!” Thanks, Amy,
for encouraging me to do my best for God.