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A volunteer scratches her head as she gives an excuse for being tardy.
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How to Handle Volunteers’ Top 9 Tardy Excuses Like a Pro

When we talk to children’s ministry leaders, they tell us that one of their biggest challenges is getting volunteers to show up on time. Tackle these top excuses for tardiness.

How to Handle Volunteers’ Top 9 Tardy Excuses Like a Pro

Excuse 1: “My alarm didn’t go off.”

While sometimes a legitimate claim, this excuse is often translated to: “I hit the snooze seven times, crawled out of bed, stumbled into the shower, and stood in the stall, dazed, for 30 minutes.” Or “It’s not important enough for me to get out of bed in time to get ready.” One great solution is to ask the volunteers who employ this excuse to begin showing up 15 minutes earlier. And offer to give them a wake-up call if necessary!

Excuse 2: “I had to return home because I forgot something.”

This excuse is boiled down to: lack of preparation. We’re all rushed in the mornings. Encourage your volunteers to spend a few extra minutes gathering all the supplies they’ll need for class and putting them near the door the night before. They won’t be pressed for time and can think through what they’ll need as well as uncover any missing items in an organized fashion that results in a better experience for everyone—including kids. They’ll be a lot less likely to forget things.

Excuse 3: “We couldn’t get everyone out of the house on time.”

This is Frenzied Family Syndrome. Alex and Andy are having a water fight rather than getting ready, the dog ran off, and the spouse is taking time burning the pancakes. The obvious solution? Get everyone out of bed earlier.

Excuse 4: “I had to pick up some last-minute supplies.”

Ask this volunteer for a list of the supplies he or she in running around for. If a class uses a large amount of a particular item, such as glue or tape, keep an abundance of it on hand for your volunteers. Watch for bargains on these items when you’re shopping for other things. Or get creative and figure out ways around a missing supply. Let your volunteers know you have their back and want to make their lives easier by having high-demand supplies always on hand.

Excuse 5: “I’m not feeling well.”

If you hear this excuse often, examine what’s really going on. Is the volunteer sick—or sick and tired? Does he avoid going to class until the last minute? Is every sniffle a reason to show up late or not at all? If so, he may be experiencing burnout and need a break.

Excuse 6: “The traffic was terrible.”

Leaving earlier or taking an alternate route will usually put this excuse to rest. Ask your volunteers to plan on arriving at church 15 minutes early instead of right on time.

Excuse 7: “I couldn’t find my (insert item here).”

This excuse means the volunteer needs a habit overhaul. If it’s missing keys, get a key holder. If it’s dress shoes, make a point to always put them back in the closet. Encourage a habit of always putting things in the same place, and volunteers will never be caught at five minutes past rifling the couch cushions for keys.

Excuse 8: “I’m running behind…again.”

Why? This nonspecific reason raises more questions than answers. If a volunteer is chronically late for everything, it’s time for a lifestyle change. If the volunteer is only late for class, it may be time for a different kind of change.

Excuse 9: “I was doing a favor for (insert name here).”

While no one will fault someone for lending a helping hand, there are certain downfalls to being a recognized “yes-person.” Eventually, these people are stretched so thin that even everyday things are overwhelming. Encourage this person to say no. Kindly remind her that she is the only one for her class; God led her to be there. Choose by first assigning the class the priority it takes. Can someone else do the favor? Can the person wait until after your class?

If you’re looking for effective ways to train your volunteer team, check out Good to Go video training from Group.

Want more volunteer management ideas? Check out these articles!

One thought on “How to Handle Volunteers’ Top 9 Tardy Excuses Like a Pro

  1. My children and I have had a sort of long-standing “rule” (that brings us plenty of laughs, but it works!) that if we were not at church in time to see the door opened — especially when we have any part in the service — we were late. 😉 I always liked to arrive a good half hour or hour before “my” children arrive to class. It is good for the teacher because then we have a whole lot less stress; it is good for the children because they always feel welcome; it is good for the parents because they don’t have to sit around and wonder — or even worse, fill in.

    The biggest thing that helped our family, I think, is that we kept an early schedule all week *and* through the weekend. It was just an enjoyable routine. You have a lot of great tips here, too.

    In recent years, my health has taken a toll to the point that I was struggling to even *get* to church, much less on time. At that point, I had to take a break from my in-person commitments 🙁 until the Lord opens the way again. <3

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