Releasing a Volunteer

Today I released a devoted ministry volunteer. He’s honest, available, driven—outspoken about causes he believes in—and he loves the Lord. He’s also creative and experienced. He told me, “I want this ministry to be effective and for you to feel supported in ministry.” Why would I release a volunteer who says things like that? Here are my reasons:

This volunteer’s words and actions didn’t always line-up.

• This volunteer told me he wanted to play a supportive, more influential role in the ministry. Here’s the problem: He initiated side conversations with other volunteers that incited negative, non-productive feedback about my leadership and the ministry’s direction.

Feedback—both positive and negative—is good and welcome, as long as the feedback is given to the right person. Criticism is useless if the person who needs to hear it, doesn’t get to and doesn’t have the opportunity to consider whether changes or improvements should be made. His talking about me behind my back told me that his agenda was more important than our ministry objectives.

• Burdened for the family unit and its health, he leveraged his ministry role to visit families in their homes, a positive and worthwhile effort. Here’s the problem: His style of communication and aggressive approach created discomfort for families, who felt he was trying to pry into their personal lives. When his expectations for the outcome of this type of ministry were unmet, he became frustrated.

• Open communication is important to him. He appreciated staying in the loop and staying in close communication. Here’s the problem: His frequency of communication was inappropriate; whether through a phone call, text, e-mail, or Facebook post—none of these communication avenues seemed sufficient to him. No amount of contact and opportunity to influence was enough. He wanted his voice to carry more weight. Because this wasn’t happening at a pace he was comfortable with he became frustrated and expressed his frustrations to teammates in an unhealthy, nonproductive way.

• He was quite persistent about team collaboration and meetings so volunteers had opportunity to discuss issues and discover best practices for their ministry roles. Here’s the problem: You can’t force people to attend a meeting. Meetings are scheduled, and people are given ample opportunity to share their perspectives. Then they don’t show. I’ve had to learn to be OK with that. That was not ok with him. He did not agree with my leadership and management style.

• His perspectives constantly challenged me in a good way. His creative ideas were genuinely good. Here’s the problem: He shared his perspectives and creative ideas aggressively, making them difficult for people to respect and receive. As a result, his initiatives were often not considered and inconsistently put into practice.
• He was quite comfortable initiating conversations with team members. Here’s the problem: These conversations had negative overtones, creating more challenges and complications than team unity.

So that’s why I released a devoted volunteer today. I don’t feel especially relieved, although maybe I should. I’m sure his feelings have been hurt, and I’m sorry about that. He is a brother in Christ and deeply devoted to being affective in ministry. If it were easy to “fire” any volunteer I would be concerned for other reasons. God’s people are not expendable. They are treasured and loved. Replacing faithful volunteers is not something a ministry leading likes to do. However, spending inordinate amounts of time and energy on one volunteer’s personal approach to ministry was keeping me from being affective in my ministry and leadership of many other committed volunteers. I know a few people will be confused by this turn of events. I may face some tough questions from church leadership. But I can say with confidence that this ministry will be healthier because of my decision.

Jamie Sulle

Jamie Sulle counts it a high honor to be a part of what God is doing in the lives of kids. She’s been a wife since 1997, a mom since 2001 and a lover of ministering to children and families since 2003. Jamie currently serves at Edgewater Alliance Church in Edgewater, FL as the Children’s Ministry Director. She believes helping kids know Jesus and their place in God’s big plan is a BIG deal.

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