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Saying Goodbye to Volunteer Leaders

How to do it well—in youth ministry and elsewhere
Saying Goodbye to Volunteer Leaders

Leaders naturally cycle in and out of ministry. When it’s a positive parting of ways, create an environment where the leader is honored for their service and students, parents, and other leaders have a chance to voice their thanks. Make this a consistent ritual for all positive departures. It’s a great way to respect someone’s legacy, to help students understand that they’re not being abandoned, and to communicate to the larger church body that all people are valued in the youth ministry. Have a time of prayer and blessing for the leader and perhaps gift them with something that will help them in their next stage of life or ministry. If they’re moving to a different ministry, have a leader from that ministry be in attendance so there’s a healthy passing of the baton.

When a team member isn’t working out in a ministry, typically we defer to mercy or grace—“They just need a little more time.” Or “We all make mistakes.” In reality, you need to let them go. Or as a colleague puts it, “Free them up to succeed elsewhere.” Before you let someone go, however, you need to make sure you’ve done three things:

1) Consistently given feedback. Part of your team development is observing team members in action and talking with them about what you observe. If someone isn’t working out, he or she should be aware of it well before it’s time to part ways. Ask yourself: Is this a ministry issue, an attitude issue, or a moral boundary issue? If it’s one (or both) of the first two, you can take some time to work with him or her on the difficulty. If it’s a moral boundary issue, investigate further if confirmed, then think about if an immediate release is needed. Then be sure to let your senior pastor or ministry supervisor know as soon as possible so he or she can advocate for you should there be any repercussions.

2. Made sure that their failure is not related merely to job position. Sometimes, if someone’s not working out in the position they volunteered for, the position itself might be wrong for the person. Think about moving them to another position.

3. Documented the conversations leading up to dismissal. Note the date, the person, and the gist of any disciplinary conversation that you have with a team member. Also record any steps recommended for change and whether or not he or she followed those steps.

September22, 2014 at 8:00 AM

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