What to Do with Volunteers Who Shouldn’t Volunteer

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Ephesians 4:11-13

The volunteer manager was a good friend of mine. We talked about the team I served on at a food pantry and the challenge of a particular individual. While he was passionate about serving, his body couldn’t keep up with the physical demands of lifting, carrying, and boxing the food. “How do I remove him from the team?” she asked.

Volunteers can be the most important people at nonprofits. For staff, volunteers can also present challenges; They aren’t there everyday to catch the culture or know the needs; They don’t get paid so they may not show up when you need them the most; They might not be volunteering from an area of strength, but rather an area of interest. And yet, entire ministries depend on volunteers because they are so precious.

How do you manage volunteers? Through the book of Ephesians, Jesus is the central figure that brings everyone into unity and fullness. No matter the role, the aim of volunteering is that the church reaches a maturity that can only come from a similar faith and understanding. 

A book titled Crucial Conversations calls this “start with heart.” By that, they imply that every controversy can become a conversation when it begins with a reminder of the commonalities of the goal. Similarly, to manage volunteers well is to remind everyone what the goal is–the unity that drew the volunteers to the organization in the first place. 

I told my friend that, while a difficult conversation was before her with this volunteer, he could still participate. We needed someone to check in guests, direct traffic, and direct others to put a good mix of healthy food into the boxes. He was a vital part of the team, and expressing how important his volunteering was could be a healthy way to start the conversation. 

Volunteers, when directed to apply their passions toward the common goal, can help any nonprofit become more unified and mature. They are the most important people at nonprofits.

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© 2022, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.

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