Like Us

Avoid these errors you might easily make with the very people you need the most.

There is no greater volunteer organization in the world than the church. We rely on volunteers for about everything. Here are some mistakes you might be making with the very people you need the most…and how to avoid them!

1. Use the church bulletin as your main source for new volunteers. This doesn’t work. In fact, the bulletin is the worst place in the world to recruit more help. Every now and then someone will respond, but it’s the exception, not the rule.

2. Give volunteers the grunt work. They’re not paid; right? I learned a long time ago that if I’m going to give someone grunt work, I better be willing to roll up my sleeves and help.

3. Give them a job and tell them that they are there until Jesus comes. This is a bad approach. Give new volunteers time to experience the job and see if it’s a good fit for them. Allow them to “test drive” the experience, so to speak, by connecting with another person serving in that role before committing entirely to it.

4. Give them a job with no instructions, expectations or feedback. Ministry descriptions (or job descriptions) along with clear vision and expectations are keys to making sure volunteers thrive.

5. If people are doing their job well, leave them alone. I have made this mistake over and over. Make sure your good, faithful volunteers have what they need, are getting fed themselves, and get breaks when they need them.

6. Keep volunteers in their current roles even if it is the wrong fit. This is a deadly mistake. Never leave a volunteer in a role very long without making sure it’s the right fit for that person. If it’s not right, end it immediately and give them something different to do in the church.

7. Direct the ministry or program from the Ivory Tower. The Ivory Tower is your office and your novel ideas. Don’t ask someone to do something you haven’t done yourself. Volunteers are partners. Allow them to speak into the ministry and program and take what they say seriously.

8. Take the credit for everything and ignore your volunteers. Don’t say a word about what they accomplished for your ministry. Don’t save your “thank you” for the annual volunteer appreciation event. Make them look good. Make them the heroes.

9. Be disorganized. This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Nothing will drive volunteers off any faster than wasting their time because you aren’t organized. People are attracted to excellence.

So, what do you think? Do you agree?  

Ryan Frank, a veteran in children’s ministry, has served as a children's pastor for fifteen years. Ryan and his wife Beth are leaders of KidzMatter and publishers of K! Magazine. Ryan is also the Vice President of Innovation at Awana. The Franks reside in Converse, Indiana, with their two daughters, Luci and Londyn.

More from Ryan Frank or visit Ryan at

Please Note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, uncivil and off-topic. Read a detailed description of our Comments Policy.
  • Nebulous

    This is a pretty good article if it’s directed
    toward United Way or the American Red Cross. It raises many concerns if it’s
    directed toward churches.

    First, the church has no volunteers. None. The church is 100% made up of ministers
    who are called by God to ministry. Some are paid, others aren’t. But there are
    absolutely no volunteers!

    What are we in this for? The apparently under-appreciated people described in
    this article seem to have been misguided about who the church is and Who runs
    it. Assuming these ‘volunteers’ are saved, THEY are the church (so how can they
    volunteer for the church?). JESUS runs the church and sets its priorities. The
    work that needs to be done is for THEIR Savior and for HIS glory.

    But to quote this article, for these ‘volunteers’ to
    make their own ministry a priority in their lives keep going they:

    – Need to be ‘recruit[ed]’

    – Need to know ‘if it’s a good fit for them’ before ‘committing entirely to it’

    – Need clear ‘job descriptions’ and ‘expectations’ from some unidentified

    – Need someone to make sure they ‘have what they need,’ ‘get fed,’ and ‘get

    – Need someone else to ‘give them something different to do’ if it’s a wrong ‘fit’

    And this one deserves its own line because it gets to the ‘crux’ (serious pun
    intended) of the matter:

    They need a ‘volunteer appreciation event;’ ‘Make them look good,’ ‘Make them
    the heroes.’ In other words, they need praise and approval from people.

    Please join me in this prayer if you see the
    problems in all of this:


    Lord God, please rescue the modern church from
    neutering your gospel and distorting your calling.

    Father, forgive us for teaching that the church is a
    place where believers meet and its work is one component of life – rather than
    that church is a believer’s identity and its work informs, transforms, and consumes
    every part of a believer’s life.

    Forgive us for encouraging self-centered believers
    in their self-centeredness.

    Forgive us for teaching them that they are
    accountable to a congregation’s staff rather than to the almighty Creator of
    all existence.

    Forgive us for calling them to serve ‘church leaders’
    rather than the One whose body the church is, who presides over His kingdom through
    one-on-one relationships with His subjects, and who ‘rescued us from the domain
    of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.’

    Forgive us for rallying people to work according to their
    skills, talents, and preferences rather than challenging them to apply their
    spiritual gifts in contexts that are often humanly undesirable and can only be
    completed through your strength and the Holy Spirit’s comfort.

    Forgive us for teaching believers that ‘church
    leaders’ direct their paths and set the directions and priorities for their
    spiritual lives.

    Forgive us, Lord, for making the church little more
    than a sometimes-charitable volunteer organization rather than a battalion ‘against
    the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness,
    against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.’ Oh god,
    help us to know you and see you again!

    • Jeremy

      A bit harsh and not very helpful, don’t you think? You should rethink your reason for posting comments like these- is it to be helpful, encouraging, and challenging us to do better? Or is to condemn and make people feel bad for what you believe is the wrong way to go about things? Although your intentions may be good, you are going about it the wrong way and most people will view you as bitter and hurtful, not helpful in a spirit of love.

      • Nebulous

        Jeremy – I am genuinely sorry if my comments came across as bitter and hurtful. I had no bitterness in me when I wrote them and certainly no intention to hurt anyone. I offered them in the spirit of genuine love – the sort of love that is willing to call out error.

        I re-read my comment, and I do not think it is harsh – even though it is direct. And I do think it is helpful. I directly pointed out the problems and offered solutions that bring us back to the Bible and our calling as a church. I quoted a few relevant scriptures, though I didn’t lengthen my comments further by substantiating all of my points with scripture references. I would be happy to do so if asked. I made an assumption that the biblical bases for my points are widely known.

        The thing is, I do believe “volunteerism” in the modern church is one of the most blatant, visible signs of a widespread underlying corruption. That corruption is a self-centered faith, and it is perpetrated and institutionalized in 21st Century American Christendom.

        At its extreme, self-centered faith has resulted in the “name it and claim it, health and wealth” prosperity teaching that has gained such great following in many megachurches.

        In more moderate situations it has resulted in the very common teaching that the church won’t have to endure tribulation (because a loving God wouldn’t allow that).

        At more subtle levels, it has resulted in fellowshipping at church gatherings being subservient to more alluring worldly things (sports, vacations, etc.), demands that the church spend a great deal of money appealing to sensory desires (professional bands), spending a lot of money for larger professional church staffs, and the need to treat ministers as volunteers who need rewarded, recognized, and motivated by things that appeal to their egos, prides, and

        Christians like this feel they are making a sacrifice when they serve. They’ve forgotten Who they are serving, Who they call their Master, Who they have chosen to be slaves to – and that it was He who sacrificed for them, not the other way around.

        My words are not angry. They are written with a heavy heart, a lump in my throat, and wet eyes.

        If we look at the evil in the world around us that is growing exponentially, it is easy to see that the Lord’s church is becoming less and less effective in its calling. Whenever we see a significant increase in evil, whenever we see Satan gaining more of a foothold, we must look inwardly to see what we are doing wrong in the church. And I believe “self” is that problem for us today. Taking up our crosses daily and following Him is nearly lost, at least in this part of the world.