Avoiding the Volunteer From Hell, Pt. 1
How to avoid having the nightmare volunteer experience from the start.
You know the one I’m talking about. That one volunteer that you either inherited or recruited without thinking. We’ve all had them. I had one. She was terrifying.
The question most people ask is, “How do I get rid of this volunteer?” (Garlic and a cross?)
Allow me to ask a much better question: “How do I make sure I never recruit this volunteer?”
In the next few posts I’m going to provide three effective ways to screen volunteers so you avoid “The Volunteer From Hell.”
No. 1: Make the Call
It’s funny. Most jobs require references. Most ministries require applications, which have a line at the bottom where our volunteers fill out references. But honestly…do you always call them?
Our ministry gets a lot of emails from youth workers on the front lines asking us questions. At times these Q&A emails are from volunteers complaining about their pastor or youth pastor. I’ve received several emails over the years from one individual in particular who always complained about her pastor, how he didn’t support her and didn’t understand youth ministry. In her emails to our ministry she explained how she left the church and began serving at another church. Soon I received another email about her new pastor—same situation. It didn’t take long for us to begin reading between the lines. After all, we didn’t know this person…and it was pretty evident we were only hearing one side of the story. This person left several ministries, causing a stir with each move. I finally confronted her on something she wrote and she lashed out at me (and conveniently doesn’t email me any more).
Here’s the funny thing. This person has left a trail of destruction at each ministry she volunteers at…yet new churches keep putting her into positions of leadership.
They sure aren’t calling references. If they were, they’d hear, “Run for your lives! She caused a church split. She’s convincing kids to leave with her!” (Sadly, if you’ve been in ministry long, you’ve probably seen something like this)
This is an easy fix.
Make the call!
I don’t care how desperate you are for volunteers. I don’t care how amazing they are with kids. It doesn’t matter if one person in your church recommended them. Call references. Find out where they served in ministry previously, pick up the phone and call.
A few phone calls will take you 10-15 minutes.
“The Volunteer From Hell” can take years to recover from.
But this isn’t the only effective way to screen volunteers…
Jonathan McKee is the president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of 20 books including the brand new 52 Ways to Connect With Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; More Than Just the Talk; Sex Matters; The Guy’s Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites,TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife, Lori, and their three kids live in California.