What do you do when your volunteers perform poorly?

Many church leaders fumble when they see problems with volunteers. Some say or do things that injure volunteers. Most simply grit their teeth and do nothing. And the ministry suffers.

Here are some volunteer-nurturing practices we’ve used successfully at <a href=”http://discover.lifetreecafe.com/”>Lifetree Cafe</a> locations across the country:

1. <strong>Feedback is welcome.</strong> Many people have the mistaken notion that volunteers don’t want constructive feedback. That’s simply not the case. One of the prime reasons they volunteer is to make a difference. They desire to be effective. And they welcome feedback that helps them improve.

2. <strong>Offer feedback in private and in-person.</strong> Deliver your feedback one-on-one. Though compliments are often welcome in a group setting, corrective feedback should always be delivered without eavesdroppers. And, conduct your feedback face-to-face. Never put corrective comments in a note or email. Don’t leave a phone message. Select a time to talk in person, when your comments will benefit from your kind tone and body language, and when your volunteer can participate in a two-way conversation.
3. <strong>Be timely.</strong> Offer your feedback within a week after observing your volunteers in action. If you wait too long your volunteers may not recall the behavior you’re evaluating.

4. <strong>Give balanced feedback.</strong> At each coaching time, offer both positive and corrective feedback. This lets them know that their work is valued, and that they can become even better at it.

5. <strong>Be specific.</strong> When offering praise and critique, describe actual details of the volunteer’s behavior. For example: “I really love how you smile and help everyone find a seat.”

6. <strong>Be tactful.</strong> Use constructive, non-inflammatory words. And never judge a person’s motives.

7. <strong>Offer practical direction.</strong> Detail how the volunteer can be more successful. Be specific.

8. <strong>Show appreciation.</strong> End your coaching session with sincere thanks. Let your volunteers know they’re appreciated.

Sometimes you’ll encounter a volunteer who cannot make the necessary improvements. This is usually a case of mis-matching. Attempts to correct poor performance are futile. In these cases, for the sake of the ministry, you must have a direct conversation with the volunteer, and find a different position or ministry for him or her.

Your volunteers need you to fulfill your role as a coach in ministry. When you do your job well, their performance, their dedication, their enthusiasm, and their appreciation of you will all go up.