Dismissing a Volunteer

Dismissing someone is one of the most difficult things you will face when leading volunteers. How you navigate through this is extremely important. Here’s how to be prepared.

Give clarity to people before they join your team. Have the following items in writing and go over them with each person. Ask them to sign an agreement that they will abide by these and let you know if something happens that jeopardizes their ability to serve. Having this up front will give you a foundation to stand upon should you have to let someone go.

  • Core values. A set of values that you expect volunteers to abide by. These would include things like unity, integrity, godly attitude, servant leadership, etc.
  • Code of conduct. A set of behavioral guidelines that you expect volunteers to abide by.
  • Job description. Each position should have clearly defined duties, time requirements, what the wins are for that position, etc.
  • Expectations. Clearly define what is expected of them as a volunteer. Things such as attending adult worship, direct communication, being on time, participating in leadership training, etc.

Have a clear dismissal plan that you follow.
  • Have in writing violations that will result in immediate dismissal.
  • Have in writing violations that will result in warnings, coaching, discipline, accountability, or re-assignment.
  • Have disciplinary steps. It should involve moving from verbal warning to written warning, suspension, and finally dismissal. Each step should include a meeting where the issue is addressed and an improvement plan is outlined. Follow-up at designated intervals to review progress.
  • Document everything in writing. Conversations, witnesses, warnings, date of violations, volunteer’s response, etc.
  • Do not make the decision alone. There is safety in the multitude of counselors. Have two other people review the information and help you make the final decision.
  • When it reaches the point of dismissal, meet with the volunteer in a private setting. Do not meet alone. Have someone else with you as a witness. The witness should preferably be the same sex as the person being dismissed.
  • Explain directly and precisely why you are asking them to step down. If you have followed the disciplinary steps, they should not be caught by surprise.
  • Announce but don’t argue. You are there to state the decision. Do not be pulled into a debate.
  • Stay calm. The person you are dismissing may get emotional. You can’t control their emotions, but you can control yours.
  • Follow up. If the situation allows, connect the person you dismissed with other opportunities to grow and stay plugged into the church. If the person served with other volunteers, let them know the person will no longer be serving while protecting his or her privacy. Be prepared to do damage control.
We must remember that it’s a privilege to serve in Children’s Ministry. It’s nobody’s right. Our priority is the children and building a team of committed and caring volunteers to minister to them. And that means making a hard call at times.