10 Signs a Volunteer is About to Quit (and how to prevent it)

Have you ever had a volunteer quit unexpectedly?  Probably so.  Most of us have.  Sometimes it can't be prevented, but many times it can, if you know what to watch for.  As children's ministry leaders, we are called to shepherd not only the kids, but the volunteers that serve with us as well.  As a shepherd, it's vital we know how our volunteers are doing both emotionally and spiritually.  When you do this effectively, you can often see signs that a volunteer is struggling and come alongside them with help.  Here's some signs to watch for.

1. The person starts to show up late for their assigned role. 

2. The person begins showing up unprepared.  Whereas they used to care about the little things that add up to an excellent class time, now they let them slide.  You begin to hear "they're just kids, they won't notice."

3. Strained relationships with other volunteers.  Other volunteers come to you about the person becoming abrupt, short-tempered or angry.

4. The person is not acting like themselves.  You know the Snicker's commercial - "you're not yourself when you're hungry."  That pretty much sums up how the person begins acting.

5. The person seems distant in conversation. 

6. The person is doing the very minimum to get by.

7. The person begins displaying a negative attitude.  You hear from other volunteers that the person is grumbling, complaining and starting to cause dissension.

8. You can see the person's enthusiasm waning.  You can tell they are starting to just go through the motions.

9. The person begins serving less consistently, calling in at the last minute to say they will not be able to make it.

10. The person starts missing training meetings.  Whereas they used to be the first one there for training, now they hardly attend.

If you know to look for these early warning signs, you can sometimes intervene and help the person re-engage with their volunteer role.  Here are some steps you can take when you see these signs.

Make sure you know how your team members are doing.  Again, this is the foundation that long-term volunteering rests upon.  People continue serving for the most part because of the relationships they have with you and other volunteers.  If you are truly shepherding your volunteers, you will know how they are doing.  Yes, sometimes a volunteer can put on a mask and fool you, but that should be the exception.  Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice and I know them."  Make sure you're doing what Jesus modeled for us and know the state of your sheep. 

Ask to meet with the person privately.  When you see any of the signs above, meet with the person in private and have a heart-to-heart talk.  

Find out the root cause behind the symptoms.  The 10 signs you see above are simply symptoms of a deeper issue.  When you meet with the person, find out what it is.  Often they are going through a tough time at work or at home or they are experiencing some other challenge or turmoil in their life.

Offer to come alongside them.  How can you support them?  How can you help them?  How can you walk with them through what they are facing?  

Help them navigate their next step.  What do they need?  A few weeks off?  A different role?   More help in their classroom? 

Show them you care more about them as a person than about what they do.  When the person knows you truly care about them, it opens their heart to receive your counsel and help.  Let them see that you have their best interest in mind and more than anything want to help them grow in their faith and walk with Jesus.

Pray with and for them.  This may seem like a small thing, but it is huge.  Take time to pray with the person right then and there.  Ask God to meet their needs and encourage their heart.  Add the person to your prayer list if they are not already on it.  I am reminded of how Jesus told Peter, "Satan desires to sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith will not fail."  A true shepherd prays for his or her volunteers.

Remember, you are responsible to people but not for people.  Will some people stop volunteering no matter what you do?  Yes.  Will some people push away from you even as you offer to help them?  Yes.  But don't let it discourage you.  You are a shepherd.  Be the best shepherd you can be for the volunteers God has placed in your care and you will see many of them serve with you for the long haul.