The Best Way To Fire A Volunteer

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You know you have to do it, you wish that you didn’t; but, the facts are just too brutal to ignore.  You pray that the problem goes away; however, it lingers around like a rotting egg.


It almost sounds wrong to say out loud, because they’ve sacrificed their time and energy to help you, the teens and the church.  It’s almost like turning down something free.  Whether you view ministry like a business, a family or a community people need to be in the right place or else it will affect the vision you are trying to reach.  Sometimes the problem is that you have the wrong person in the wrong place; but, then there are times when the person is just not a right for the ministry at all.  So, what’s the best way to fire a volunteer?

  • Totally Ignore Them: One of my son’s favorite games is peek-a-boo.  He likes it because when he covers his eyes I disappear.  When he uncovers them I reappear.  When you ignore a minister, they don’t exist.  If you see them coming down the hall, dive into the nearest room.  If they call you let it go to voicemail and press delete.  They will go away eventually.  
  • Sugar Coat Your Reasons: Make sure you tell them, “It’s not you, it’s me…” They’ll love it because they won’t feel guilty about letting you down.  Plus, you won’t have to feel bad about making them feel bad.  This way everyone is happier and they’ll be sure to tell others.
  • Shoot Them A Text:  When you have to communicate something in 140 characters or less it’s easy to get straight to the point.  I don’t know about you but I find myself stumbling over words in awkward situations.  If you send a text you are forced to think about how to be as clear and direct as possible.  Include a emoticon smiley face…it’ll make them feel better.
  • Make Their Job Difficult:  In the movie Office Space they got rid of an employee by taking away his workspace…genius.  Make sure you never email them small group questions, take away any resources they need for games and make sure they are never set-up for success.  After a while they’ll get so annoyed with you that they’ll quit.  Then you can keep your perfect record of no fires.
  • Be Creative: Send them a crossword puzzle where they slowly but surely figure out that they are no longer needed.  They’ll enjoy the journey so much that they won’t mind.  Or bake a cake with the words, “See ya, no longer need ya.” piped on with chocolate icing, this way they can drown their sorrows in sugary goodness.

Firing a volunteer can be tough and while it might seem like an absurd concept what you really want to do is:

  1. Form A Plan: Before you ever find yourself in a situation where you might have to fire someone, come up with a plan.  Figure out, how many warning you need to give someone in certain situations before you let them go.  Make sure people are aware of your ministry and church’s policies and inform them that violating them could end in termination.
  2. Lean Into The Situation:  You will always want to address the situation sooner than later.  The longer you lead someone to believe that everything is fine the more likely it will blow up in your face.  Don’t hesitate especially if the situation is severe.
  3. Find Support:  Make sure you have someone there to hold everyone accountable.  It should preferably be someone who is neutral to the situation.  Even if it seems impossible that the situation can turn ugly, having someone there will give you the courage you need to lean into the situation.
  4. Rely On God:  Pray before you make your decision, through the process and when it’s all over. You need to allow God to guide and console you.  Firing someone can be an emotional experience, even if you are 100% just in the decision.    He’ll give you the words, flesh out your plan and point each participating party in the right direction.

Even if your plan is fool proof there can still be awkwardness.  Most volunteers never assume that they could be fired because the mindset is that they are in control.  Letting them go from a volunteer position can be just as humbling as a paid job.  What’s important is that you don’t surprise or lead them on.  Handle it professionally and in the end it will work out.

What’s your take on firing volunteers?