Why Your Ministers Leave

Courtesy of randychiu/Creative Commons License

I get a little sad when I think back to my early years of youth ministry, and realize that only a few of the ministers who joined me that first year are still around.  If it hadn’t been for some of the volunteers that I had my first, second and third year of ministry I’m sure I would have burned out long ago.  They were there to pick me up, challenge me and remind me that God was the reason behind all of this.

Sadly, some had to move on because life happened.  Some had to move on because they felt called to a different ministry.  It’s hard saying goodbye to a volunteer, especially if there was nothing you could do about the situation.  You just have to embrace God’s plan for them, and your ministry.

Then there are the volunteers who walk away for reasons that could have been prevented.  And, because of something avoidable they left upset and disappointed.  While it hurts to say goodbye to any minister, the ones who’s departure you could have prevented are the worst.  All you had to do was change, and maybe they would have stuck around.  So why did they leave?  Probably because you didn’t:

  • Release Control: It’s easy to feel like you are delegating when in reality you are only undermining a volunteers effort.  You might say, “Do this.”; however, once you see them in action, doubt creeps in and you take away the reigns.  If you want ministers to stick around then you need to allow them to own pieces of your ministry.
  • Set Clear Expectations: People can’t read your mind; therefore, you need to clarify (Repeatedly) what’s going through it.  If you give an instruction once, do not be afraid to give it again.  Make sure you explain the reasoning, give vision behind it and follow up to make sure they understood what it is you want them to do.
  • Provide Feedback: It can be very frustrating to have a job where you are not given feedback.  Negative or positive it’s always important to know how you are doing and where you need to improve.  Even though you do not pay your ministers, you need to treat them like employees.  Give them the feedback to improve.
  • Encourage And Support: You know ministry is hard.  The long hours, the crazy teens and the angry parents.  Guess what?  You aren’t the only one in the trenches, your volunteers are there too.  Maybe not as much; however, they are facing some of the same battles; therefore, need just as much affirmation and cheerleading as you do.  Make sure you take the time to thank them and love them.
If I knew of a quick and easy way of recruiting ministers I would share it with you.  Because growing your team takes time, it’s important that you focus your attention on nurturing the ones you do have.  In the end they will be advocates for the ministry.  They will help bring in new people because of their stories.  Just let them know how much you value them by giving them goals, and challenging them to go deeper in their faith.

How do you keep ministers around for the long haul?  How do you live out the four points mentioned above?