Tuesday 3 May 2016

How to Sack Church Volunteers

Sorry for the strong headline. But, you know, clickbait.

But it's a real problem isn't it? Dealing with Church volunteers who aren't doing their jobs very well. Greeters who are massive introverts and hide behind the pews of a Sunday morning. Cleaners who are allergic to polish. Flower arrangers with hay fever.

In the secular, paid world this is relatively well set out, if unpleasant. If somebody is underperforming at their job you have a quiet chat. Offer training if that's the need. Perhaps suggest another department (ie not yours) where they will be better-suited.

If there is no improvement you give them a verbal warning. Which you write down. Then a written warning. Which you also write down. They may have a period to improve.

Then you get the appropriate legal/HR advice and sack them.

This is the private sector, of course. And even then there'd always the option of promoting them out of harm's way. Can't speak for the public sector. You probably have to retire them with a "K" or something.

In Churches it's different. Churches are largely powered by volunteers. And volunteers are as near to unsackable as you can get. Quite often because who's gonna replace them in any case?

But sometimes it's got to be done. Take a typical example. Snodgrass says he'll run the Facebook page. He goes off with a camera full of ideas and enthusiasm. He's gonna reach out to the community and, indeed, the world.

Four years later, the page is still proudly displaying one post, saying "Happy Christmas." From the day after he set the page up. Something must urgently be done.

The steps to removing Snodgrass are as follows:

Suggest he might be busy, and need help. Be assured no, he's fine, and he's really getting down to it.

Leave it six months for nothing to change. Suggest that Rosebud, who's a web developer and everything and even has a computer, might jump at the chance.

Be told no, it's just teething troubles and there's gonna be weekly notices and everything. And a thought for the day. And lovely virtual tours of the church. Just as soon as he's got a couple of hours.

Leave it six months. Report to the Church Committee that things are definitely happen.

Suggest to a few Church elder statespeople that Snodgrass might need to be pushed off the job more assertively - like actually telling him to invite Rosebud to be another administrator. Get told you're a heartless get, and don't you know how Mrs Snodgrass left him 35 years ago and the Facebook page is his life?

Leave it six months. Suggest that, as he now lives in New Zealand, it may be difficult for Snodgrass to keep the Facebook page up. Get told no it's fine, and doing the Facebook page keeps him in touch with the old place.

Feel a calling to another Church.


  1. Leave it 2 years. Yes, OK, Snodgrass is dead, but that's no reason to stop him. He's as active as ever he was.

  2. This kind of problem isn't limited to churches. It used to be the case in the old geriatric hospitals, that any registered nurse who lasted a twelvemonth was automatically made up to Ward Sister. On the same principle, I have ended up managing (if that is the right word and I have my doubts if it is) teams of volunteers for one charity or local group or another. And I have always one question: Why is it, that immediately after volunteering for an activity, does the person immediately become stricken with domestic disaster, bad back, failed MOT or an irresistible desire to emigrate (like Snodgrass)? How many times have I heard someone say, "Well, I'd like to come in to help but Fridays are difficult, and then I have my hypnotherapy on Thursdays, we go to see the wife's mother every Wednesday; Tuesdays I volunteer for the Stray Hedgehogs Sanctuary and my day for clearing up in the churchyard is Mondays. Are you open on Saturday afternoons?"

    1. And you don't understand why that person isn't available?

    2. I think Charles actually doesn't understand why that person volunteers.

  3. How about a chorister who has been a member for 60 years, who says singing in the choir is what keeps her going, has the loudest voice but is terribly flat? That's our problem!

    1. Tell her gently that her voice is still amazingly powerful for someone of her age and explain that some of the smaller voices can't hope to compete.
      Ask her to reduce her volume to encourage the others. (Telling them the opposite, of course).

  4. There's perfectly adequate ways of doing this.

    The Soul Survivor/New Wine way is to have your target shadowed by your putative place-man, then have the place-man get to some of the jobs just ahead of the target, then to start making snarky comments about the target's "lack of a real faith" when they won't follow your theology.

    I've seen this done in two churches. In one it pushed a third of the congregation out.

  5. If you rely on church volunteers, posting patronising mocking stereotypes on a website frequented by churchy types is a funny way of showing it.

    1. Ah but I've posted this because this scenario is essentially true. And it's not mocking anyone. Except possibly a weak-willed pastor.


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