How To Respond When A Volunteer Tells You No

How To Respond When A Volunteer Tells You No
August 28, 2014 Bob D'Ambrosio

The best way to involve someone in a ministry is to ask them. But making the “big ask” means you may hear that dreaded word:   No

Hearing people say “No” is just part of the invitation process. They’re not saying no to you—but no to the opportunity to serve. Try to keep this in perspective since the more people you invite, the more you’ll hear that word!

When someone does says “No”, don’t panic. Trying to become Joe (or Jane) salesperson to force a yes will only be seen as arm twisting and manipulation. But you do want to discern why the offer was declined.

Here’s what No often means:

“I don’t feel qualified.” A No may indicate the volunteer doesn’t feel qualified to serve in the position. New Christians especially may feel they don’t have the background or experience to serve. This is really a training issue. Inform the person of training opportunities that will be provided to equip him or her to be successful in the position.

“This is not a good time.” Everyone has seasons in life when they may not be able to serve. Children, health, employment (or lack of) may interfere with a person’s time commitment. They may be more receptive if a different schedule is offered or when the next opportunity becomes available. If you discover a ministry need (illness, unemployment, and so on) you’ll transition from being the inviter to the minister. Be sure to connect this person to the appropriate care providers at your church.

“That’s not a good fit.” Your volunteer is not saying no to serving, just to serving in this position. Explore what other options may be a better fit, and refer this person to the ministry leader in his or her area of interest. There may even be other positions available within the same ministry area for your referrals. If you’re calling for vacation Bible school crafts, he or she may prefer working in games or snacks. Pass this information on, and make sure the person is contacted and doesn’t fall through the cracks.

So what do you do after you hear No?

Thank the person for prayerfully considering the opportunity to serve. Be polite and appreciative for his or her consideration of this service opportunity.

Record the person’s response and follow up as needed. For example, if a person tells you he or she would be interested in helping next year…someone will need to give that person a call next year. Many tracking programs have “tickler reminders” of when to make the next contact. A no today may be a yes next month!

Send a personal thank-you note. In your note, include any next steps if you’ll be referring the person to another ministry area or will be contacting him or her in the future.

Don’t let a “No” response get you down. Inviting people into ministry means sometimes people will say yes and sometimes they’ll say no. Keep focused on the main goal—growing people as they find their ministry.


[Editor’s Note:  Inviting people into ministry is part of the training being offered in the course, “Becoming An Equipping Leader” held at Group’s Equipping Institute October 8-10, 2014.]


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