I met Wally at a Colorado Eagles hockey game. He was the usher in my section, and I discovered he attends one of the local churches in town. Wally shared he’s been an usher at his church for 30 years.
Thinking I’d learn the secret to volunteer retention, I asked Wally the reason for his longevity in ushering. His response was, “Never let them tell you what to do.” Not the answer I was hoping for.
Wally’s sage advice was based on his experience with the new senior pastor who wants to “change things.” Wally operates as a solo performer and refuses to give in to the new hospitality procedures his church is trying to implement.
I’m thinking: It’s time for Wally to retire.
Here are three signs that it’s time for a volunteer to step down:
- No longer a team player. Effective ministry is team-based. Lone rangers who do their own thing prevent unity and synergy. When an individual puts his or her own interests above the mission, it’s time to leave or find another position.
- Unwilling to learn new skills. Ministry today is different than it was just a few years ago because culture, technology, and expectations are rapidly changing. People who are unwilling to learn new methodologies or update their skills will be lost in today’s ever-changing world of ministry.
- Motivated by obligation rather than passion. When serving is a “have to” rather than a “get to”, the effectiveness and quality of the service diminishes. With today’s volunteer pool aging out, many need to be given the permission to step down rather than serve out of duty. It’s possible some of your volunteers would welcome the opportunity to retire with appreciation for time well served.
So how do you facilitate the volunteer retirement process? Gently.
Approaching the subject of retirement isn’t easy in the workforce, let alone in a volunteer ministry role. After all, we never “retire” from serving God. So it’s a conversation that needs grace and personal interaction. (You don’t send an email.) When the conversation is opened it provides the opportunity for reflection of service, feedback and evaluation, and discussion on redirection—if another role may be the solution.
If your church has a Wally, it’s time to schedule some coffee and a talk. You, your ministry, and Wally will benefit from some fearless conversation.