Yesterday was a little bittersweet at the end of our service. We had learned that one of our key volunteers, someone who wears multiple hats in areas of the church, would be moving to be closer to family. It was a joyful time to know that she would be leaving to be near her loved ones and that she had already been looking for a church to plug into. But it was sad to see her leave. She was an ideal volunteer. Week after week she'd show up ready and prepared to teach children's Sunday School, even when there were no children attending. She never gave up. She plugged away. And yesterday the fruit of that was brought out when several kids, including both of mine, thanked her for telling them about Jesus.
No one in a church is a permanent fixture. All of us are on temporary assignment. That's the case for staff, members, and volunteers. The ministry continues after were gone. So what do we do when a key volunteer leaves?
We Celebrate - Someone who shows up faithfully, serves joyfully, and loves sacrificially should be celebrated as loud as you can. That's an honor they're due, not because they're seeking it but because it's right to recognize those who have finished well. You can recognize them in a service, give a gift, write thank you notes, and more. But cheer them on as they transition out. You champion what you celebrate, and if you want to build a culture of service, celebrate those who serve.
We Pray - It's good to pray for the volunteer who leaves. In a lot of ways it's a commissioning. You're sending them out from your church to another community, to another church, and hopefully to another ministry. But you also pray for the hole left behind, and for the right person to step into that key place of service.
We Move Forward - The thing about Sunday is it comes around every 7 days. When a volunteer leaves, we can't mope and dwell in the loss. Another Sunday is coming. Kids need to be taught, offering needs to be collected, sound needs to be monitored, and coffee needs to be made. You might need to iron out some kinks in the system until you can find the right fit, but things continue even after the key volunteer leaves.
We Recruit & Develop - I love the pipeline when it comes to volunteers and leadership in the church. The pipeline is the process where people are recruited and vetted for potential leadership or key places of service in the church. For us our men's ministry is a pipeline for identifying men who could serve as deacons, and our VBS is a way we identify people who could be long-term children's volunteers. That way, when someone has to step away from a key role, there is someone waiting in the wings to step in and carry the baton.
How have you handled this in your church? Leave a comment!
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.