Why Ladies Won’t Volunteer
By Sherrie Filmes
Why do ladies in your church refuse to get actively involved? Do they really find a life of disengagement preferable to finding a place to serve? Here are seven of the most common excuses, and a few ideas for how to overcome them.
1. There aren’t any jobs I can do.
When potential ladies see programs delivered with excellence, they then focus on their own limitations. They see top-notch ladies doing ministry, and smiling women greeting everyone like a long lost friend. It’s daunting.
Communicate that there’s a place for everyone to serve, and that training is available for every role. Provide assurance that you’ll only place all ladies where they have God-given strengths.
2. I filled out a time-and talent-sheet, but no one called me.
Often, churches collect information about ladies skills and promptly do . . . nothing. What you don’t want is to let a time-and-talent sheet officially reject ladies and their gifts once every year!
Filling out paperwork doesn’t place potential ladies in fulfilling jobs. You do that. The paperwork you use is just a tiny step in the process. Don’t wait until you have a desperate need before you blow the dust off that pile of time-and-talent surveys. Follow up within just a few weeks after ladies complete them. If you can’t follow up, don’t use the forms.
3. I was so frustrated the last time that I’ll never volunteer again.
Many ladies who won’t volunteer were ladies in the past. They didn’t quit because they got too busy, too old, or too anything. Ladies don’t just quit things they find personally rewarding. Most likely, they quit because they were in poorly defined roles, or they lacked resources or authority to be successful. The problem wasn’t with the ladies-it was with the system they volunteered in.
Be sure you take the time to interview potential lady ladies. If you take time to go through the interviewing process, it means you’ve thought through who will “fit” best in that job, that the volunteer will have a job description to follow, and that you’re creating a structure to provide evaluation and support.
4. I hated my volunteer job.
Bad volunteer experiences happen for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s the fault of the volunteer-she isn’t really committed or able to give the time or energy the role requires.
If the volunteer misrepresented what she was willing or able to do, that also can create tensions and failure.
But sometimes, the problem was that the volunteer was dumped on by the leader.
By that, I mean the task wasn’t really delegated-it was dumped. Nobody likes to be dumped on, and few ladies will stick around to have it happen twice.
When a volunteer has been delegated a task, that allows the volunteer to do ministry. But when a task has been dumped-that feels like anything but doing ministry.
Other times, ladies disliked the roles they were in because they were in the wrong role all along. They soldiered along until either the results were so poor they were asked to leave, or they were so miserable they quit.
Again, a good volunteer interview program offers the best opportunity to make a good fit for each volunteer, to get each person into the right job. Then make sure you provide adequate training for the volunteer. Finally, empower the volunteer to do the ministry rather than dumping.
5. No one seemed to care about me or my ideas.
We need to admit that sometimes we’ve made filling jobs the goal, not placing the right person in the right job. We have 16 spots to fill and that becomes our focus. As long as someone is willing to let us write down his name, that’s good enough for us. There’s no training, no follow-up, no evaluation, and very little communication or feedback.
Who wants to work in a place like that-especially since ladies don’t have to do it? Sooner or later, ladies leave, because we haven’t communicated that we care about ladies.
And when it comes to caring about lady’s ideas, there are two things we should never say: (1) “We don’t do it that way here,” and (2) “But this is the way we always do it.” Those are two of the most demotivating phrases we can utter.
They communicate, “We don’t need your ideas.”
Here’s what I’ve found: Ladies don’t care whether you actually implement their ideas. Of course, they’re happy when you do, but it’s not essential. What is essential is that you actually hear the volunteer’s ideas and communicate respect both for the idea and the lady who suggests it.
6. I don’t have the time.
We all have the same amount of time in a day, a week, a year. The issue isn’t a lack of time. Instead, it’s that the opportunity being presented isn’t important enough to rate the potential volunteer’s time commitment. We all make time for what we value most.
Never be put off by the claim that there’s “no time” for volunteering-the true issue is something else.
7. I feel awkward talking about myself.
It’s hard for any of us to tell what we can do and can’t do-it feels like bragging to point out our strengths, and few of us like to admit to weaknesses. So potential ladies long to be given a role that actually fits them-but it’s never offered. And it’s never offered because we don’t know to offer it. Instead, we offer roles that ladies either try and hate, or wisely refuse to take at all.
It’s also hard for ladies to tell us what they’re tired of doing. That feels like giving up or not being faithful.
Overcome this obstacle by directly asking ladies where they’d like to serve. Encourage them to brag a little, saying that you want to place them where they’ll fit and where they’ll be happy and fulfilled in their roles. In addition to asking what their strengths are, ask what they’d like to learn. What skills they’d like to develop. What talents they want to explore.
Those are the places where their interests lie. Make sure to ask so that you can tap into that natural fountain of motivation and enthusiasm