Dealing with Unreliable Camp Volunteers

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Often, the most worrisome part of planning any event has nothing to do with organizing, scheduling, or even financing. Rather, the one thing that causes the most anxiety is when you count on your volunteers to do something, and they always seem to shirk responsibility.

At first, these kinds of people can seem truly invested in your event and eager to make it a success. However, as soon as something else comes along that they would rather do, they back out on their commitment. While this can be extremely frustrating, there are a few effective options you have for dealing with these unreliable volunteers.

1.   Confront them lovingly, but honestly

Rather than jump to extreme measures, you should always have a face-to-face conversation with your volunteers to assess the situation. After all, you may not be sure what the reason for their unpredictability is. They may be going through difficult life circumstances, or they may simply have a bad work ethic. The only way to know is to express your concerns and make sure that your volunteers know the importance of their responsibilities.

2.   Use positive and negative reinforcement

If the issue is that your volunteers simply aren’t committed to your event like they need to be, you may need to set up a system of rewards and punishments. For example, you could provide small prizes for the volunteers who attend the most meetings. Reversely, if someone misses too many meetings, you could revoke certain privileges or even assign them to the jobs that no one would ever want. Having to clean the bathrooms is a pretty powerful incentive to start showing some effort and consistency.

3.   Cut them from your staff

Firing your volunteers should always be the last resort. If these people are contributing next to nothing to your event, and they show no signs of stepping up, it may be time to simply let them go. They likely only signed up for the cash (if any) or to look good in front of their peers, without any real intentions of helping. You want a team that is motivated and truly cares about leading the community to Jesus through your event. Anything else is nothing more than a waste of time.

As you deal with unreliable camp volunteers, be sure to remember the virtues of patience and kindness. It’s far too easy to get angry with people who don’t do what you ask them to. However, we must always follow Christ’s example and treat others with the love of God, even when we don’t feel like it. We must not be afraid to speak the truth, but we must do it with the very best intentions – not with hostility.