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By Jonathan Howe

If you’re on staff at a church or a leader in any way, you likely interact with volunteers on a daily basis. And unfortunately, you’re probably not sitting on an endless supply of volunteers. It’s quite possible that you’re looking for people every week to fill a hole left by a volunteer who’s sick, out of town, or unreliable.

But is it possible that you could be running off volunteers? With some of the emails, letters, and communications I’ve seen from churches over the years, it’s entirely possible. Poor communication can cost you volunteers and church members. That’s why it’s important to avoid these communications blunders.

  1. Calling a volunteer the wrong name. I had a friend who was approached recently about a new job. She was extremely qualified and really interested in it, but in her reply, she called the person wanting to hire her the wrong name. She never heard back from him, and the company hired someone else. The same goes for almost any other aspect of life. If you call a volunteer by the wrong name, you risk losing them.
  2. Using poor grammar and spelling. Always have a second set of eyes look at ministry communications or announcements. And always read over your emails again before you send them. I even have a delay timer set up in Gmail that gives me 30 seconds after I hit send to make a final edit. I use it almost daily.
  3. Making it difficult on the volunteer. Want to turn off volunteers? Have trainings at inopportune times. Want to frustrate volunteers? Communicate with them in a way that makes it hard to keep up with the info. There are new communications tools coming out every month. Resist the urge to try the newest and shiniest toys when it comes to communication. Tried and tested methods are often best.
  4. Waiting until the last minute. Don’t send out important announcements about Sunday morning on Saturday night. Don’t wait until days before a deadline to send a reminder. Give people lead-time and be redundant with your reminders. I guarantee there are people who will completely miss the first 14 emails, but the 15th will catch their eye.
  5. Not returning calls or emails. If you get a call or email from a church member or volunteer, try to return it within 24 hours if at all possible. Even if it’s a quick email to say you have something else that’s pressing, and it may be a day or two until you have an answer for them.
  6. Delegating important communication to your assistant. If something in your ministry is important enough for you to communicate it, then you need to be the one it comes from. It’s good to empower your assistant, but important information needs to come from you if at all possible. If it doesn’t, volunteers and members deduce that it’s not a priority for you, so why should it be for them?

What would you add to this list? Have you made any of these blunders?

Jonathan Howe serves as Director of Strategic Initiatives at LifeWay Christian Resources as well as the host and producer of Rainer on Leadership and SBC This Week. Jonathan writes weekly at on topics ranging from social media to websites and church communications. Connect with Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Howe.

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