Editor’s note: Today, we continue the series titled: Ask Karen. CTA’s volunteer expert, Karen Kogler, will answer one of the most pressing volunteer-related questions facing church leaders in 2017. If you have a question you’d like to ask Karen, just post it in the comments section!
Question: I have a volunteer who recently overstepped a boundary—big time. I believe that he’ll remain a member of our church, but I do not feel comfortable keeping him as a volunteer in any capacity. How can I “fire” him without completely alienating him?
Answer: You have decided to fire a volunteer. I commend you for your courage in facing, rather than avoiding, a very difficult situation, and for your desire to avoid alienating him.
I’m sure you have been praying for wisdom and guidance throughout the process, and have considered less drastic options. But if you haven’t already, consider these questions before taking action.
- How does Matthew 18:15-20 apply to your situation?
- Would talking with a trusted, mature Christian be helpful in planning your response?
- Do you need to take the issue to legal counsel or to the police? Incidents involving actual or alleged sexual abuse would likely fall into this category.
- Are there church policies regarding the volunteer’s action? (Or should there be?)
- Was there anything you said or did, or neglected to say or do, that affected the volunteer’s actions?
- What will your response communicate to your other volunteers?
- Have you talked to your supervisor or pastor about what happened and how you plan to respond?
If you must fire the volunteer, do it soon. Speak to him privately and respectfully. Explain exactly what he did or didn’t do and why that behavior means he cannot remain in this volunteer position. Then listen. Give the individual time, and listen well. If he is emotional, remain calm and listen for what is behind the emotion. Return to the behavior and the rationale as often as needed, but don’t get defensive.
This volunteer remains your brother in Christ. You have an eternal relationship with him. You are called to love him. Demonstrate that love in the way you deal with the situation and your actions after this experience. Later, if appropriate, offer to help the ex-volunteer find another place to serve, at church or in the community.
Most importantly, keep in mind the multitude of grace and forgiveness God extends to you in Jesus. When I must remove someone from a position, I focus on remembering that I am a sinner, too; that Jesus spoke especially harshly against the sins of the Pharisees (Luke 7:36-50; Matthew 23:13-36) while he was also criticized for hanging out with notorious “sinners;” that I am totally lost without God’s abundant grace through Jesus Christ. These truths are what encourage and empower us to maintain a loving relationship even when we must remove someone from a position.
Do you have a question for Karen? Post it in the comments section and you may see it in a future edition of “Ask Karen.”
You are welcome to copy this article for one-time use when you include this credit line and receive no monetary benefit from it: © 2017 CTA, Inc. Used with permission.