children ministry

What To Do When Volunteers Quit Last Minute

It's never a convenient time for a volunteer to quit your ministry. Last Spring, my co-leader told me he could not continue next fall. Despite giving me adequate time to find a replacement, it still hurt. We worked so well together, and with him leaving, I felt like I was getting dumped. His reasons for stepping away made sense, and he gave me plenty of time to find a new co-leader, so I was still grateful regardless of my disappointment.

Unfortunately, when a volunteer quits, it's not always with plenty of notice. I have had leaders step away a few hours before serving and only a few days after starting. It happens every fall, leaving me wondering, "Why am I still doing this?"

When I hear myself ask that question, I know it's the evil one shedding doubt, but time and time again, the Holy Spirit guides me through the situation. Volunteers will leave your program, and the timing won't be convenient, so the question is, "What do we do when volunteers quit last minute?"


Don't be afraid to take a step away to process the emotions and reach out to the Holy Spirit. Lean into God so that He can give you the patience and clarity you need to respond. People will understand if you need to cancel, postpone, or delay an event from happening. Yes, people might be disappointed, confused, or frustrated, but it'll give you the margin to develop a long-term solution.


It's important to plan for these situations to happen. Not that you want them to, but they will. When you plan ahead, you can assess your resources to know how to respond. When a leader quits (or doesn't show up), I ask myself:

Do I need to shift the kids to other groups, or should I shift the activities that we have planned?

I'll know the answer to that question by knowing who I have available to me and what space is free on the parish's campus. I know if I need to step in for that leader, move the kids to another group, or reformat the program that evening. 

Not only do I know what to do, but I've informed my other leaders of alternate plans. This helps them stay adaptable and not feel unprepared if the plan for that session or event changes. 


When a leader leaves, it will impact more than just you. Even if the person leaves for legitimate reasons, people will mourn the loss. If it's a small group leader or catechist, sit down with the kids and give parents the heads up. This isn't a time to release your feelings but allow them to share how they are impacted.

It's also important to talk to your other volunteers. With one less volunteer, the burden grows for everyone. Some of your team might be worried that they will be left alone holding it all together. Ensure you hear out everyone impacted, so that the situation doesn't leave them feeling isolated.


After a volunteer gives their notice, ask them if you can follow up with them to get their perspective and feedback regarding the ministry. If it's someone who has been a part of your ministry for a while, they'll be able to provide you clarity on what you did well and what you could have done better.

If you sit down with someone who quit before they even started, sitting down with them is also helpful. You can learn more about the obstacles and opposition one faces in ministry. Their feedback can help you improve your onboarding and recruiting efforts. 

Volunteers will quit, and it will never happen at the times that feel convenient for you. Remember, it happens to everyone and is not always because of you. You need to continue to lean into God and grow in your understanding of managing volunteers, but we'll talk about that in a future post. In the meantime, remember God has a plan, and the Spirit will guide you through the hills and valleys of ministry.

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