5 Communication Mistakes Leaders Make with Volunteers

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5 Communication Mistakes Leaders Make with Volunteers

As ministry leaders, most of us are paid communicators. Our churches and organizations give us the mic and turn up the volume when we have something to say. It is our job to be the upfront and loud person. For some reason, though, many leaders are just not very clear when it comes to communicating with volunteers.

Leaders struggle and often make basic mistakes to balance their volume while pumping up the clarity. When it comes to God’s word, leaders must share the message of ministry with those who serve beside them as volunteers. These folks are critical because they can either mute the ministry or amplify the vision.

Here are five mistakes leaders make that pull the plug on their soundboard of communication.


There is nothing worse than the sound person in the back, struggling to find a consistent balance and mix for your microphone. Sometimes it is too loud, and other times it is too low. It is even worse when there is a loud surprising pop or screech! When it comes to sound, it is all about steady and knowledgable consistency behind the board.

The same is true when it comes to communicating with volunteers. Communication needs to be consistent and regular.

Choose a specific day and time for communications. Volunteers are busy with personal and professional lives. Emails, texts, or posts can quickly get lost in the shuffle of life. Let them know when to expect your communication. Other than special events and emergencies, keep that schedule of communication consistent with no surprises.


Don’t be like the band that plays the concert a bit too loud for their enjoyment, while leaving the crowd to struggle with hearing loss. Make sure to balance the pure volume with a good mix of clarity.

Think of the crowd who is listening. Are they going to remember what is communicated by the end? Are they going to enjoy the tone of communication? Even in important and pressing topics, make the tone considerate and caring. No one who is freely giving their time wants to be yelled at, so know and control your volume for your audience of listeners.


There is always a band at a show that chooses to do an extended solo to show off one member’s skills. We have all been to that conference or service in which the speaker goes just a little too long to cover everything they studied in preparation.

Leaders do the same thing with communication when they make their message longer than it needs to be—whether it is virtual or in-person. The communication becomes wordy, packed with extra information that is not needed.

Keep your communication concise and on the topic so that volunteers will want to read or listen to what is being communicated. While a leader may be skilled, knowledgable, and well-prepared, the volunteers only want the concise information that they need to succeed.


Communication should be more than a loud megaphone of announcements and information. It should also be a whisper of instruction and encouragement to volunteers. Volunteers should be receiving not just what to know and do, but also learning know-how and how-to.

Leaders should take the batteries out of their megaphone of announcement-based communication and recharge their volunteers with constructive training and spiritual encouragement.

Make sure to share ways to plug into what needs to be done and provide kind, constructive instruction to improve the team. Additionally, allow for moments to celebrate success and reflect on failures to construct a better ministry team.


Talking at an audience is different than talking with an audience. Many leaders and communicators struggle with this nuance, especially in ministry settings. Leaders who preach and speak at an audience may find it difficult to flip the switch to teaching volunteers.

Conversations are powerful ways to communicate. Volunteers need leaders that will talk and walk with them in two-way communication. They need an invitation into response, feedback, and contribution as it will lead to ownership.

No matter the method or type of communication, the style should be conversational. Use language that is personal and casual as often as you can. Volunteers in your ministry want to feel like a valued companion and partner. How you communicate with them directly impacts this relationship.

If you want to be heard this school year, consistently communicate with your volunteers by adjusting the volume and improve the balance of your clarity through considerate, concise, and constructive conversational communication.

Dan Istvanik has been working in youth ministry for 25 years, serving in churches in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Washington DC.  He is a speaker, ministry coach, writer, and contributor to other ministry resources. You can contact Dan at  www.mymresources.com, where he shares student ministry resources.

For more on M2P’s Communication Series, check out:

4 Mistakes Leaders Make in Communication with Parents

Mistakes Leaders Make In Communication with Leadership Staff

3 Mistakes Leaders Make in Communicating with Students

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This build-your-own kit includes all the files you need to produce four safety documents for your ministry professionally: Safety Guidelines for Volunteers, Student Ministry Expectations, Ministry Volunteer Application, and Background Check Application.

Safety is an essential part of building trust with parents. If parents can’t trust us, they won’t allow us to minister to them or their families. So when you put safety plans and procedures in place, your actions tell parents you care.

One of the biggest obstacles ministers face is knowing what policies to put in place. This reason is why we created four documents. 

One-On-One Time
Restroom Policies
Discipline Management
Group Management
Group Ratio Suggestions
Guidelines for Physical Contact
Emergency Procedures
Abuse Policy
Social Media
Other Responsibilities
Personal Information
Statement of Faith
Prior History
Information for Background Agency Check