8 Actions Your Church Can Take to Avoid Volunteer Burnout

I love to volunteer. At my church I’m a Sunday school teacher, confirmation small group leader, and vacation bible school teacher, and in school I’m a PTA member, a kindergarten room mother, and the list goes on, and it’s easy to experience volunteer burnout. When my phone rings and I am asked to help more, I usually say yes. But that was before I returned to being a working mom with three boys involved in extracurricular activities. There is a struggle in my heart between wanting to make a difference by giving back, and managing my time so I can fight off exhaustion.

Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” Elizabeth Andrew

Church volunteers are the most important resource to a church. It’s hard to find reliable people who are willing to volunteer. When you find a good one, you want to ask them for more, and some people just don’t have it in their heart to say no. This leads people to over-commit, and could eventually lead to the silent epidemic: volunteer burnout.

3 Common Causes of Church Volunteer Burnout

  1. High expectations
  2. Lack of support from the church leader overseeing the volunteer
  3. Poor self-management by the volunteer

8 Actions Your Church Can Take

  1. Try to know your church volunteers personality.
  2. Keep the lines of communication open.
  3. Make sure volunteers know they can say “no” if they are feeling overextended or overwhelmed.
  4. Make sure the work environment isn’t too demanding.
  5. Match the right person with the right job.
  6. Provide services to help with emotional burden.
  7. Acknowledge their work to keep them inspired.
  8. Be prepared to make changes as you evaluate the circumstances.

The next time my phone rings, or a volunteer request is posted in the Sunday bulletin, I’m going to have to say “no.” It’s time to limit my volunteering so I don’t feel overwhelmed. Do your volunteers know they can do the same?

Are you asking too much of your church volunteers? How could you alter your expectations for the better?

Tami is a Customer Support Technician at Icon Systems. She has over ten years of customer service experience and has a BS degree in Business Management. She is married and has three boys. Tami volunteers in her church as a Sunday school teacher and a Confirmation small group leader. She enjoys reading, gardening, and making greeting cards.

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About the author  ⁄ Tami


  • Reply
    November 2, 2012

    There’s a balancing act here, too. I want something challenging enough that I feel like I’m growing. My current volunteer roles are so easy for me that I feel like I don’t have to give my best. As a result, I sometimes make mistakes that I don’t need to make because I didn’t think I needed to use as much attention as I did.

    I really think there are different kinds of volunteers, too. How you help them avoid burnout depends on what type of volunteer you have. Someone who’s just there to help is different than someone who does this for a living, for example.


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