Work with a student ministry volunteer team for very long and you’re bound to find yourself in a situation where someone messes up. Maybe it was a mistake out or ignorance, a youthful discretion or a flat-out screwup. Whatever situation you find yourself in, here’s a few steps in the process to be sure to hit:

Immediately jump in
The worst thing you can do when you get wind of a situation brewing is to think it will go away. It might blow over … but there’s a greater chance it will blow up. If you don’t jump into action, you might find yourself being asked questions you simply don’t have the answer to. A good leader runs in when everyone else runs away.

Get the whole truth
If there’s two sides to a situation, make sure you get both before you pass judgement. We all are guilty of skewing perspectives to gain an advantage – half truths always attempt to make the teller look better so if possible make sure you get someone’s take on it from the other end.

Mess ups are subjective
First-time irresponsibility from a rookie volunteer needs to be handled differently than a veteran volunteer who knows better. At the same time a leader who “knows better” has to be held accountable for their actions as well. No matter the situation, always consider the source and show grace quickly and generously … until it runs out.

Map out a timeline to return
If there needs to be a “season off” or some sort of tangible discipline, make sure you also draw a roadmap to return. Often times a leader realizes their mistake then is forgotten about as the ministry moves forward without them. If there is a chance for return, make it clear on the calendar the steps back into the trust of the ministry. If you’re past the point of no return … make that clear as well.

Dealing with volunteer issues isn’t easy! But you can do it – it takes strong leadership and you have to be OK testing some friendships for the overall strength of the ministry. Share you learnings in the comments, too!