With Thanksgiving just around the corner, what better time than now to take time as a church staff to thank your volunteers? Having just come off Pastor Appreciation Month where congregations have (hopefully) been encouraged to thank their pastors, turning now to approach the myriad of volunteers in your church and community and showering them with appreciation seems, well, just natural.
While there is a National Volunteer Week in April every year, thanking volunteers around Thanksgiving just seems to make sense. Here are 10 ways to genuinely thank volunteers in your church:1-Thank Volunteers in the Moment
1-Thank Volunteers in the Moment
Thanking volunteers while they are working is probably the easiest way to thank volunteers. Remind your leaders to be gracious and to always say thank you in the moment, whenever possible. Appoint the head of each volunteer group – hospitality, greeters, worship, nursery workers, grade school class teachers, etc. – and encourage them to personally thank each person in their group they oversee.
2-Thank Volunteers Immediately Afterward
At a larger church where the personal thank you is difficult, have each volunteer lead send a thank you email on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning to thank their volunteers personally. For some group leaders, like youth group leaders, sending a text message thank you is a good option as well. You can also send hand-written thank you notes on church stationary, or send digital thank you notes. If your church has the budget, sending small gift cards with a thank you note or letter once a quarter could also go the extra mile. Starbucks five dollar gift cards with a hand-written note. Bang. One and done.
3-Spend Time With Your Volunteers
If you’re the high school director, for instance, take a few of your key volunteers and group leaders out to lunch. Thank them for their time and pray over the ministry. This will go a long way. Or host a potluck for the greeter team – community in-reach is just as important as out-reach.
4-Protect Your Volunteers
For those key volunteers who regularly put in copious amounts of time, make sure to protect them from other ministries within your church. The saying goes that 20 percent do the work of 80 percent. Don’t make the mistake of “over-asking” volunteers who are already putting in double time. Communicate well as a church staff to make sure the same 10 people aren’t being leaned on too frequently to fill the volunteer void.
5-Listen to Your Volunteers
While many volunteers don’t have ministry degrees or full-time church backgrounds, they often have great ideas. You should regularly listen to them when they have an idea and respond without critiquing or complaining. Listening to people who regularly listen to your church and serve it day in and day out is critical.
6-Tell Your Volunteers’ Stories
If your church has an enewsletter, blog, or website with a section on church news, take the time to interview and write up a few volunteer stories and share these with your church. These can be linked to and shared via the church’s social media channels as well–they make great church marketing fodder. By showcasing volunteers – who often have great stories about who they are and how God has met their needs – they will inspire others to step up and serve. Also, you can acknowledge your volunteers online via social media – snap photos at serving events (with their permission, and post and tag on Facebook). This does double duty to help evangelize about your church online as well as publically thank volunteers.
7-Hold a Volunteer Dinner or Special Event
Having a volunteer dinner (something nicer than the usual potluck, if possible) to show your volunteers how much you appreciate them can provide a respite amidst the busyness of most peoples’ lives. Flip the tables and have the paid church staff serve the volunteers. Perhaps even partner with a church of a similar size and trade volunteers to run the event. For instance, Church of Christ sends 10 volunteers to First Presbyterian to help with their dinner and vice versa. That way, each church gets their night of appreciation and rejuvenation.
8-Offer Continuing Education to Your Volunteers
Order leadership books in bulk, offer them as take-aways from your next volunteer or leadership meeting. Hold seminars to further educate your children’s ministry volunteers, don’t charge for the event, offer free childcare, provide lunch. Thank your volunteers again and again. Pour into them as leaders and servants.
9-Write Letters of Reference for Students Who Volunteer
As pastors and church staff, rewarding the next generation by recognizing hard work, diligence, and dedication goes a long way to show you care. Don’t wait for your high schoolers to ask – make a point to write each one who volunteers a letter of reference to include with their college applications.
10-Pray for Your Volunteers
This is perhaps the biggest way you can show you care – ask your volunteers how you can be praying, then actually pray for them. Follow up with them and aim to be in community with the people who are serving alongside you. Join their small group, or start a new one. Have a running list of people who serve with you and their prayer requests can be a wonderful way to stay connected and walk the Christian life side-by-side.