Volunteering shouldn’t be a thankless job, but often it is. Our volunteers make our ministries happen. We love them. We really do. We are grateful. But do we communicate to our volunteers how much we love them and how thankful we are for them?
Pinterest is full of ideas for cute notes and gifts that you can give to show appreciation. Those types of trinkets are fun, however we can’t only depend on those types of gifts for our volunteers to truly feel loved. We need to build appreciation into the rhythm of our ministries. By building appreciation into the core of what we do, our volunteers know without a doubt that they are loved and that what they do is valued.
1. Pray for them and let them know it. Several years ago I created a calendar on which I assigned a volunteer or two to each day. When a volunteer’s name appeared on my calendar, I would stop and pray for their family. I would send a quick text or give them a call to thank them for serving and to ask if there was anything specific I could pray for. By creating a system, I made sure to include everyone and to regularly connect.
Another meaningful habit is to stop and pray immediately. How often do you get stopped by a volunteer or get a phone call to share about something that is burdening their hearts. Too often we are guilty of saying, “I’ll definitely pray about that” and then we don’t. Stop what you’re doing and pray for that person on the spot. Pray over the phone. Even if they don’t ask for prayer, but they have mentioned something challenging in conversation, ask if you can pray for them.
2. Take time to genuinely connect. Sunday mornings are busy. If you are the leader, you are likely getting pulled in a thousand directions. One Sunday I realized that I had immediately started giving orders to a volunteer before I even said hello. Too often we get caught up in the hectic frenzy of ministry and we completely miss connecting with our people. Stop. Say hello. Ask volunteers how their week was. Ask about their family. Take care of as much of the “stuff” of ministry as you can before people arrive so that you can give your volunteers the attention they deserve.
Also, make time to connect with your volunteers outside of church. Schedule lunch or coffee. Invite their family over. Include a volunteer on a hospital visit you have to make or to do some other ministry task.
3. Make sure they have what they need to do their job. You can give your volunteers a million candy bars with cute notes, but if each week they don’t have what they need to serve well, they will not feel like they are valued. Make sure volunteers have the supplies and equipment they need. As much as possible, make their space of service comfortable (not too hot, not too cold, not too smelly). Do what you can to staff appropriately so that no volunteer feels they are understaffed.
You also communicate value by providing the training that they need to serve well. Helping kids’ volunteers know how to manage their classroom, work with special needs, and deal with troubling behaviors will help them feel more successful in what they do. Training student ministry volunteers on how to discuss tough topics will help them feel prepared. Teaching greeters what to do in case of an emergency helps them feel like a part of the big picture of the church.
4. Feed them well. So this suggestion seems silly, but it really can have the greatest impact. People love good food. When you have meetings, have good food. Surprise your volunteers with a special treat. Once during a planned training meeting, I loaded all of my volunteers up to go to the local ice cream place. Other times I have had shaved ice or ice cream cake. Give away gift cards to beloved restaurants. Communicate how much you love your volunteers by giving them good food!
Volunteers are a gift from God to the church. During this month of love, find new ways to communicate your love and appreciation to your volunteers.
Posted on February 3, 2021
Jenny serves as Minister to Children at West Bradenton Baptist Church in Bradenton, Florida. She is passionate about equipping the church to disciple children to follow Jesus. Jenny also loves investing in other children's ministry leaders.
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