5 Essentials for Your Volunteers . . . #3 Thank and Encourage Them!

Lynda Freeman —  March 5, 2012

For the past couple of articles, I’ve been writing about the Top 5 Essentials for our Volunteers . . . #5 – provide resources and #4 – provide training. Last week I said, “Whatever you do, commit to providing training for your volunteers this year because it is essential. If we want our volunteers to be successful in their ministry, we need to provide the tools they need and training is an essential tool!” Today I’m going to look at #3 – thank and encourage your volunteers!

Your church and my church have each been gifted with volunteers who faithfully serve in the various areas of our ministries. While these people certainly do not serve for our thanks, it absolutely is appropriate to take the time to thank them! I have always enjoyed the ministry of appreciation – what could possibly be more fun than taking the time to thank and encourage those who serve as volunteers in our churches? There are many ways to thank your volunteers, but the first thing to keep in mind is it is absolutely essential to begin with something which isn’t very time consuming and build from there. Once you begin any ministry of encouragement to your volunteers you want to be able to maintain and continue that ministry. If you jump in and take on more than you can keep up with you may end up discouraging your volunteers.

Keep in mind, volunteer encouragement is all about thanking and encouraging your volunteers and includes things like planning big events such as appreciation dinners and holiday open houses and smaller things like weekly, bi-weekly or even monthly surprises!  Pick and choose those ideas which you are able to commit to and keep up with then add more as you are able to continue to maintain them.  Consider the following ideas –

  • Encourage by providing little “surprises” each week, every other week or at least once a month! I’m including a few possible ideas for surprises to get you started!
  1. Purchase small post-it-notes for each volunteer and tag with, “We’re stuck on you!”
  2. Give each volunteer a pen or pencil with a tag that says, “You’ve got the ‘write’ stuff! We’re glad to have you as part of our Ministry team!”
  3. Give each teacher a banana and tag with, “Our ‘bunch’ wouldn’t be the same without you! We’re so glad you’re part of our Ministry Team!”
  4. Give each volunteer a Riesen’s Chocolate and tag with, “There are so many ‘riesens’ we are thankful you are part of our Ministry Team!”
  • Get letter stackers at your local office supply store – one for each volunteer and leave in their classrooms . These letter stackers can serve as “mailboxes” for your volunteers. Leave notes in your volunteer’s “mailboxes” and encourage parents and kids to leave notes of appreciation in their volunteer’s “mailboxes”, too. :^)
  • Encourage your volunteers by communicating regularly – I printed bi-weekly newsletters and included info on upcoming dates, trainings, scope and sequence, had a note from our pastor, noticed birthdays and anniversaries of volunteers, provided book reviews, a read through the Bible schedule and cartoons just for fun. My volunteers appreciated these as they were able to see I was serious about communicating with them!
  • Plan a volunteer appreciation dinner – you could make it very simple by asking non-volunteers in your church to provide the parts of the dinner or make it a catered event . . . just having the dinner makes your volunteers feel valued and is absolutely well worth the time, expense and effort!
  • Thank your volunteers by having them stand in a morning service, hand each one a simple white carnation and then have the senior pastor pray for them.

These are just a few ideas for thanking and encouraging your volunteers, try one, or all of them, but be sure to do something to regularly thank and encourage your volunteers! We are all busy . . . most of us are too busy. When someone volunteers to give of themselves and their time to serve in your children’s ministry, they are giving something truly precious. When you thank and encourage them you are showing you understand the value of what they offer, you sincerely appreciate what they offer and most importantly, you sincerely appreciate them! Next week I’ll look at the #2 essential thing you can give your volunteers . . . a listening ear!

Lynda Freeman

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Lynda has been married to Dave for 30 years . . . they met on a volcano in Northern California! Lynda took one look at Dave and thought, “We will get married!” And so they did! They have two grown children, Tiffany (26) and Dave (25), a daughter-in-law, Jackie (26) and two grandsons; Josiah (3) and the newly arrived Caleb – they are the delight of her life! Lynda lives in West Michigan and has served in children’s ministry for 40 years . . . she started with a Wednesday night class for four year olds when she was 10 . . . and has led ministries in churches with 100 people, 1600 people and several in-between. Children’s ministry is the passion of Lynda’s heart – she wants volunteers to love serving and children to love being there so they can learn to know and walk with Jesus all their lives! Lynda worked as a consultant for Gospel Light, Group and Zonderkidz/Big Idea/Willow Creek and worked as the Church Resource Consultant for Kregel Bookstores for 13 years providing training and answering questions for churches throughout West Michigan. She has written for Children’s Ministry Magazine and Your Church Magazine, wrote some of the preschool lessons for Big Idea’s VeggieConnections curriculum, was a contributing author for Group’s Humongous Book of Bible Skits for Children’s Ministry and wrote the Connections to Christ portion of the Manners that Matter curriculum from Maralee McKee. Eight years ago Lynda was diagnosed with MS, Lupus and a few other auto-immune illnesses and can no longer work “hands-on” with children . . . the stairs at her church are best avoided. However, Lynda consults with and advises her church and writes their curriculum, kidz Connection. She also writes a blog – About the Children’s Department - and is developing a series of children’s books and a resource on praying the Scripture! For fun, Lynda writes a blog for grandmas- grandma’s cookie jar (www.grandmascookiejar.net ) . . . well, grandpas, moms and dads are welcome to read it, too! You will find her on Twitter, Facebook and CM Connect .