This post was written by Crystal Mazzuca, a member of the INCM Blog team.
If someone were to ask you to describe your volunteers in one word, what would you say? Amazing? Dynamic? Incredible? Faithful? Christ-like?
The truth of the matter is, there aren’t enough thesauruses in the world to contain all the wonderful things we’d like to say about them. And, as leaders, we need to make sure that they know it.
Appreciation is one of the most simple yet most effective ways to invest in our volunteers.
When a volunteer feels known and valued, they are more likely to continue to serve. When a volunteer feels seen and appreciated, they are more likely to give above and beyond what is asked of them. When we show our volunteers that we care, we pour out the love of their Creator and acknowledge the gifts He’s given them.
A good leader will make volunteer appreciation one of their top priorities in ministry. So how do we do it well? Here are 3 P’s to volunteer appreciation with some practical ideas for each.
1. Be Personal
How well do you know your volunteers? Do you know their likes? Hobbies? Favorite Starbucks drink?
Taking the time to get to know them on a personal level will enable you to appreciate them in a way that is personable and meaningful. A simple survey asking get-to-know-you questions can have a long-term impact when you use those answers to bless them in a worthwhile way.
One of the best ways to be personal is celebrating birthdays. For each of your volunteers – old and young, seasoned and brand new – a birthday acknowledgment and celebration goes a long way in showing appreciation.
This is also a good way to make sure that each of your volunteers receives something special at least once a year. Here are some simple ideas that have a big impact:
- Hand write a card sharing what you appreciate about them
- Bring them their favorite coffee drink or treat
- Buy them a gift card to their favorite restaurant
- Invite them over for a meal
- Have the kids in their class dress up in their favorite color
- Invite the parents to write appreciation notes
2. Be Public
It’s one thing for a volunteer to know they are appreciated by you; it’s another for them to know that you appreciate them so much, you are telling other people about it. Even the shyest, most reserved volunteer will feel moved by hearing you give them kudos to others.
Finding public ways to appreciate your volunteers not only blesses them, but it also inspires those who get to hear about how amazing they are. The body of Christ grows as we are spurred on by the good works and admirable qualities of one another.
Here are some ways you can be public in your appreciation:
- Create posts on social media celebrating individual volunteers or volunteer teams
- Share about volunteers and their talents during staff meetings
- Call them out at a team training or huddle
- Include stories about your volunteers in your regular church communications
- Hang up volunteer pictures and appreciation notes in your ministry area
- Talk to parents about how much you admire and appreciate their child’s leader (even if the leader doesn’t hear you directly, they will feel appreciation from the culture you are creating!)
3. Be Persistent
Is there such a thing as too much appreciation? If it isn’t sincere, it can feel trite and contrived. But when we are genuinely showing gratitude to our volunteers, appreciation encourages, builds up, and fills them with love. As God our Father loves them consistently and constantly, so should we.
While we never want appreciation to feel scheduled or forced, creating a habit of intentionally investing in our volunteers will create an environment where they feel validated and cherished.
Here are some ideas for persistent appreciation:
- Set a reminder on your phone to text 3 volunteers every Monday just thanking them for what they gave on Sunday
- Provide snacks for your volunteers every time they serve or once a month
- Call the members of a volunteer team once a month just to say “hi,” let them know you appreciate them, and ask how you can pray for them
- Send 10 “just because” postcards every other month where you write a quick note about the godly characteristics you see you in them
- Follow them on social media and take the time to like and comment on their posts
- Take time every Sunday to check in on your volunteers, compliment them, and thank them for what they are doing
We will see a ten-fold return on our investment as we personably, publicly, and persistently appreciate our volunteers. We will build a culture of volunteers who delight to serve because they know that they are respected and treasured. We will see believers grow in their God-given identity and purpose.
And we will glorify the Lord as we speak words of life and exhort our brothers and sisters.
As Paul encourages all Christians, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10) Let us be leaders who show affection, honor our volunteers, and bless their socks off!
Crystal has always loved working with kids. After earning her Masters in Christian Education Administration, Crystal was hired as the full-time Director of Kids’ Ministry at her church. She’s thankful to have found a family of like-minded brothers and sisters who share a common passion for Kingdom growth through discipleship.