Appreciate Your Volunteers

Teachers engaged in children’s ministry can never receive too much encouragement and appreciation. In fact, while most attention is placed on recruiting new leaders and teachers, an equal amount of attention should be given to keeping the volunteers you’ve worked so hard to get.

Plan to demonstrate in meaningful ways that your church places a high value on the ministry of teaching children. Also include volunteers who serve in other capacities in your children’s ministry.

“Man builds for a century: a Sunday School teacher builds for eternity.” Henrietta Mears

In addition to the awards, events and other forms of recognition described in this article, offer support to your staff in these ongoing ways.

Plan ahead for substitutes.
Agreeing to help in children’s ministry should not mean that a person can never take a needed break. Maintain a list of names and phone numbers of people who have already agreed to serve as children’s ministry substitutes. In a larger church, one person may need to be the keeper of the list, ensuring that the same people are not called every week. In a smaller church, you may distribute the list to your teachers and helpers themselves, requesting them to notify you or another supervisor whenever a change is made.

Express appreciation.
Always be on the lookout for ways to express gratitude to your children’s ministry staff in both informal and formal ways.
– After a class session, give specific praise to a volunteer for positive actions you observed in the classroom. Praising the volunteer in front of other teachers, the volunteer’s family members of parents of children in the volunteer’s class will emphasize your appreciation.
– Periodically write personal notes of thanks to staff members. Depending on the size of your staff, make a plan to regularly write at least one note each week or month.
– Be alert to special times in the lives of your teachers (birthday, job promotion, anniversary, new baby, etc.). The caring you demonstrate for them will model the caring they should show their children.

Event Guidelines
1. Plan ahead so that people can arrange their schedules and the event can be well organized.
2. Mail invitations and then follow up with a personal call to encourage attendance and to determine the approximate number planning to attend.
3. Enlist parents of children and other church members to help plan and lead the event. The more people involved in saying thank-you, the more meaningful the event will be.
4. Plan a get-acquainted activity that encourages people to mingle and meet each other.
5. Keep in mind that the purpose is to encourage and honor teachers, not to twist their arms to do even more than they’ve been doing.

Idea Bank
– Create your own video featuring children and teachers in your children’s programs and a script that expresses appreciation for their efforts. Tip: Show the video as part of a teacher appreciation event or a worship service or in an area of the church facility where people congregate before or after worship services.

– Present a humorous skit that extends gratitude to volunteers. Tip: Videotape the skit, so it can be shown in a variety of circumstances.

– Provide parents and/or children with teacher appreciation fliers that they can fill and give to teachers. Tip: Collect all the fliers and display them on a poster attached at each teacher’s classroom door (make sure each teacher has an equal amount) or on one large poster attached to the wall of a well-traveled hallway.

– Display a teacher appreciation poster from the Children’s Ministry Recruiting Poster Pack at a key location at your facility. Tip: Reproduce one of the teacher appreciation themes onto brightly colored paper (enlarge the theme as needed) to make miniposters.

– At the beginning or end of the teaching term or school year, give a gift to express appreciation to all teachers. Explain that the gift in no way monetarily reimburses the teacher but that it is a symbol or token of gratitude for faithful, excellent service. Gift ideas can include seasonal ideas (Christmas ornament, spring flowers, etc.), books, coffee mugs, notepads, tote bags, T-shorts, food items (fresh fruit, baked goods, preserves, etc.), gift certificates, class pictures, etc. Gifts that are designed for teacher use every Sunday help create team spirit – for example, a tote bag in which to carry supplies. Tip: Some gifts can be imprinted, stenciled, patched or painted with your children’s ministry logo.

– On a special Sunday (first day of the term, dedication or recognition day, etc.) give each teacher a colorful name tag that shows his or her name and how many years he or she has served in children’s ministry. Tip: Ask teachers to stand during the worship service.

– At the end of the teaching term, give each teacher a mini photograph album with pictures of your children’s program. Tip: Be sure to include several photos that picture the teacher in action.

– Let your staff know that their ideas and feedback are appreciated by giving them a feedback form to complete at least once a year. Inviting teachers and leaders to give their input assures them of your support. Tip: Meet with one or more teachers and/or parents to evaluation the feedback and determine what changes or improvements to make.

– Recruit a person to serve as a coordinator for several teacher appreciation events during the year. Give the coordinator a job description and invite him or her to suggest creative ways to express appreciation. Tip: A long-time teacher may enjoy this job as a break from serving in the classroom every week.

– Ask church members or businesses in your community to donate gift items (gift certificates, books, food items, etc.). Tip: Assign a number to each item. During a teacher appreciation event, each volunteer chooses a numbered slip from a container and then receives the item with the matching number.

– Once or twice a year (or at the end of a once-a-year program such as Vacation Bible School) invite all staff (and their families) to a special appreciation event: pizza dinner, build-your-own ice cream sundaes, picnic in the park, brunch, barbecue, etc. You can include a concert, a guest speaker or a video. Teacher appreciation events can be major with decorations, special foods, table centerpieces and entertainment; or they can be low-key and informal. No matter the format of the event, the key is that they be well planned, communicating that someone thinks the teachers are important enough to have gone to some trouble on their behalf. Tip: Provide name tags, especially if you are inviting spouses or children.

– Place a sheet of poster board and several felt pens by a classroom door or in the hall near a class. Parents and/or children may write thank-you notes on it. Tip: Print a starter sentence or two around the border of the poster board (“I’m glad you’re a teacher because…” or “Thank you for…”).

– Designate a Sunday at the beginning of the teaching term to dedicate or recognize those who will be teaching in the coming year. You may choose to offer a dedication prayer in the worship service, introduce the teachers and other volunteers in the worship service, or serve special refreshments after church in honor of the teachers who are each given a corsage/boutonniere, button or special name tag to wear. Whichever approach you take, be sure to alert the teachers ahead of time, so they are aware of the plan. If your church has multiple worship services, identify which service each teacher will attend. Tip: Enlist the pastor to preach on a related topic – importance of ministry to children, the value of service, Jesus as a teacher, etc.

– Give a teacher-of-the-month award or give each teacher an award at the end of the teaching term, at a dedication service or at a teacher recognition event. Ask one or more students from each teacher’s class to hand out the awards. Tip: Photocopy the awards onto heavy colored paper. They can also be colored with felt pens, glitter pens, etc.

– Designate one Sunday as Teacher Treat Day. As a parent from each class to bring a basket of muffins or cookies or other treat to the child’s teacher. Tip: Provide a thank-you flier that all children sign.

– Invite former students of some of your teachers to write a short article for your church newsletter to publicly thank those who taught them in the past. Tip: Ask the student to answer one or more of these questions in the article: Who was one of your favorite teachers? What was something you really liked to do in Sunday School? How did your experiences in children’s programs at our church contribute to your understanding of what it means to be a Christian?

© 2003 Gospel Light. Permission to use granted. Excerpted from Children’s Ministry Recruiting Guide – Find this book on the Gospel Light Website

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