Dear, Volunteer: Thank You!

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By Ryan Frank
Ryan Frank serves as a bivocational pastor, CEO of KidzMatter, co-founder of Kidmin Nation and co-founder of Kidmin Nation’s Mega-Con, the most out-of-the-box kidmin conference ever, coming to Nashville, Tennessee, Oct. 3-5. Ryan is the author of several books, including Give Me Jesus (Baker). Ryan and his wife, Beth, publish KidzMatter Magazine and have three daughters. They reside in Converse, Indiana.

As children’s and family ministers, your greatest treasures are your volunteers. They give you their time, effort and energy. Even just an hour a week of someone’s time is very precious. You need to show appreciation to your volunteers. The truth is, we all need to be appreciated. God wired us this way. 

At home, I have a file I started back when I was a teenager. I’ve kept all the significant letters and cards and things that I’ve received in the mail through the years. Recently, I looked through it and enjoyed remembering the really neat things people have given me. And the majority of them were notes of appreciation or words of affirmation. 

I have a letter from my pastor who wrote me after the first time I was able to preach at church as a teen. I have an appreciation letter from Art Rorheim, the founder of Awana. Beth’s grandfather, who’s gone home to be with the Lord, was a pastor. He wrote me a note after I sang in church one time. 

I could go on and on, but the point is, we are wired in such a way that when someone takes time to show us gratitude or appreciation it means a lot to us, motivates us to press on when we’re frustrated and reminds us of our value. 

If you’re going to keep volunteers for the long haul, you have to show them you appreciate them. After all, they’re not getting a paycheck or any health or retirement benefits. Here are some ways you can show your volunteers how much you value and appreciate them. 

Give Them Time
Do for one what you wish you could do for all. Maybe you can’t take all your volunteers to lunch, but you can take one of them. Maybe you can’t take them all for coffee this week, but you can take one. Maybe you don’t have time to give every one of them a call today, but you can call one each day. Do for one what you wish you could do for all. Volunteers desperately need your time. 

Give Them Thanks
Volunteers need to hear the words, “Thank you.” Almost every day I send a thank you card to someone. Why? Because it goes a long way. It’s refreshing to go out to the mailbox and find something other than a bill and junk mail. When people get a thank you note in the mail, it can change their whole day. 

When is the last time someone told you thanks? It’s a rare commodity, isn’t it? But because it’s a rare commodity, it is of great value. 

Gift cards to Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts go a long way too. Cards don’t have to be more than $5 for someone to feel appreciated. Remember, your volunteers are giving you hours of their time. If you really value them, you’re going to find $5 somewhere. 

Just a note or gift card or some time to share coffee will bolster your volunteers’ enthusiasm and encourage them to continue in their service. 

Give Them Breaks
Everyone needs a break now and then. Baseball players play about 160 games a year. That’s a lot of games! But they take a season break, which is crucial to recovering and then preparing for the next season. 

There are times when your volunteers need a break, and one of the greatest ways you can show them appreciation is by offering them a break. See if they need to take a couple weeks off. They will come back, but that time off shows them appreciation for the time they dedicate. 

So how are you doing in this area? What do you need to do to step up your game? Think long term. Maybe you want to do some things but you don’t have the budget for them right now. Next time budget planning comes around, add that as a line item. 

One of the best investments you can make is appreciating your volunteers!

Ways to Give Them Recognition

If you need more volunteers, make heroes of the ones you already have! Here are some ideas for how you can publicly honor your volunteers:

  • Consider starting a Volunteer of the Month feature. Give the volunteer a special parking spot at church, and put his/her name on a plaque. 
  • Recognize volunteers based on the number of years they’ve served. Have one-year, five-year, etc., awards and make them a big deal. Hand out a nice certificate and gift. 
  • Take pictures of all your volunteers and scroll them on a TV in a high-traffic area. As people pass by, they can see who is on your team. 
  • Then there are the large-scale things you can do too, like appreciation events: 
  • Consider large-scale events too. Every year we host a big event for my volunteers at our church. Some years we’ll roast a pig and have a cowboy theme. We make it a special evening. They don’t have to bring anything except themselves and their families. 
  • Host a picnic or barbeque at a park. 
  • Schedule an outing to take all your volunteers and their families to an amusement park.
LeadershipRyan Frank