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National Volunteer Week is coming up April 10-16 in both the United States and Canada. We've still got time before then to share ideas and get creative about how we'll show appreciation for our church volunteers. 

For those volunteers who faithfully serve "behind the scenes", who are largely unknown to members of your congregation, a few words of public recognition and thanks are a good place to start showing your appreciation. If your church has volunteers who log many hours guiding (think youth groups) or teaching (think Sunday School and Adult Christian Education), perhaps consider giving them a more tangible kind of thanks when Volunteer Week comes along.

How does your church say "thank you" to your volunteers?

If you've been a volunteer, what expression of "thanks" has meant the most to you?


Here is a list that ServiceLink has compiled, with 10 tips for showing church volunteers how much you appreciate them.  Many of these ideas are 'common sense' actions that volunteer leaders will already be aware of and following, but some may spark new ideas.  National Volunteer Week is also a good opportunity to give thanks, during the congregational prayer, for the faithful volunteers who are such a blessing to our congregations.

  1. Know your volunteers - Look for ways to spend some time with them and learn about who they are and about their lives. Where do they work? Who makes up their family? Ask about vacations. What significant dates are important in their lives? Showing you care about them indicates you’re interested in them personally and not just in completing a task.
  2. Ooze with encouragement either verbally or in writing. Tell your volunteers they did a great job. Share with them the impact they are making in your ministry. Send a card or an email. Let them know you’re praying for them.
  3. Care for your volunteers - Caring for your volunteers goes beyond knowing them. What are some of the things that they require in order to do their tasks? How about making sure they have access to workspace, computers and equipment. How about providing snacks for meetings or training events. This helps reduce the formality of meetings and may give people an excuse to come early or stay a bit later to build relationships.
  4. It’s all about Jesus! Every volunteer must see how their ministry connects to the gospel and changed lives – if not they’re only doing a task. So tell them! Tell them how their ministry connects to the mission of your church and the building of God’s Kingdom.
  5. Show them the ropes - You cannot expect volunteers to deliver quality ministry without some intentional training and team building. Provide the necessary resources in order for volunteers to be effective in their roles, as well as transferring attitudes, competencies and knowledge.
  6. Affirm their gifts - Sometimes people’s gifts are so natural to them that they don’t recognize them as such. When we highlight volunteers’ gifts we acknowledge both their gifts and the Giver of gifts, encouraging them to continue using those gifts to bless others.
  7. Respect their time - Volunteers have busy lives outside of ministry responsibilities. They may already be working long hours or need to arrange babysitters for their children. Lack of time is the most common reason people won’t commit to ministry involvement. So be prepared for your meetings, start on time and return calls and emails promptly. By respecting their time, you value them as volunteers.
  8. Keep them in the loop - People want their lives to matter, to know that they are important to the overall mission and vision of your church. So if there are new initiatives in ministry or changes in programs, keep volunteers informed and share the vision so they don’t feel awkward when other members may inquire of them.
  9. Cover their costs - Investing in a volunteer’s personal growth is a high level of appreciation. Is there a conference that would enhance their gifts and take them to a new level of responsibility? Invite them to participate in growth opportunities and cover their expenses.
  10. Say thanks! Just as you were taught from early on, saying please and thank you is good manners. Say “thank you” often and mean it.

When I stepped down as Prayer Ministry Director I was overwhelmed by the cards I received. There was the card from the Pastor, my Ministry Leader and then others that shared how the ministry had impacted them. I still have them. Don't let a volunteer step away without telling them how much their ministry and work has meant. Personal stories are really great.

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