12 ways to re-energize weary
It's spring -- the season when we rejoice in the promise of new
life and refreshed spirits. So why do your volunteers seem
collectively glazed over? Spring time, despite its outdoor
splendor, can be a little gloomy in the children's ministry area.
Some volunteers suffer from spring fever, while others find
themselves counting the days 'till school ends with more enthusiasm
than their kids. But children -- and you -- need these treasured
volunteers' undivided attention in your ministry.
Children's Ministry Magazine went on a fact-finding mission to
learn how veteran children's ministers keep volunteers energized
and refueled during the "final stretch" of the volunteer year -- a
time when volunteers may be tempted to coast or check out.
Kudos -- in all shapes and sizes --
Volunteer appreciation never goes out of season -- and giving your
volunteers unexpected recognition for their dedication not only
boosts their dedication, it also increases their commitment to
Affirmation comes in more forms than packaged gifts and formal
ceremonies. Read on to discover the unique and thoughtful ways
these children's ministers affirm their volunteers.
• Unexpected Applause-"Applaud your volunteers," says
Debbie Spidle, children's ministry director for Point of Grace
Church in Des Moines, Iowa. "Let them know that you value them and
Spidle affirms her volunteers with personal touches. She gives
surprise "treat bags" to volunteers on random Sundays and sends
handwritten cards in the mail.
"Even baking cookies can warm hearts and let volunteers know you
care about them," says Spidle.
When you know volunteers' energy is lagging or during times of
high stress, encourage your team. Spidle sends her volunteers
Easter Survival Kits packed with candies and cards during this very
• Stay-at-Home Getaways-Several children's ministers we
talked to suggested well-timed escapes to rejuvenate a tired
You can create a sense of escape without exotic locations and big
bucks. A small, casual retreat at your church is budget-friendly
and can give volunteers a well-earned time for fun. Cater a meal or
go potluck. Give volunteers the gift of great food and
conversation. Don't overschedule your time, but plan for a speaker
or other program that ministers to your volunteers. Express your
genuine appreciation to each person.
Susan Martinez, religious education director of Sacred Heart
Catholic Church in Durango, Colorado, agrees that sharing food and
good conversation is a great way to affirm volunteers. Her church
treats volunteers to a Friday night movie and hot dog party.
Martinez says the casual Friday night out lets her volunteers
reconnect and rediscover their enthusiasm during the waning
• Time to Relate-Cheryl Wong, children's pastor at Church
of the Good Shepherd in Loveland, Colorado, builds relationships to
"We like to go off campus, bring all our volunteers together, eat,
play fun games, and thank everyone for how they serve," says
Good Shepherd's leadership team also sponsors Coffee Share every
other month on a Sunday morning before church. They invite the
entire children's ministry team and provide child care, food, and
enrichment such as a guest speaker.
"We truly want our team to develop relationships with each other
and our leadership," says Wong.
• Real-World Adventures-Martinez says real-world
adventures, such as helping at a local soup kitchen, keep her
volunteers motivated because they're a change of routine that also
inspire her team's love of service.
In-class adventures also rejuvenate volunteers' stamina. Consider
special art projects or out-of-the box activities to put new energy
into your classrooms, advises Martinez. Kids can grow tired of the
routine; so can your volunteers. Giving classes unusual activities
or letting classes combine for special projects will shake up the
routine and motivate your volunteers.
• Family Appreciation-After hosting a volunteer
appreciation Christmas party in years past, Hannah French,
children's pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Parker,
Colorado, says her church decided on a new approach this year by
hosting a family appreciation party when volunteers' energy was
"Our team feels that it's just as important to appreciate the
families of the people who serve," says French. "Our party will
have lots of fun activities for kids, teens, and adults. We'll also
creatively tell everyone how important they are and how much we
appreciate them. The event will have lots of energy and excitement,
using music, video, and drama. We'll take the time to pour back
into the families who pour so much into our ministry."
• Real Relationships-Never underestimate the power of a
personal relationship when it comes to motivating volunteers,
"If you invest personally in people, you'll know when they need
extra motivation and encouragement," says French. "You'll be able
to tell them specifically what they've done well or relate to the
difficulties in their personal lives. You'll know when they need to
go get that extra cup of coffee just to chat. When your leaders see
you investing in their lives, they'll do the same in the lives of
the people they lead. In ministry, you can never go wrong when you
invest personally in people."