On my desk I keep a paper heart with a handwritten note from a third-grader thanking me for being a center helper. Every time I see it, my heart warms as I recall the experience.
Do your children’s ministry volunteers feel appreciated? Hebrews 3:13 says, “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Ministry is a team effort. We’re called to affirm and encourage the volunteers we lead. So how do we make sure this happens? These three P’s can shape your volunteer appreciation efforts.
Personal — While formal appreciation events are important, they don’t take the place of the face-to-face ways we say “We couldn’t do it without you!” These are often low-cost, quick, and heart-touching expressions of our love and appreciation. The pack of gum with a note that says, “Thanks for sticking with us,” a “World’s Greatest Helper” ribbon, and a reserved parking space for the “Teacher of the Week” are simple ways to communicate value.
For Don Sanders of Harvester Christian Church of St. Charles, Missouri, it starts with verbal affirmation from the pulpit but also the personal touch of a handwritten thank you note. “A couple of years ago, I committed to writing at least one handwritten thank you note a week to a volunteer,” Sanders reports. “I also write every volunteer a personal Christmas card that lists specific things they’ve done.”
Formal appreciation takes planning, but we also have to be intentional with informal appreciation — or it just won’t happen.
Powerful — A generic form letter thanking everyone for helping with vacation Bible school is well-meaning, but it doesn’t have much impact. Appreciation needs to have a certain “wow” effect. Powerful appreciation is personal, sincere, and timely. Don’t delay in your response. A thank you note received three months after the event loses its effectiveness.
I still have a T-shirt I received 12 years ago from my VBS volunteers. During VBS week I was rushed to the hospital due to complications from a recent throat surgery. Each person helping that week signed the back of the T-shirt as an encouragement for my recovery. It reminds me to this day of the power in a simple act of kindness.
Plentiful — Is your volunteer appreciation a full banquet of gratitude — or the basic bread-and-water thank you? People need to be reminded over and over that their time and ministry matters. They matter to God, to your church, to you! When we limit our appreciation efforts to an annual event, it lessens the impact. Don’t get me wrong; an annual volunteer recognition program serves a great purpose, but it doesn’t take the place of continuous praise and ongoing affirmation.
Encouragement is like a breath of fresh air. We just don’t hear much encouragement or receive a lot of recognition these days. Be the one to breathe joy and affirmation into your ministry team’s lungs.
Bob D’Ambrosio is a consultant for Group’s Church Volunteer Central www.churchvolunteercentral.com
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