The 3 P’s of Affirmation


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.

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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

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

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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

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

Bob D’Ambrosio is a consultant for Group’s Church Volunteer


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