Become fluent in the five “love languages” so your volunteers feel just how much you appreciate them!
We asked our staff and friends in ministry about their primary love language — and how someone made them feel appreciated in that language.
The Five Love Languages of Volunteers (And How to Use Them!)
1. Words of Affirmation
The senior pastor I loved serving with most as a minister of education was an older gentleman who used to regularly say to the congregation while I was in range of hearing: “And aren’t we grateful to have Wes? Let’s hope he never discovers just how good he is or he’ll leave us for a bigger church.” I never left for a bigger church!
I was seriously considering quitting my ministry position, but then the mother of a child I taught took me aside and thanked me for investing time and energy into her daughter and for helping her little girl feel special. “You have no idea what a difference you make,” this woman said, “and how much Amy looks forward to coming to church.” Those words kept me in ministry — first on staff and for the next 20 years as a volunteer.
On my birthday, a dear friend staged a surprise party for me after the service. The fellowship hall was filled with children and their families yelling, “Surprise! Happy birthday!” They gave me a beautiful box filled with notes, drawings, pictures, and cards from “my kids” and their parents. I pull out that box frequently when I need a pick-me-up, a good laugh, or a simple smile.
2. Receiving Gifts
The things I’ve appreciated most have come in the form of someone appreciating the time I’ve taken from my family and by making it possible for me to spend fun time with my family. I received a babysitter when my kids were younger; movie tickets; gift certificates to dinner somewhere; tickets to a play; and a card sent to my wife saying thanks for allowing me to take time away from her and the family.
Give me something that shows you know me and I’m yours. Most of my students and faculty peers know I’m hooked on two great loves: music and Coca-Cola. Consequently, I have Coke bottles from all over the world, plus plenty of “real thing” memorabilia. I also receive a lot of free music!
3. Acts of Service
It was the beginning of the school year (a.k.a. crazy time!) and I had to have back surgery. I had two weeks notice and was single with no family to count on here in Memphis…just my church family. My wonderful leadership team plugged into high gear! Not only did they do an awesome job of taking care of things while I was gone, but they came to bring me food, take my dog out, empty my dishwasher, wash my clothes, and even hold my head when I was as sick as a dog from the meds!
Elaine Friedrich Hall
4. Physical Touch
When my husband died, one of my pastors told me he was a “safe” person to hug. And I desperately needed hugs at that time. Whenever I saw him at church, he would wrap his arms around me and hold me. I never felt uncomfortable about his embrace, only comforted. Over time, I needed his hugs less frequently but I will always remember his touch as a safe comfort for me.
Christine Yount Jones
5. Quality Time
When I was a teenager, I sat in the front of the van on a youth group road trip. I talked with the youth sponsor for a long time, and I felt loved and appreciated because he spent time with me and gave me a listening ear. I was the kind of teenager who seemed to get passed over because I always seemed like I was doing fine. So it was really significant to have someone listen to me and care about my life.
For more information about the five love languages, go to www.fivelovelanguages.com.
Want more volunteer management ideas? Check out these articles!