Use these 10 creative ways to thank wonderful volunteers and let them know you appreciate them!
Your volunteers go above and beyond their calling by faithfully serving—often without anyone ever taking notice. And while “praise from people” certainly isn’t the reason volunteers serve, it’s appropriate and necessary to attend to and thank those who faithfully give of themselves through their personal investment in children’s ministry.
Check out what children’s ministers are doing to tangibly thank their volunteers. And discover creative ways you can end this school year on a positive thank you note.
1. All-Seasons Thanks for Volunteers
“We have a plan to show our volunteers all year that they’re appreciated,” says John Wiseman from Neighborhood Church in Redding, California. “In the fall, we present returning teachers with a book about practical ministry to help equip and further train them as they begin the new year. At Christmas, I send a handwritten thank you card with a gift certificate for a pie from an area restaurant. And at the end of the school year, I give them a book to encourage them in their walk with Christ, along with a personal, handwritten note to thank them for their service.”
2. Mardi Gras Event for Volunteers
“We had Mardi Gras Night,” says Larry Shallenberger from Grace Baptist Church in Erie, Pennsylvania, about a recent large event he planned for his church’s volunteers.
“I went online to find out what the colors for Mardi Gras meant, and I learned they originally were chosen to reflect the royalty and power of God. I utilized these colors, ordered Mardi Gras decorations, and went all out decorating. We had Cajun food, and to take advantage of the teaching moment of the Mardi Gras colors, we asked our volunteers to form groups and think of ways they saw God’s power, faithfulness, or wealth in their teaching ministries over the past year. I then presented each volunteer with a FaithWeaver TM cross pin (again utilizing the color theme) from Group Publishing to end the evening.
“I’m in the process of sending out letterhead I had made for the children’s ministry to each family,” continues Shallenberger. “And I’m asking the parents to write a note of appreciation to their children’s teachers on one side. Then I asked them to have their children do the same on the other side. Then I’ll collect these notes and bind them into books for the teachers to present a truly heartfelt thank you.”
3. Gift Book for Volunteers
What You Do Matters: Thank You for Helping Kids Love Jesus is a keepsake book for volunteers and teachers weaves encouragement, uplifting Scripture, real stories, and more into a gift that’ll warm their souls—and help keep their enthusiasm for introducing kids to Jesus going strong. Show your team members how much you care as they grow their relationship with Jesus and journey with children to make an eternal difference in the world.
Let them know you appreciate them! This book is the perfect gift for new teachers, thank-you gifts, Christmas gifts, stocking stuffers, pick-me-ups, or anytime affirmations.
Quantity discounts are available at group.com.
4. Loving and Thanking Volunteers
“Volunteer appreciation is what ministry is all about helping children come to Christ and loving the people who see that happen,” says Mark Hoogerhyde of Kentwood Community Church in Kentwood, Michigan. “I present my volunteers with a gift each Christmas, send personal notes to our volunteers (especially when I see a volunteer do something special with the kids), and plan a catered dinner once a year.
“This year we’re doing something new—we’re planning a children’s ministry volunteer picnic for all volunteers and their families. We’ll have food, games, and fun at an area park and are planning a time my volunteers won’t forget.”
Hoogerhyde also considers training part of his volunteer appreciation ministry, so he sends volunteers to many outside training events and provides in-house training throughout the year.
5. Eat, Drink, and Be Thankful
We have an ongoing volunteer appreciation ministry at Sparta Baptist Church, in Sparta, Michigan. Year-round we thank our volunteers with notes, candy, and other little surprises hand-delivered to them before their classes begin each week.
Each fall we have our annual holiday open house where I open my home for two evenings and invite the volunteers and their guests to come, enjoy good food, good fellowship, and Christmas music. I present each volunteer with a gift certificate to an area restaurant (donated by the restaurants) and a handmade Christmas ornament. It’s a fun evening that leaves my volunteers affirmed, renewed, and feeling appreciated.
In spring we have an annual volunteer appreciation dinner. This year we’ll have coffee mugs with our children’s ministry’s new logo made to present to the volunteers.
6. Community In-Reach
Approach area restaurants, gift stores, and florists about donating a gift certificate. Many will be happy to do so. For the small amount of time it takes to contact businesses and pick up the certificates, you’ll be able to present your volunteers with a truly wonderful gift at no cost to your church.
7. Magnetizing Ministry
Take a photo of each class on a digital camera. Print the photos on magnetic printer sheets, and present your volunteers with special photo magnets of their classes. Print cards that say, “Thanks for sticking in there! We’re so thankful you were our teacher this year!” Have kids from each class sign the card.
8. Adopt a Volunteer
Ask adults in your church who don’t teach to be involved in your volunteer support and appreciation ministry by “adopting” a teacher. When they adopt, they’re committing to:
- Provide one year of prayer support.
- Keep their adopted volunteer informed of any adult class activities such as dinners or parties.
- Celebrate the volunteer’s birthday.
- Participate in volunteer appreciation day. That means showing up at the volunteer’s home to wash the car. They can deliver a “catered” breakfast, lunch, or dinner along with flowers and a card that says, “Thank you for serving so faithfully in your class!”
When we involve others in our church in thanking those who serve, it’s more meaningful to the volunteer and it provides the opportunity to make a powerful impact in the lives of those who become involved.
9. A Special Service for Volunteers
Find a child in each class who’s willing to say a short prayer during this church service for his or her teacher—from the nursery all the way through the adult classes and have kids and teachers participate in a special volunteer appreciation Sunday.
- The day before the service, have kids make cookies, fudge, or other special treats to put in a wrapped package for each volunteer.
- During the service, have preselected kids walk into the sanctuary and lead teachers to face the congregation.
Present each teacher with a gift and a package of goodies. Have the preselected kids pray and thank God for their teachers.
10. Pamper Your Volunteers Sunday
Honor your volunteers with a pancake breakfast. Include your entire church, but have special tables according to classes so teachers can eat with their students and their families. Parents must sit with their kids so teachers don’t end up watching them at the breakfast in their honor.
- Present each volunteer with either You Are Special or Because I Love You by Max Lucado.
- Provide an opportunity for kids from each class to share something they especially appreciate about their teachers. They can also share how their teachers have shown love to them over the past year.
- Have each class present its teacher with a “heart” gift. This could be a picture of a heart drawn by a child, chocolate hearts, or a mug with a heart on it.
If you’re interested in beginning a ministry of appreciation to your volunteers, pick one thing to start with and see the difference it makes with your volunteers. If you’re already committed to a ministry of appreciation to your volunteers, let me give you a special thank you note-you are a gift to God! And what you do makes a difference!
Lynda Freeman is the editor for ‘Round About the Church in Sparta, Michigan.
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