Imagine for a moment that your ministry didn’t have volunteers—only your staff. It’s not a pretty picture. Whether they have special expertise or simply time you don’t have, every church volunteer plays a valuable role in your ministry and frees you to do what you do best. They aren’t expecting you to compensate them—they’re volunteers, after all—but showing your appreciation makes your team feel valued, and it can inspire them to keep serving.
Anybody can say “thank you” with a card or a gift. But there are a lot more ways to show someone you appreciate what they do. As you get to know them, you’ll learn what makes your volunteers feel most appreciated. Try thanking them in a few different ways to find what works best.
Here are eight ways to say “thank you” to your church volunteers:
1. Spend time with them outside of church
When you only see someone once a week, it’s hard to get to know them personally. And if your volunteers feel like you don’t know them, they may not care what you write in a card or if you give them a gift. They may feel like you don’t care about what’s going on in their lives or what they’re sacrificing in order to serve. When you see them at church (or your weekly ministry meetings), that’s time that you have to be with them. Spending time with your volunteers outside of that shows them you care enough to invest your personal time in them.
Don’t let this time feel like a “check-in” meeting. Use it to get to know them. Find a comfortable environment—play frisbee golf, take them out for coffee, or invite them over for dinner. You could even help them with a project at home.
2. Bring food to volunteer meetings
Food and drinks are a simple way to show your volunteers that you’re thinking of them. Whether you provide a meal or a snack, you may want to let them know in advance—nobody wants to fill up on cereal at home when there’s a free hot breakfast at church.
If anyone on your team has special diets, take the time to find an alternative they can enjoy (ask them for one). Otherwise the food you bring says “I don’t know you well enough to know you can’t eat this,” or “I don’t care.”
3. Identify specific things they’re doing well
Anybody can say, “good job” without knowing anything about you or the job you’re doing. It’s not a meaningless compliment—it’s still nice when someone says “good job”—but you can do better.
You’ve seen how hard your volunteers work to make your ministry possible. You probably know what it takes to do their job. And you might even know them well enough to know what, specifically, is good about the job they’re doing. Specific complements are opportunities to affirm someone’s gifts—gifts they may not even realize they have until you point them out.
Check out these three compliments:
- “Good job!”
- “You’re so good at noticing the details. I’m really glad you’re here to make sure we do this right.”
- “It’s so clear that you really care about people. Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus.”
See the difference?
4. Babysit for them
Most likely, your volunteers have work, school, and other things besides your ministry that keep them busy. For volunteers with young kids, even the weekly meetings or extra time at church require some juggling—they may even need to hire a babysitter just to help you out.
One of the biggest blessings I’ve been able to give people I serve with is free babysitting. Seriously. Give mom and dad a night out together (free babysitting could be a great addition to a thank you gift card). Babysitting is an investment in your personal relationship with your volunteers, and it lets you say “thank you” in a meaningful way.
5. Have a volunteer appreciation service
Thanking volunteers with a special service does a few things:
- It makes volunteers feel like your church values what they do
- It shows your congregation what your ministry has been up to
- It can inspire others to volunteer
Highlighting your volunteers provides a tangible picture of what the body of Christ can look like. If you can, show your congregation a variety of roles. Talk about the skills and gifts that help each volunteer thrive in their position.
Your service might use videos, volunteer testimonies, share stories and projects, or simply talk about some things you’ve noticed about how each person has served your church.
6. Take your volunteers out to lunch
Buying people lunch means spending time and money on them. This could be a monthly, quarterly, or randomly scheduled time to thank your volunteers. However you decide to do it, use lunch time to celebrate the work they’ve done and show them your appreciation. Let them choose where to eat for bonus points (note: this may also require bonus bucks).
7. Tell them why their role is valuable
Especially when your role involves menial tasks, it’s easy to feel like it doesn’t matter. But every volunteer role at your church is part of something much bigger. Help your volunteers connect what they do to what your church is accomplishing. Cast the vision for your ministry’s mission and talk about how they make that mission possible.
8. Respect their time
Make no mistake: your volunteers are making personal sacrifices to serve in your ministry. Create a schedule and stick to it. When your meetings start late or end late, you’re showing your volunteers that you don’t value what they’re already sacrificing to be with you (especially if they start late because you’re unprepared).
If you know you have more material than what you can cover in the allotted time or that a special event is going to extend beyond the usual window, communicate that to your volunteers as early as possible. Likewise, if an event might get done early, tell them in advance so your volunteers can plan their lives around the adjusted schedule.
Respecting people’s time shows them that you appreciate what they’re sacrificing. And it lets every time you’re together end with “Thank you for your time tonight” instead of “Sorry we ran late.”
Showing gratitude is important
Volunteers are the powerhouses behind strong, vibrant ministries—and it’s important to show appreciation for them. Thankfulness is a vital motivator. There are plenty of little ways to acknowledge the people who serve alongside you, but this list should get you off to a good start.