For many churches, internal communications can run the risk of becoming formulaic or even stale. Each week, you likely complete a list of tasks: “Prep the announcement slides, check. Finalize the bulletin, check. Send the Saturday e-newsletter, check....” While processes and even checklists are terribly important for clear communication, it’s also important to always keep your message fresh, relevant, and focused on ministering to the people you serve. And no congregational gatekeeper is more often taken for granted than your ever-dependable church volunteer.
That’s why it’s essential to take time to intentionally thank your volunteers. In light of National Volunteer Week; here are 10 ways to genuinely thank volunteers in your church:
1-Thank Volunteers in the Moment
Thanking volunteers while they are actually working is probably the easiest way to thank them. But doing so takes planning and implementation. First, take time to identify all of your volunteer teams: hospitality, worship, nursery, prayer, groundskeeping, etc. Next, encourage your team leaders to be gracious and to personally say “Thank you” in the moment, whenever possible.
2-Thank Volunteers Immediately Afterward
While thanking people in the moment is good, sometimes the busyness of volunteering can make personal interaction difficult. So, ask each volunteer leader to also send a thank you email to volunteers after the fact—maybe on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning for Sunday service volunteers. For some, like youth group leaders, a text message thank you might work just as well. You can also send handwritten thank you notes on church stationary, or send digital thank you notes. If your church has the budget, sending a small gift card with a thank you note is a great way to go the extra mile.
3-Spend Time With Your Volunteers
Community in-reach is just as important as outreach. Take a few of your key volunteers and group leaders out to an informal lunch or host a potluck. Thank them for their time and pray together over the ministry. This simple act will go a long way.
4-Protect Your Volunteers
For those key volunteers who regularly put in copious amounts of time, make sure to protect their time within your church. The old saying goes that 20 percent do the work of 80 percent. Communicate well as a church staff to make sure the same ten (or twenty or fifty) people aren’t being leaned on too frequently to fill the volunteer void.
5-Listen to Your Volunteers
Volunteers often have great ideas. Give them regular opportunities to share their ideas. Listening to people who regularly serve your church day-in and day-out is critical to showing appreciation for volunteers.
6-Tell Your Volunteers’ Stories
Take the time to interview and write up a few volunteer stories to share via the church website or newsletter. By showcasing volunteers—who often have great stories about who they are and how God has blessed their service—they will inspire others to step-up and serve. These are also great stories to share, with permission, on social media. This kind of communication does double duty: publically thanking volunteers while also helping evangelize about your church online.
7-Hold a Volunteer Dinner or Special Event
Having a volunteer dinner to show your volunteers how much you appreciate them can provide a respite amidst the busyness of most people's’ lives. You can even flip the tables and have the paid church staff serve the volunteers.
8-Offer Continuing Education to Your Volunteers
Order leadership books in bulk and offer them as take-aways at your next volunteer or leadership meeting. Hold seminars to further educate your ministry volunteers; offer free childcare and lunch. Pouring into volunteers as leaders and servants is a great way to show appreciation.
9-Write Letters of Reference for Student Volunteers
Reward the next generation by recognizing hard work, diligence, and dedication. Write each student volunteer a letter of reference to include with their college applications.
10-Pray for Your Volunteers
This is perhaps the most impactful way you can show you care—ask your volunteers how you can pray for them, and then actually do it. Be sure to follow up. Keep a list of prayer requests for those who serve with you so you can stay connected and walk the Christian life side-by-side.
Volunteers are living, breathing exemplars of your church’s mission, vision, and values who serve fellow members, visitors, and community members on a regular basis. When you make communicating your thankfulness for them a priority, your investment will significantly strengthen the culture of service in your church so that it reaches far beyond your church doors.