We are entering a busy time in the Church Year. Before you know it, Thanksgiving will be upon us, followed rapidly by the Advent and Christmas celebrations—and, in the blink of an eye, 2017 will be here! Christmas programs and parties, special worship services, and many more special events will soon dominate the calendar. And that does not account for the regular ministries already taking place in your congregation.
If your congregation is like most, you ask a lot of your volunteers during times like this. It can be very easy for volunteer leaders to feel worn down and even burned out during this season of ministry. So how can we help volunteers stay refreshed and energized, even when things seem crazy?
There are three key things volunteers need as they serve in our congregations:
1. They need to GROW. People want to be equipped with the skills necessary to accomplish the tasks they have taken on.
2. They need to know they are making a DIFFERENCE. People want to see how their service is making an impact for the Kingdom and helping others in their midst.
3. They need to feel APPRECIATED. People want to know that we recognize their sacrifice and service, and that we are grateful for it.
With Thanksgiving coming later this month, this is a perfect time for leaders to work on that third key point: making sure volunteers feel appreciated. As we give thanks for so many blessings in our lives this month, we can also say thank you to our volunteers in a multitude of ways.
To get started, here are six simple ways you can thank your volunteers this month:
1. Say it. Sometimes, it is easy for us to overlook the basic act of saying thank you to our volunteers. When you see someone serving in your congregation, make it a habit to express your gratitude verbally. Offer positive feedback. You can never speak too many words of affirmation into the life of a volunteer.
2. Write it down. Writing a simple thank-you note to each of your volunteers can go a long way toward encouraging them in their service. Your words become so much more tangible. Volunteers can look back and remember the gratitude you expressed in the future—particularly on difficult days of service.
3. Give small gifts. From candy to coffee mugs to cars (okay, maybe not!), a small gift can brighten someone’s day. Even if your budget seems small, this is a great way to express your gratitude for the work your volunteers do week in, week out.
4. Host a celebration. Gather your volunteers for a basic celebration—brunch, dinner, coffee, or something else. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. Provide space for your leaders to gather with like-minded servants, without the responsibility that typically accompanies their area of ministry.
5. Have others tell them. Are you looking to say thank you to your Sunday School teachers? Have their students write notes that complete the sentence, “Thank you for . . . ” or “You are special to me because . . . ” or any number of other phrases. This is an activity that could easily be replicated with any number of volunteer roles. It means a great deal for you to say thanks, but for others to say it often carries even more weight.
6. Make it public. Recognize your volunteers in your newsletters, bulletins, and on social media. It will help them feel appreciated, and may help you to recruit new volunteers for your ministry in the future!
Certainly, you can (and should!) say thank you to your volunteers throughout the year. But what better time to start than right now? Let’s make November a month when we give thanks for the service our members provide in our congregations!
Continue the conversation. How do YOU say thank you to your volunteers? Leave a comment and discuss other effective ways to communicate your thanks to the volunteers at your congregation!
(This article was originally posted by Concordia Publishing House on November 8, 2016.)