I don’t know a single Children’s Pastor who has a big enough budget to do everything they would like to do. With that being said, we look to find places where we can cut costs in order to make VBS extra special this year or find an extra hundred dollars to upgrade our bounce house for the back to school bash. One area that often times gets cut the most is volunteer appreciation (that’s if you even have VA on your budget to begin with). BUT YOU CAN NOT AFFORD TO DO THIS!
Over all my years of ministry, I’ve been blessed to be a part of churches that really honor their volunteers and then I have had to reach into my own pocket to honor my volunteers at churches that did not. One of the biggest differences I found between churches that where striving vs churches stuck in a rut was the culture among their volunteers. Churches that had a focus on raising up leaders and showing how thankful they where to their teams where growing and more importantly just seemed like a place where people wanted to be. On the other hand, the churches where the volunteers never got thanked, or taken care of seemed very main stage focused, and if you were not on the main stage, you felt like you didn’t even matter.
I’m going to make a bold statement here, but volunteers are more key to the success of children’s ministry then to any other ministry at your church. Think of the pure number of volunteers you need just open the doors each Sunday. Also, Children’s Ministry is one of the few volunteer positions that require your team’s whole time away from the adult service. Because we ask so much from our team, we should be leading the way in building them up and showing them real appreciation.
So why can’t you afford to not appreciate your volunteers?
Environment: Think of jobs you have had in your life. What where you favorite and least favorite? Did the way your boss treated you make a big difference in how much you enjoyed working there? In my case, I loved working at places where I felt loved and appreciated, and I could not wait to leave the places where I felt like I was not understood, or that my boss cared about me. The way you treat your team makes a huge difference on the over all environment of your ministry. Volunteers that feel that you care about them and want to see them grow will be the types of volunteers that will plan family vacations around VBS week or happily fill in on a weekend where someone calls in sick. They will also want to bring their friends into the ministry, because they find it so rewarding.
Stability: According to a survey conducted by LifeWay, the second biggest reason for people switching churches is that they did not feel engaged or involved in meaningful church work. If you show how grateful you are for your team, no matter how big or little of a role they have in your ministry, it will automatically add value in their heads to the work they do. If you are never being appreciated for the work you do, then you are just going to assume that you do not matter to that ministry. If you want to have a children’s ministry full of volunteers that have been serving for years, you must show them appreciation.
Hard Work: For most people, you will only work hard if you really care about what you are doing. This is the same with kids church. In order for your team to do their best every week, they have to spend a good amount of time preparing for the week, and be able to be silly with the kids. I’ve found that teams will go the extra mile to do a good job for a leader who they really believe in and who believes in them. Just by showing appreciation to your team, you will push them to show up every week and give the best they can possibility give. Even more, if you invest in growing your team by giving them resources, their abilities will grow and they will become even better volunteers.
So how can you show your team appreciation? Here are a few ideas map out over a 1 year span.
Once a Year:
Throw an annual Kid’s Church Team Party. Make this an event you would never want to miss! Go all out and make it fun! You could throw a murder mystery dinner, or an 80’s party, really anything themed works well. One year we threw a super hero party, and we all dressed up as hero’s and did a costume contest with a super hero fashion show. It was so much fun and so silly, everyone loved it. Picture bellow is a staff picture from that night.
Twice a Year:
There are two events you cannot afford to miss, Christmas and their birthday. If you can write a personalized card for every team member on those two days it will mean a lot. These are two days, when people hope they will be thought of and will be disappointed if they are not. So because you do not miss out on them.
Training: I am a big fan of do quarterly training sessions with my team. I always provide food at my training sessions and have a fun ice breaker game. I share my vision with them and then ask for their vision to show that I care what they think. I then will send videos or articles between trainings whenever I find something that applies to someone on my team.
Just Because Gifts: Every 3 months a try to give a little gift to my team. It’s never anything huge, but it always brings a smile to their faces. I try to make them funny and different so that they are always surprised to see what’s next. Again, this is just a little thing that makes a huge impact.
Breakfast: Once a month I’ll put together little breakfast stations together to have something nice to give my team when they arrive for our morning prayer and announcements. Normally this is nothing big, from doughnuts and OJ to fresh fruit…every month it’s something a little different, but it shows them how much we care about them.
Once a week, I pick someone from my team and send them a thank you note in the mail. I try to find someone who often times goes unnoticed and mention something I saw them so or their leader told me about. This keeps me focused on my team every week.
And Just for fun, here are 10 ideas for volunteer appreciation gifts for your team.
10. You Are All That and a Bag of Chips
9. Motivational Picture Frame
8. Movie Night
7. You’re Flipping Awesome
6. You’re oFISHally the best!
5. You’re Simply the Best!
4. Hands Down You’re Great!
3. Thanks a Latte!!!
2. We Need S’MORE Team Members Like You!
1. It Would be a Zoo Without You!