Volunteers. They make children's ministry possible. They serve faithfully, impacting the lives of kids and parents.
Stop for a minute and think about the volunteers you are blessed to serve with. Think about what a blessing they are to the kids and families. I know you are appreciative for their heart for the next generation.
I also know you want them to continue serving with you for the long haul. But, there is something that can cause you to lose them.
What is it? It's not taking time to let them know you appreciate them.
The vast majority of volunteers never hear the words "Thank you. I appreciate you!" And when people feel like they are being taken for granted or that no one cares enough to thank them, they check out.
"A 10-year study of more than 200,000 employees shows that 79 percent of people who quit their jobs cite a lack of appreciation as a key reason."
If people need appreciation to keep doing a paid job, imagine how much more people who are volunteering their time need to feel appreciated.
Here are some tips for expressing your appreciation for your volunteers.
Be sincere. Volunteers know when you are expressing appreciation to "motivate" them and when you are expressing it from your heart in true gratitude for who they are and what they do.
Be specific. Talk about something specific that you've seen them doing. Here are some examples.
"I so appreciate the way you smile at the new families and make them feel comfortable and welcome as you are greeting. Your heart to be the hands and feet of Jesus shines through your smile."
"I was watching how you led your small group last Sunday. I am so thankful for how you make each child in your group feel special. The fact that you took time to pray for each child was impactful. Thank you for your heart for the kids. I appreciate you!"
"I looked into your preschool room last weekend and saw how you were sharing the Bible story with the children. I could tell you had spent a lot of time preparing. The kids were very engaged because you made the lesson interactive and fun. Thank you for your commitment to helping children learn about God and His Word."
Tell them how their volunteering is making a difference. Your volunteers want to know that they are making a difference. One of the ways you can express your appreciation is by showing them the difference they are making. Invite them to the baptism of a child from their small group. Tell them about the new parents who have started attending because the volunteer made them feel comfortable leaving their new baby in the nursery. Tell them about the preschooler who quoted the Bible verse that the volunteer taught her to her parents. Tell them about the preteen from their small group who boldly shared his faith while on a mission trip.
A volunteer who sees and hears from you the difference they are making will continue to serve.
Say it face to face. Expressing your appreciation by a text, email or note is good. But nothing has the impact like looking at a volunteer face to face and expressing how much you appreciate them. When you express appreciation face to face, a volunteer can see your appreciation by your facial expression and they can hear the thankfulness being echoed through your words and emotions.
Ask them how they do what they do so well. If you want to make a volunteer's day, when you are expressing your appreciation in front of other people, ask the volunteer how they do what they do so well.
"You do an amazing job communicating the lesson. How do you prepare to teach?"
"I've noticed how you get the kids in your small group to talk about the lesson. How do you get them engaged in the discussion?"
"The kids were participating in the worship this morning; even the 5th-grade boys were singing. How do you get them to engage in worship? I watch what you do and say as the volunteer worship leader. Any tips you can share with us about leading kids in worship?
When you ask a volunteer to share with other volunteers how they are successful with the kids, it boosts the volunteer's confidence and shows them you have confidence in them.
Acknowledge their character and efforts. Show appreciation for faithfulness. Show appreciation for going the second mile. Show appreciation for commitment to excellence. Show appreciation for showing unconditional love for the kids. Show appreciation for how a volunteer intentionally connects with and partners with parents.
Choosing to serve. Show your appreciation to them for living for others. For choosing to leave a legacy in the kids rather than just sitting on a church pew. For saying yes to serving and making a difference in the next generation.
Do these things and you'll keep your volunteers and be able to build a team of veteran volunteers.
You can get more great tips for building a dynamic volunteer team in my book "The Formula for Building Great Volunteer Teams" at this link.
Dale Hudson has been in children's ministry for over 27 years. He is the director of children's ministry at Christ Fellowship Church in south Florida. Christ Fellowship has nine campuses and ministers to over 25,000 people on weekends. Dale leads a children's ministry staff team of over 70 and a volunteer team of over 2,600. He has authored 100 Best Ideas to Turbocharge Your Children's Ministry, 100 Best Ideas to Turbocharge Your Preschool Ministry, Children's Ministry in the 21st Century, Sunday School That Works, the churchleaders.com Top 100 book, and If Disney Ran Your Children's Ministry.
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