It’s a wonderful time of the year to celebrate your volunteers!
I love Christmas. I love the lights, the tree, the gifts and most of all the time with friends and family celebrating the beautiful gift of Jesus. This is the perfect opportunity to take a moment to say a big “thank you” to the volunteers that serve so faithfully in your ministry. For many, Christmas is the half-way point. Some signed up at the beginning of the school year, (maybe thinking they wouldn’t make it this far). Other volunteers have been serving for years! But no matter if they are new or old, this is a great time to remind them that they are very worthy of a celebration!
I’ve found there are four key elements to a great volunteer celebration.
It’s not a party unless you serve food. It can be as big (or small) as your budget will allow, but always serve food. Here are some ideas.
- Brunch – ask parents of kids in your ministry to sign up to bring breakfast casseroles, muffins, fruit and other delicious items. You can add some OJ and sparkling cider and you’ve got a great meal.
- Appetizers and dessert always make for good party food. Either you can provide the food or again, get parents involved to help.
- If budget is tight you can do potluck. In 2008 when the economy took a sharp turn I lost my entire budget during December. We were put on a spending freeze. My team decided, just like the Who’s in Whoville, that the lack of money for a party would not stop us. We asked everyone to bring a dish to share, invaded someone’s house and still to this day it is one of my favorite memories!
- A catered meal is great if you have budget to honor your volunteers. And if you do spend it! Cater a nice meal for them. They deserve it!
Stories over time move us to imagine a world beyond ourselves. They can give your volunteers perspective. Stories can remind them of the big picture—the why behind the what. When you share a story of a Kindergartner who was just baptized, you remind the nursery volunteers of the days when they used to rock that child as an infant, giving them their first impression of church as a place where they are loved and cared for. You remind them that it’s not just spit up and diapers. We are all working towards a common goal of life change in every child and family.
Collect stories year round. Share them often. Maybe save a few of your favorite stories for Christmas. Make sure when you are celebrating your volunteers this Christmas, you pause to celebrate the stories of life change in kids and families!
“‘Thank you’ isn’t enough.” How many times have you used that phrase? And yet, it is so true. Volunteers deserve so much more than a “thank you.” But, sometimes in the moment that is all we have. This Christmas, give them the gift of words. Ask their small group to write a note or color a picture showing them how much they mean to you, the ministry, and to the families in your church. Ask parents to take time to write a note of encouragement. Take time yourself to share a note or card with your volunteers.
I visited a church last Christmas that had an “Encouragement Station” set up with paper, pens, envelopes and a little mailbox at the entrance to their kids’ ministry environment. They made it easy for a parent or a child to stop and write a note to their small group leader and leave it for delivery. Isn’t that great?!
I also think it goes a long way to hear from your pastor or other leadership. Many volunteers can feel like no one in “big church” knows what they are doing over in “kids world” on the other side of the building. Maybe shoot a video message, have your pastor write a note to be shared or even invite him to the party!
I love to give volunteers gifts. It is typically so unexpected. When a volunteer signs up to serve, they are not thinking, I’m in this for the presents! Volunteers tend to put others first. They volunteered because they have a heart to serve others. A gift to a volunteer is typically a pleasant surprise and blessing to them.
Gifts can be as elaborate or as simple as you have budget for. Here were some of my favorites: Coffee mug with Starbucks card, Redbox gift card and popcorn, movie tickets and a movie-sized candy bar, crazy socks, personalized ornaments, Sonic cards, a new ministry T-shirt or maybe it is something bigger or something hand made. What are some of your favorite gifts you’ve received?
It doesn’t matter if this is a brunch between services on a Sunday or if it is a fancy dinner where you’ve rented out a restaurant for all your volunteers. What does matter is that you’ve made time to thank the people that keep your ministry running on a weekly basis, let them know how valuable they are, make them feel so honored and important and wish them a very Merry Christmas!