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5 Ways to Appreciate Holiday Volunteers

volunteering during the holidays

The holiday season may be the most important few weeks of the year for most churches. You have so many opportunities to reach people who desperately need the message and ministry of your church. 

Much of that ministry hinges on your volunteers. 

Your ministry likely wouldn’t have near the reach or impact during the holiday season without them. They serve in all kinds of roles, in the limelight and away from it. 

Don’t overlook the opportunity to show appreciation, even if your volunteers don’t expect it. Paul—the greatest missionary the church has ever known—understood this. You can see it in his words to the church in Philippi: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3-5 NIV).

So how do you do it? These five ideas will get you started during the holidays.

1) Send Personalized Thank-You Cards

These days, we get overloaded with digital communications. We get emails, text messages, app notifications, etc. Then, when we head to the mailbox, it’s full of junk mail. Hand-written, personalized mail is like gold. Everyone wants it; no one gets it.

Notice, though, that there were two descriptors in front of the mail—hand-written and personalized. To effectively show your volunteers how much you appreciate them, you need both. Hand-written notes tell your volunteers that they are important enough that you’re taking extra time and effort to write the notes.

To personalize your notes, be specific about the contribution the volunteers made. Let your volunteers know you saw what they did and it mattered. Also, tie it to the big-picture mission of the church. Many people struggle to see how their service helps the church reach people and meet their needs. Help them make that connection.

You can bring volunteers to help with this (particularly in addressing the envelopes and putting a stamp on them), but try to leave the card-writing to the pastor, if possible.

2) Recognize Volunteers During Your Worship Service

This won’t work for everyone. Sometimes you’ll repel people with public acknowledgment. It’s usually good to talk to the volunteer(s) beforehand to make sure it doesn’t stress them out.

You could call them up to the platform during the service, but you don’t need to do that. Sometimes, simply having the pastor mention it during his sermon can be a nice touch. Again, just like with the note, be as specific as possible. Don’t just say, “Thank you, Bill and Debbie, for helping with the children’s choir.” Note what they’ve done with the children. Compliment their effectiveness. And again, tie it to the mission of the church.

When you affirm people publicly, you also communicate to other congregants the value you place on volunteers and how the work ties into the church’s values and mission.

3) Host a Volunteer Appreciation Event

You likely do not want to host this during the holiday season itself. It’s busy enough! Consider hosting it sometime in January after you (and your volunteers) have caught your breath.

Depending upon the size of your church (and your holiday volunteer force), you might want to split it up into different teams (host a separate event for greeters, parking team, choir, etc.).

Every volunteer group will be a little different. Try to host something that you think will resonate with your specific group. And consider doing something a little different next year. For example, you could:

  • Develop an award ceremony (just make sure everyone gets some sort of award). 
  • Host a dinner at the church (either catered or potluck). 
  • Open up a home for a casual night of fun and games. 

Really, the ideas are endless. Again, consider swapping it up annually to provide some variety.

4) Practical Gifts or Tokens of Appreciation

This isn’t as personal as some of the other ideas, but (if done correctly) it provides a more lasting reminder of your appreciation. The key is to think of a small gift with your church name or message on it that will be used by a variety of people for an extended period. You want people to see it frequently and remember how grateful you were for their service.

Because you want the item to last, don’t go cheap with the gift. Depending on your budget and the number of volunteers you have, consider a t-shirt, coffee mug, phone charger or case, or a Christmas ornament. The more original the item is, the more likely the volunteer will keep it around and use it regularly.

5) Give Volunteers Opportunities to Give Feedback

Here’s an under-the-radar option that many churches miss. It’s probably best to pair it with another idea, but don’t underestimate the power of giving people a voice in how you serve the community next year. Giving volunteers an opportunity for feedback lets them know you see them as more than just an extra set of hands. It shows you see them as a full partner of your ministry. (Read Paul’s words to the Philippians earlier in this article for a reminder of how important this is!)

You can send them out a survey after the season ends, but your best option is to set up a time for a focus group. Maybe combine it with the volunteer event mentioned above. Tack on a half-hour of feedback time before the party gets rolling. 

Your volunteers are among the most important parts of your holiday ministry. However you choose to do it, take some time to tell them how much they matter to your work.

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