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How To Thank Volunteers
By Ed Cyzewski
Many volunteers who faithfully use their God-given gifts in ministry every week return home feeling unappreciated. While they serve out of a love for God and others, they may be unnecessarily discouraged because their leaders failed to thank them.
Thanking volunteers is an essential part of ministry for pastors and leaders. Appreciated volunteers will feel blessed and encouraged to continue serving, rather than burned out and exploited. Leaders can say thank you effectively by putting the following tips into practice:
“Thanks for all you do,” fails to affirm the specific things a volunteer does and may indicate that a leader is unaware of what that particular person accomplishes. An effective thank you for a worship leader could include details such as, “Thank you for conducting rehearsals on week nights, working so patiently with your team, and sharing your musical talents with us.”
If a leader expects volunteers to continue serving week in, week out, they need to make saying thanks a regular practice. A lag in appreciation may cause doubts or discouragement on the part of the volunteer.
Calling public attention to volunteers or buying them books may not always be appropriate forms of appreciation. Often a coffee hour with a team of volunteers, where they are thanked and served by the leaders, will be far more appreciated than a gift book that most of them will sell online next week. Gifts will mean far less to most volunteers than quality time with their leaders and others who demonstrate personal appreciation for what they do.
Sometimes a hand-written note is a much more appropriate way to thank volunteers than saying thank you in the hall or dropping an e-mail. Simple, person-specific gifts may be appreciated as well, but a hand-written note can be kept in an accessible place and provide encouragement during difficult times.
While the glory goes to God for all we do, leaders need to help their volunteers take note of the ways God has used them over periods of time. This may take the form of a party for the Sunday School teachers and small group leaders where you celebrate the past season of ministry or a letter that calls attention to the specific impact made by volunteers.
Ed Cyzewski is the author of Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life. He serves at St. Paul’s Collegiate Church in Connecticut and blogs on theology at www.inamirrordimly.com.