When our twin boys were first beginning to eat solid food, we introduced three simple signs to help them communicate with us: more please, all done, and thank you. While I could probably extrapolate on each of these as it relates to those who serve in our congregations, today we’ll focus on saying “thank you.” Communicating appreciation not only acknowledges the work put into a particular project or effort and the sacrifices made to do so but also is an opportunity to share how an individual or group’s input contributes to the work of the Body of Christ in your particular context.
Let’s take a look at a handful of ways we can show appreciation to those who give of their time and energy in our churches. A continuous thread through each idea is emphasizing how each person serving contributes to the life of the whole as we share stories of impact.
This simple approach can go a long way in communicating appreciation to those who serve in your congregation! They’re great year-round, but this time of year you can send cards appropriately themed to the church or calendar year (Advent, Christmas, New Year’s, Epiphany). Personalize your greeting by telling individuals how they contribute to the overall mission of the church or by sharing how you see their particular gift impacting those they serve.
Pick up a tray of cookies, cupcakes, or chips and salsa (for a more savory option) to have available when people come in to serve. Pair with a pun like “You’re so sweet!” or “Thanks for chipping in!” for extra fun. Or put together on-the-go bags for volunteers to take home and enjoy later.
Social media campaign
Use social media to highlight individual volunteers, particular areas of service, or all those who contributed to a specific event or project. Note: be sure you have permission to share any photos or personal information used in the post(s).
With a smartphone and simple editing tools, you can create a meaningful tribute to showcase the work God is doing as people love and serve Him and their neighbors. Select a format: picture collage with brief written captions, video footage of volunteers in action with music or a voiceover, interviews about experiences and impact. The sky’s the limit. You can then share this during announcement time and/or via social media or email.
Special announcement before or after services
Taking time to thank volunteers when a good portion of the congregation is gathered is another simple but impactful way to nurture a culture that values members being an active part of their church family.
Send a note just to say “Thank you for all you do.” No need for tacking on additional information or to ask for something else; stick with pure appreciation and encouragement.
Gathering or meal
Host a social event with appetizers, a grazing spread, a dessert bar, or a full meal. Plan a brief program to say thank you to those who serve throughout the year. When going this route (or anything involving food), have volunteers RSVP and offer the opportunity for them to note any food allergies (feeling appreciated can take a hit when you’re not able to enjoy anything on the table).
Community activity or outing
Give volunteers (and their families) an opportunity to get together and enjoy something your local community has to offer. Take in a seasonal sporting event (check on group rates), go bowling, get creative at a paint-your-own pottery studio, or go paintballing. See what unique offerings are available around you!
While those who serve do so without the expectation of something in return, a small, thoughtful gift like a gift card to a local shop or restaurant, a piece of art, or even a candy bar can communicate appreciation in a big way.
Many serve in behind-the-scenes roles, some that the general population might not even know exist! Creating a visual display in a high-traffic area of your church building brings awareness and shows that your congregation values those who share their gifts and talents. Include pictures of volunteers in action, their roles and names, and other fun or key information.
Establish a rotation of public recognition for ministry areas
Think through your various communication channels and establish a rotation of ministry areas to highlight those who serve on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) Consider a newsletter highlight, recurring social-media post, bulletin blurb, or digital announcement/PowerPoint slide.
As we follow the apostle Paul’s example of sharing thanksgiving for those who partner in the work of the Gospel, let us recall and celebrate the many and various ways God graciously allows and equips each of His saints to love and serve one another in the name of Jesus!
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