Volunteer Appreciation Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank (CPC 2017 Breakout Notes)

Free and Low-Cost Volunteer Appreciation Ideas

A few weeks ago, I attended my very first Children’s Pastors Conference (CPC) in Orlando, Florida.  I was invited to lead a few one-on-one coaching sessions (which I absolutely loved!), participate in a Women in Leadership panel and lead a breakout about free and low-cost volunteer appreciation ideas.

Here are a few highlights from that breakout session:

4 P’s of Volunteer Appreciation

Volunteer appreciation should be:

Purposeful

This is the ‘why’ – we should have a purpose or reason for appreciating our volunteers.  Knowing the ‘why’ sets the course for the other 3 P’s, so it’s important to establish this first.

Questions to consider:

  • What is your appreciation strategy?
  • What is your budget and time allotment?
  • What do you want them to feel or know?
  • Who can help you brainstorm ideas and implement the plan?

Personal

This is the ‘what’ – what speaks their love language?  What do they like?

Questions to consider:

  • Do you know your volunteers’ favorite things?
  • If not, how can you find out this information?
  • Do you know their special days, like birthdays, anniversaries, volunteer anniversaries, etc.?

Plentiful

This is the ‘when’ – show them appreciation regularly!

Question to consider:

  • When can your team recognize volunteers?

Practical

This is the ‘how’ – how will show them you appreciate them?

Question to consider:

  • What can you do in the next week to appreciate at least one volunteer?

Free Volunteer Appreciation Ideas

My breakout attendees shared their favorite free volunteer appreciation ideas (I threw in a few, too).  Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Ask the congregation to share how a volunteer impacted them and share the story on your church’s website
  • Thank you cards (written by kids)
  • Thank you cards (written by email)
  • Thank you notes (written by your or your team)
  • Praise them for handling difficult situations
  • Hold a brunch where parents sign up to bring food items
  • Brag to your senior leadership about them
  • Coordinate a group outing for them and their families
  • Shout them out on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
  • Praise them in front of their peers
  • Present them with flowers from someone’s garden
  • Acknowledge them during a worship service
  • Fill a bulletin board in your volunteer lounge with quotes, notes, pictures, etc.
  • Highlight them in your bulletin
  • Ask their opinion – this makes them feel ownership and value
  • Text them a picture of them in action with a thank you note

Low-Cost Appreciation Ideas

My breakout attendees also shared their favorite low-cost volunteer appreciation ideas (I threw in a few here , too).  Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Gloves with lotion
  • Free item from church cafe
  • CM swag items such as personalized mugs, t-shirt, buttons, lanyards, pens, tote bags, hats and water bottles
  • Redbox movie/code with popcorn
  • Gift cards to restaurants or coffee shops
  • Homemade baked goods
  • Bagels or donuts
  • Potted plants or bouquets of flowers
  • Bags of candy
  • Framed picture of class/group
  • Candy gifts such as:
    • Dove chocolates: “You are the heart of the ministry.”
    • Tootsie Rolls: “Thank you for your role at our church.”
    • Charm Pops: “I am charmed to have you join us!”
    • Life Savers: “Thanks for being a life saver!”
    • Gummy Bears: “I appreciate you beary much!”
    • Extra Gum: “Thanks for always going the extra mile for our kids!”
  • Mason jars filled with cookies, soup mix, or hot chocolate mix

Appreciating those who’ve said YES to serving doesn’t have to break the bank.  A little creativity and heartfelt gratitude go a long, long way.

Find even more ideas on my Volunteer Appreciation Pinterest board.  If you’re looking for last-minute Valentine’s Day ideas, check out my Valentine’s Day Pinterest board.

What are some of your favorite free or low-cost volunteer appreciation ideas? Share them with me below!

Children’s Ministry and Race

Here's Why We Must Start Talking About Race in Children's Ministry

Recent events have precipitated the many conversations happening around the issue of race in America right now.  I’m glad that these conversations are also happening in the area of Children’s Ministry.  As uncomfortable and sometimes difficult it is for these conversations to occur, these conversations are so important to have.

A few months ago, I wrote about this very thing (you can find that post here).  Shortly after that post, I came across a post in a Facebook group that caught my eye. A kidmin leader mentioned that she had transformed a puppet that she found from being a ‘thug’ to being more appropriate for church.  To say that I was mortified would be a huge understatement, primarily because I didn’t know that a gold chain could classify a puppet a ‘thug’.  When I responded (after praying about how to use the right words to respond appropriately), some said that I was over-reacting.  Some said that the leader was not being racist and didn’t mean anything by it.  I was even told to ‘lighten up’.

While I don’t know the woman’s intention, the point I wanted to make to the group was that we have to be careful in the language we use and how we view people (even puppets) who look different from us.  My heart was grieved. What we say – and don’t say – says a lot.

My friend, Henry Zonio, reached out to me after my original posts to continue the conversation regarding race and Children’s Ministry.  I wanted to share his article here with you so that you, too, can be part of the conversation.

You can access Henry’s article here: http://childrensministry.com/articles/race-today-red-and-yellow-black-and-white/

Special thanks to my friend Christine Yount Jones and the team at Children’s Ministry Magazine for running this article.

Keep the conversation going! What are your thoughts around this topic?  

21 Questions to Ask Those You Lead

21 Questions to Ask Those You Lead

I have had the privilege of being a wife and mom for over 2o years now. One of the (many) things I’ve learned during that time is how important it is for me to ask great questions when I communicate with my family. Stress and strain can result in my relationships if I don’t communicate well. Can you relate?

Healthy relationships thrive on being able to reciprocate good, healthy communication strategies. My mom refers to this as ‘tossing the ball back’ when having a conversation. I speak, you listen.  You speak, I listen.

Sure, there are lots of ingredients that go into having a conversation with someone (talking, listening, eye contact, body language, tone, etc.) but I think some of it boils down to asking great questions. Great questions can often determine the course of the conversation. Some conversations can come to a screeching halt before they even start if we’re not careful!  I certainly haven’t mastered this but I have made significant strides in this department. For example, I now ask open ended questions that don’t garner a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response.  Sometimes I push the “How did you feel about that?” question and sometimes I don’t.  More often than not, I find that pausing to pray before speaking and asking God for wisdom has saved me quite a few times!  I’ve learned, too, that it’s not always what I’m saying but how I’m saying it.

This same principle applies to ministry relationships.  Effective communication is vital in leading others and to the health, growth and success of our ministry.  In addition, good communication develops trust between a leader and those they care for.

If you want to engage someone in conversation, you have to be intentional about setting both of parties up for success.  Here are just a few questions to help get those important conversation started:

Questions for Your Staff

  1. What do we do well?
  2. What can be improved?
  3. Who can we invite to be part of our ministry team?
  4. How does this program or event fit into our ministry vision and goals?
  5. Who should we invite to be part of this discussion?  Who needs to be around the table?
  6. How can I pray for you?
  7. How can we grow together as a team?

Questions for Your Volunteers

  1. What worked well?
  2. What can be improved?
  3. How can we better equip you to lead well?
  4. Is there anyone you know who would be a great addition to our team?
  5. We are thinking of [insert idea].  What are your initial thoughts about that?
  6. Do you feel challenged in your role right now?
  7. How can I pray for you?

Questions for Parents/Families

  1. How would you describe our ministry?
  2. How can our ministry better serve our church’s families?
  3. What can we do to better equip you to disciple your family?
  4. What conversations are your family having?  Where are these conversations taking place?
  5. How can we pray for you?
  6. What is your child struggling with?
  7. How can we better strengthen the relationship between your home and the church?

Of course, there are risks involved when questions are asked.  We see vulnerabilites in people and become vulnerable ourselves.  We also have to be open to receive feedback (both positive and negative) that might trigger a certain response.  But think about this…how much are you and I missing out on because important, strategic questions aren’t being asked?

Keep the conversation going! What questions do you find effective to leading well?  Share them below or join the discussion on our Facebook page!

10 Easy Ways to Partner with Families in Your Ministry

10 Easy Ways to Partner with Families in your Ministry

“Partner with parents” is a phrase used quite a bit in the kidmin, student ministry and family ministry world. There are different ways to define what ‘partnering’ with parents means, but I define it simply as being a parent’s biggest cheerleader. I want to cheer them on as they lead their families.  I want to cheer them on as they help their children know, love and follow Jesus.  I want to cheer them on as they help their family navigate the culture and world we live in.

While a daunting task and key responsibility for ministry leaders, cheerleading for families doesn’t always have to be over-thought. Yes, there should be strategies in place to help move families from here to there, but there are easy ways to make this happen. Here are 10 to help you get started:

  1. Ask their opinion. Looking for ideas that a certain age group of kids might like? Looking for the latest trends in games, apps, television shows, etc.? Want to make tweaks or changes in your ministry? Keep your finger on the pulse of what kids like and what kids are talking about by going to kid experts – their PARENTS! I occasionally email parents in my ministry to get feedback and ideas on a variety of things. Doing this shows (1) I don’t have all the answers (which I don’t) and (2) I value them and their opinion. I have found parents to be very receptive to this!
  2. Provide a playlist of songs being played in your ministry. Give parents a glimpse of good, quality music by sharing your ministry’s playlist. You can share this through music streaming services such as iTunes or Spotify. This allows children to hear the music you play in church at home and on the go!
  3. Keep your website updated. Our families are busy. They don’t want to search for information on what’s going on in your ministry and when. Do them a favor and help them out by keeping your website updated. Include dates, times, pricing, locations and contact information. They will thank you for this.
  4. Ask how you can pray for them. The families we serve are facing so many challenges today and could benefit from our prayer support. One of the greatest ways we can cheerlead for families is to go to God on their behalf.

     Not only that, but…

  5. Follow up about prayer requests shared. This shows that you care for the families and is a great way to build long-term relationships with them.
  6. Celebrate special milestones. Baby dedications, baptisms, first communions, confirmations, mission trips, etc. are just a few special moments in the spiritual lives of our kids.  Join families in celebrating these important milestones!
  7. Be visible. Take the time to greet families as they arrive, mingle in the hallways and see families off as they depart. Wave hello, give a high-five, and don’t forget to smile!
  8. Send a welcome note to guest families. This year, our guest family check-in team members began to write postcards to children visiting us for the first time. These cards are written on Sunday mornings after the family has been checked in and escorted to their classrooms. We also send an email to the parents the next day, welcoming them and inviting them to complete our brief guest family survey. [If you would like to see what’s included on our survey, you can email me.]
  9. Encourage them. Parenting is tough. Some of our families are really struggling and are just looking for a glimmer of hope. They’re looking for someone to give them a pat on the back and say, “I’m proud of you” or “I’m praying with you. Hang in there.” If you see them doing something right, let them know. If you see their child doing something right, let them know. If you have a resource that might be helpful to help, share it. Provide a gift card for coffee and a pastry.  Ease their burden after a hard day and have a pizza delivered to their house.  The small acts of love and kindness will deeply impact the very parents we’re trying to reach.
  10. Invite them to serve. I almost didn’t include this on the list, but many parents want to be involved in what concerns their children.  The key: invite them to serve in AND out of the classroom setting. Maybe parents or grandparents could:
    1. make costumes
    2. provide snacks for volunteers or classrooms
    3. greet families as they arrive
    4. cut out items at home
    5. gather supplies
    6. organize storage areas
    7. design media elements
    8. solicit businesses for donations

Parents today are looking for support but most of all deep, impactful relationships with others who care about their children.  

Look over this list and choose at least one way that you can strengthen your partnership with families you serve.

If you’re looking for more ways to partner with parents:

Check out my Family Ministry Pinterest Board.

Keep the conversation going! How are you cheerleading for families in your ministry?