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!

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!

Seeing Kingdom Potential in Each Child

Seeing Kingdom potential in each child

As a little girl, I loved to go to church.  I mean loved.  It was the favorite part of my week.  I remember walking through the doors of my church excited to be with friends and adults that I loved.  The atmosphere in that pink (yes, pink!) classroom was warm and welcoming.  The adult leaders taught me songs and scripture verses that I still remember to this day (and sing aloud occasionally).  I was introduced to bible stories that deeply impacted my life.  These precious experiences impacted my life so deeply that I wanted other kids to love going to church just as much as I did.  Little did I know at that moment that God was preparing me for the call He had on my life.

When I began serving in Children’s Ministry as an adult, that desire was my drive…I wanted other kids to love going to church just as much as I did – even more than I did!  I wanted to create experiences that would help kids know how much the God who created them loved them and cherished them.  I wanted children to make friendships that could become lifelong.  I wanted children to treasure God’s Word and be excited to learn it, know it and do what it says.  I wanted children to develop a love of Jesus, one that would sustain them a lifetime.

You see, for me, leading Children’s Ministry is remembering that each child has Kingdom potential.  That means seeing each child who walks through the doors of my church as children who might one day grow up and be a dynamic Christ-follower.  That means seeing them not as the church of tomorrow but as the church of today.  God is working in their lives now, preparing them for the call He has on their lives.

Who but God knows the future He has for them?  Maybe the next great theologian, pastor, ministry leader or church planter is sitting in one of your classrooms right now.  Maybe God is preparing a boy or girl in your ministry to be the next author, politician, artist, business leader, or teacher to turn the world upside down for His honor and glory.

That’s why what we do each week is so much bigger than what we can see with our human eyes.  Each week, we are privileged to welcome children through the doors of our church…children who come to us with all sort of family backgrounds, personalities, gifts, talents and potential.What we are part of is Kingdom investment right now.  What an honor to be part of influencing the life of a child who might change the world and shine bright for Jesus!

If you’re a kidmin leader or volunteer, there’s something I’d like to challenge you to do.  The next time you hold your mid-week or weekend programming, I want you to look around at all of the children in attendance.  Look them in the eye.  Look beyond the challenging behavior, family circumstances or personality issues.  Look at them through a new, fresh lens…as one who could make Jesus known to a world who desperately needs Him.

If you’re a parent, there’s something I’d like to challenge you to do.  Do everything you can to plug your child into a church that helps them know and follow Jesus, one that challenges them to grapple with what they believe and challenges them to put their faith in action.  Attend church regularly so that your child can be connected to leaders and peers who can encourage them along their spiritual journey.  Help them see the church as another voice to speak into their lives.

Keep the conversation going!  How might this change in perspective affect how you minister and parent this week?

A Peek Inside our Luau-Themed Volunteer Training

This past Sunday, we hosted our annual Children’s Ministry volunteer training.  It was the second year that we’ve themed this event.  Last year, our theme was a tailgate.  This year, we chose to do a Hawaiian Luau.  It was so much fun and very well-received by our volunteers.

CM_LUAU1

This year, we wanted to include not only new and returning volunteers but those considering serving in our ministry as well.  We had a packed room full of adults and students who responded to God’s call to join us in ministry this year.  This was also the first year that we held our training on a Sunday after our morning services rather than a weeknight.  We have found that having folks stay around when they’re already at church (and giving them lunch!) yields a much better turnout.

Guests arrived to a large room at our church that was decorated with Hawaiian flowers, leis, tiki bar backdrop and tropical colors (orange, yellow, lime green, hot pink and purple).  Once inside the room, guests were welcomed, encouraged to pick up necessary paperwork, given a ticket for the chance to win fun prizes and allowed to choose a lei to wear.

Luau - pic 2
Ministry area handbooks, adult applications (white) and student applications (purple)

Guests were then invited to help themselves to a delicious lunch buffet, which consisted of:

  • Footlong sub sandwiches (turkey, ham and veggie)
  • Potato chips
  • Edible beach balls (cheese balls)
  • Fresh fruit cups
  • Cookies
  • Hawaiian Punch and bottled water

Our tables were set with a simple centerpiece (a glass bowl filled with play sand, seashells and votive candles that we had on hand).  Under each bowl was a sheet of chalkboard paper and pieces of chalk.  At each set, we placed a “Say Yes to the Next Generation” notepad and a personalized pen.

After a little while of fellowship around the tables, we started with the business of the day.  You can download our event outline here.

Here are a few of Pinterest-inspired ideas we used:

For even more ideas, check out my KidMin – Luau Pinterest board.

I wonder what next year’s theme will be…

It’s your turn to share!  What fun volunteer training themes have you done?  I’d also love to see your pictures!  Upload them to our Facebook page.