The strength of every ministry lies in the volunteers. Good leaders know that and will do their best to show those volunteers how important they are. The question comes down to this: How do I possibly show these awesome people how very much we appreciate them?

If you choose to do an annual “Volunteer Appreciation Event,” there are numerous ways to stage that event without losing your sanity. It doesn’t have to be a gigantic production to generate gigantic results. (And, if you want a little help, we’ve got a product for that. Check out Ovations on the reThink store website.) With a bit of planning, you can create a very special event that will speak volumes to those who invest their days and weeks and lives into your ministry.

Roll out the red carpet. Have a fancy night, complete with dinner and awards. If budget isn’t an issue, cater the dinner. If funds are tight, recruit others to help by preparing the dinner. Have your staff serve to those who serve all year. Present awards, both serious and funny, to volunteers who go above and beyond.

Have a photographer to capture your volunteers walking in on a red carpet (a roll of red felt works well) as they arrive.

Plan a volunteer family picnic. Take your celebration to a local park. Provide lunch and games for your volunteers to enjoy. Set up a choice of two or three tournaments, real sports and funny ones, too. Have a photographer take pictures of your families and share the files with your volunteers. Focus on a day of fun for those who give so much.

Create a volunteer outing. If budget isn’t an issue, go big and rent out a bowling alley, a miniature golf course or a movie theater and take the entire team and their families on a fun outing.

Saying “Thank you” isn’t just a one-time thing. You can give thanks in small ways all year long.

  • Remember volunteers’ birthdays by mailing a card.
  • Serve breakfast before or in-between services.
  • Give a handwritten note telling them how awesome they are.
  • Designate a volunteer appreciation month and ask parents/kids to share a note of thanks to their leaders.
  • Recognize the volunteers during “big church” unexpectedly.
  • Video their kids saying thanks/sending love and post on their Facebook wall.

We also made a list of 10 last minute ideas you can use to say, “Thank you.”

While saying “Thank you,” is important, the most meaningful thing you can do for your volunteer is to really know them. Reggie Joiner’s quote from Lead Small applies to volunteers, too: “Everybody needs someone who knows their name and what’s happening in their life.” Know those who serve with you. Then, you will know how best to let them know how much you appreciate them!