1. Find some cute portable tissues. Create a label that says “Bless you!” and hand them out after volunteers serve. These are guaranteed to get a grin or laugh, plus they’re actually practical!
  2. Provide your volunteers with a quick pick-me-up. Load up a wheeled cart or a basket with treats; walk around handing out breakfast for morning services and snacks for afternoon/evening shifts. Hint: if you buy in bulk or on sale, look for non-perishables, so they last longer!
  3. Pick a week and ask other parents or adults who aren’t serving regularly to surprise your weekly volunteers with a full-on buffet of goodies. They can send in breakfast foods or snack things. Set it up on a long table off to the side of your gathering area with fall or winter decorations so they can easily “graze” and load up a plate while still keeping an eye on kids.
  4. With Red Box and Blockbuster Express kiosks in so many places, it’s never been easier or cheaper to thank volunteers. Pair a dollar or six quarters with microwavable popcorn or a box of movie candy, providing the entertainment and snack! If it’s too overwhelming to do this for everyone, think about highlighting and celebrating one volunteer a week or month.
  5. Find out if you can have a special sign made to mark one or two parking spots closest to the children’s ministry area. It would be great if it said, “Volunteer of the Week” or “Volunteer of the Month,” and had a place where you could change out the name. They’d get a thrill to see their name and be able to run right in!
  6. Buy a bunch of Pay Day and 100 Grand chocolate bars—write up a little note saying how much you appreciate what they do and this is just a down payment on all you wish you could give for their service! Sign it with a smile.
  7. Ask around to see who in your church takes decent photos and has patience with herding kids. Find a week (or two in case some leaders are absent) for them to stop by and take pictures of each of your leaders with their kids or serving on stage with the kids in the audience. Print these in black and white or sepia tones, then put them in a classy or fun greeting card with a magnet on back. Write a note, even getting their kids to sign it, saying how much they mean to the ministry and to you!
  8. Get everyone on your staff and other key volunteers to show off their favorite dance move. Take videos and photos. Put them all together and upload them to a service like Animoto, pick a fun background and music, add some text and a word of thanks, then email out the link. This will unleash lots of warm fuzzies with not a lot of cost! There are also other options like SmileBox to add photos or JibJab where you’d just add your faces to a funny scene.
  9. Create a Gratitude Card or End of Year Newsletter with a goal of mentioning all your regular volunteers by name in the body of text. Group them up by things they have in common—always arriving with a smile or coffee cup in hand, staying behind to help clean up, going the extra mile with kids, etc. Volunteers love to see their names as part of the team and get a specific, public shout out that shows you notice and appreciate them!
  10. Plan an Appreciation Night where you not only thank the volunteers, but their families and close friends or roommates that share them with you! Host a drive-in movie—turning a wall into a big screen—or watch a big game or even awards ceremony together. Your snacks and other activities can match the theme. This is another time you could ask kids/families not serving right now to bring in something as their way of saying thanks to help offset the cost. Borrow a projector and encourage people to bring lawn chairs and picnic blankets inside the building and spread out. Go over the top—serve in roller skates or set up a photo booth with lots of props to make it a night to remember!