Encouraging Volunteers – The Power of a Thank You

Unlike any other organization in the world, the church is completely dependent on volunteers. Sure, a lot of churches have some paid staff members. There’s usually a full-time senior pastor, but not always. Then there is usually an administrative assistant. Then maybe some other full-time staff or part-time staff.

But, no church is equipped with enough staff to do all the work of ministry with paid personnel. Every church, no matter what size, needs a vast amount of volunteers to pull of the Sunday morning activities.

So, when it comes to the most valuable asset your church has, it becomes very important to take very good care of it. It’s just like taking care of your car. There are things you do to make sure you have a running car when you need one. And since you probably need one to get to work or church, you do what is necessary to ensure you have the necessary means of transportation. Things like oil changes, rotating your tires, tune ups, replacing your windshield wipers, etc.

But, when it comes to volunteers at our churches, how often to we do the necessary work of encouragement. Sometimes, maybe once a year, we’ll give them a thank-you card or a gift card to Starbucks. But, really, is that enough? I would say no.

So, what should we do? Two things. Think small then think big. Just like your car, there are things you do regularly to keep your car running. Then there are things you don’t do as often, but are also necessary.

Think Small.

I can’t take credit for this idea, it actually originated with Andy Stanley from a series he did called time. He talked about making small deposits of time over time. Well, we can apply the same principle to appreciating volunteers. We need to do things to show them our appreciation on a very regular basis. This means thanking them in person on a weekly basis. It also means taking the time to care about what’s going on in their personal lives, and genuinely caring and remembering what they’re going through. You could also do things like bring refreshments to practice, send them a thank-you note or leave a thank you on their facebook wall.

Think Big.

Many people will feel appreciated by the chance to serve. And that is awesome. You should honor that in them. But then, especially in worship, there are those who need the big gesture. I’ve written about this before, so I won’t do too much talking about it here (you can read the post about the WAMMIES here). The general idea is to do something big once a year to thank everyone publicly. It’s great to thank people on a week to week basis, and one on one. John Maxwell even says, if you don’t thank them in private first, they won’t trust your public accolades.

However, we also need to thank people publicly. Especially those who are prone to be a little more prima dona ish. That’s how they feel love. Or something. Anyway, do a big dinner or a big something and give out awards. Have fun with it and they will.

What’s rewarded gets repeated.

 Some rights reserved by muffintinmom

Some rights reserved by muffintinmom

One last Andy Stanley quote before we leave this one. “What’s rewarded get’s repeated.” I probably don’t need to explain it, other than to say, if you want people to behave a certain way, find someone who is already behaving that way and reward them for it publicly. This will reinforce that behavior in that person as well as encourage it on others.

Make sure to take the time to thank your volunteers, unless you want to be leading by yourself every weekend.

In the spirit of thankfulness, let me take just a minute to thank you! I so appreciate that you take the time to read what I have to say. I know there are a million different places to find information about this and that and what not. So, the fact that you check in here from time to time amazes me.

Thank you!