One area of ministry that often gets overlooked is volunteer management. Depending on how close you are to executive leadership at a church, you may be quite out of touch with it all; but there is a dance, a very delicate dance that most ministry leaders do with their volunteers and it’s taxing and time-consuming and it’s also a huge part of the job.
Volunteers have to be lead, courted, invested in, encouraged and much more because let’s face it, they work for free. It might only be for one hour a week or it might be for ten hours a week, but they give of their time and talents on a regular basis.
They might do it out of guilt, they may do it out of a relationship, they might do it because their pastor says it’s the ‘next step’ or they might simply do it out of a desire to serve the Lord. However, as ministry leaders, we manage all those volunteers.
We manage, recruit and encourage them though they come from many different paths and serve for different reasons because we need them. We need them to do their part in the body of Christ each weekend just to make things go.
Creating an irresistible volunteer culture is a huge job, and an important one, but today we are going to talk about one tiny piece of it.
As part of that very delicate dance that ministry leaders take part in, there cannot be too many meetings, however, there must be some meetings.
We recommend that every church has one ALL volunteer event every year and that every ministry has AT LEAST ONE, individual ministry kick off each year. This means at a bare minimum every volunteer should be going to TWO events a year. Today, we will talk about the first type of event, an all-volunteer event
here is everything you need to plan an unforgettable volunteer appreciation event
First things first, no event is worth attending unless there is food. Churches serve food at all types of nonsensical times, but absolutely without negotiation, you must serve food at the one event you are having to honor your volunteers. Depending on budgets this can be fancy or frugal, but there must be food and you must not run out. If you can afford to cater it, then do it. If you can’t and you’re gonna bust out the grill and serve hot dogs, well make sure to theme it appropriately so it feels relaxed and fun. The more surprises you can add, the more people will feel honored and special.
Think: ice cream float stations, cotton candy, maybe a food truck, popcorn bar or pick your favorite candy bar station.
Free tip: Make sure volunteers are not serving at this event, use your staff and their spouses if at all possible.
If you have really good food, it will already feel fun, because people love to eat. But try to provide some actual fun if possible, mostly because people are just not having enough fun in their lives. This could take place in many ways, hiring entertainment, utilizing staff to come up with creative entertainment, karaoke, “name that tune”, lawn games outside as people come in, ministry vs. ministry competition, giving away S.W.A.G., live music, funny youtube videos, memes of your pastor and more.
You want people to leave your event having all the “feels.” If you’re just going to say thanks, then that’s fine too, but a lot of pastors utilize this as a time to cast vision to their core people, or at the very least give a heartfelt personal thanks for all the thankless hours that are served. If you can show a touching video, or honor a superstar in every ministry then do it, but make sure people leave your event feeling like it was completely worth their time!
Yes, you want your event to be fabulous, but in this instance, I actually mean you want your volunteers to feel fabulous. Make sure they leave feeling energized and empowered to continue doing kingdom work. One thank you can carry someone through for a long time. It’s ok to tell them the truth, you literally would not be able to do what you do each week without their service.
Lastly, make sure this event is free. I know it’s tempting to charge $10. You might even desire to charge so you can do something fancier, but when something costs money, some people will have to opt out. Don’t put people in an awkward position, just honor them, at whatever price point you can afford. If that means you can’t do a full meal, then that’s ok, instead, have the best ice cream party that’s ever been had and don’t host at a meal time.
Your church is already supported by tithes and offerings, making people pay for an event that celebrates them is just taboo. Additionally, a lot of grocery stores and even restaurants will sometimes donate things if they are looking for a tax write-off. It will require a little work to put this together, but investing in your volunteers is always worth it!
When is your next volunteer event planned for? Do you have any tips you want to suggest? Leave them in the comments below
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