100 Volunteer Appreciation Ideas

100 Volunteer Appreciation Ideas

If you’re like me, you always feel grateful for every volunteer who serves in your ministry. We know we can’t do anything we do without them. They don’t serve for us and they don’t serve for our church. Ultimately, they serve to be a part of God’s mission to reach the world and use the gifts and talents he gave them in the process. While they don’t serve for us, we certainly want to show appreciation to them regularly.

I don’t know about you, but we’re always looking for creative ways to appreciate volunteers. I never feel like we do it enough. In some cases, we can spend some money and other times we have to get real creative. To help all of us, I put together a resource with 100 different ways we can appreciate volunteers. Just fill out the form below and you’ll get an email with the PDF resource.

100 Volunteer Appreciation Ideas

What has been your best appreciation idea recently (comment below)?

These Competing Things May Be Hurting Volunteer Recruitment

Volunteer Competition

I have been a part of two churches in my life. My home church I grew up attending and the church I’ve been on staff with since we started it over 10 years ago. As a young adult in my home church, I volunteered in multiple areas. I never knew I would eventually work for a church, but I always intended on volunteering in a big way.

Our church was like many others in that we did too many things. We also fit the commonly known issue where 20% of the people did 80% of the work. Despite knowing those issues, we did not make the hard decision to change things. Because of that, the volunteer shortage continued and everything we did was understaffed.

The Competition

Make no mistake, there are a lot of things competing for the time and attention of potential volunteers. When someone considers volunteering at your church, they have to think about what they will give up in order to give that time to their role. The last thing we want to do is add competition within the church for that time.

Here is a list of things we might have in our churches that will compete for people’s time and negatively impact volunteering. If you are struggling to reach volunteers I would challenge you to consider making the hard decision to remove the competition.

Sunday School

This is a controversial one, but the reality is Sunday School is usually one of the biggest things preventing people from volunteering in our churches. In order for someone to volunteer in children’s classes, they must decide to not attend Sunday School. Children’s ministry, whatever that looks like in your church, is almost always the biggest volunteer need. How do we expect to serve kids well if potential volunteers are being told two different things about what to do with their time?

Mid-week Programming

If you have mid-week programming for kids and students, in addition to programming on Sundays, you have direct competition for your volunteer’s time. Only you can decide how critical mid-week programming is for your ministry, but be sure you factor in the drain it has on your Sunday programming. As you evaluate, determine if the reason you have mid-week programming is simply to function as childcare for programming you have for adults.

One Service

Many churches only have one service, which is completely understandable. This competes for people’s time since serving during the service means they can’t attend. Churches work around this by having volunteers serve every other week or once every four weeks. One idea would be to start a volunteer-only service before your regular service so they can attend and serve each week. The volunteer service can be scaled back and include some vision elements not found in the regular service.

Other Ministries

In a healthy staff culture, everyone understands they are one team and they must work together when it comes to helping people serve. While it’s not easy, they celebrate when one of their volunteers moves on to serve in another ministry.

That’s a great thing.

However, most churches have too many ministries and too many programs to the point where, even with people serving on multiple teams, it’s impossible to have enough volunteers. Removing competition for volunteers may require cutting a good percentage of your programming.

The Hard Part

Once you have identified where you have competition for volunteering, it’s time to take action and remove the competition. That’s the hard part, of course, and it will require courageous leadership. It will also require a clear plan of action with careful attention paid to how you will communicate it. I recommend reading Carey Nieuwhof’s book Leading Change Without Losing It and using that as a guide.

What are other examples of things that compete for potential volunteer’s time?

5 Practical Ways to Recruit More Volunteers to Leverage the Volunteer Equation

Volunteer Recruiting Secret

In the previous post, I talked about the Volunteer Equation and the Reach Ratio. There is a strong connection between the growth in our volunteer teams and the growth in overall church attendance. The Volunteer Equation explains that, but I doubt it comes as much of a surprise. The question then becomes, how do we recruit more volunteers in order to leverage the Volunteer Equation?

I think the ultimate volunteer recruitment plan includes an attractive ministry, word of mouth recruiting, strategic on ramps, and a clear path to help new attenders make their way to serving as they take their next steps. However, it’s good to have some specific recruiting efforts from time to time to supplement your core strategy.

5 Practical Ways to Recruit More Volunteers

Most of the ideas here are things we have actually done that helped us recruit more volunteers. If you try some of these out I’d love to hear how it works.

Start a Weekly or Bi-Weekly Accountability Meeting

One idea we picked up from Lifepoint Church (along with the Volunteer Equation), was to have a regular meeting where all staff who lead volunteers are present. The purpose of the meeting is to talk about where each person is in terms of how many volunteers they have, how many they need, who stepped off the team and who is in the process of coming on board. The real purpose of the meeting is simple: accountability.

A regular meeting where you have to share how you personally have recruited volunteers (or not) is very powerful. You’ll take more opportunities to connect with people you don’t know. You’ll put more focused time into recruiting. Once you all get your volunteer numbers together, you may even realize that you have too many ministries fighting for an impossible number of volunteers.

Create a Recruiting Challenge

Last year we challenged our preschool volunteers to recruit new leaders to join the team. Rather than it solely depending on staff, we cast a vision for the importance of everyone recruiting. From there, we introduced a challenge. We told them they would work as a team (based on their room) and the challenge was to see who could recruit the most volunteers. More important than that, however, was how we challenged them to each recruit at least one new volunteer per room. This took some pressure off them individually but set a goal for them to meet as a team.

Make a Simple Video to Share

Video can be hard sometimes, particularly if your church goes all out in terms of quality. Instead of setting up a professional video shoot with scripted lines and a great story, all of which is good, plan on a simpler video that’s funny and pointed. We create a Summer Team of volunteers each year and one year we created a simple video to help recruit to that team. You can see it here. We had parents record their kids (using their smartphones) saying lines we scripted and provided. Putting them together to complete the video was simple. You can do the same and share it in service and on all your social media channels, preferably multiple times.

Hold a Church-Wide Vision Night

This one obviously involves a lot more than just your ministry, but it can be very helpful to hold a vision night (or something similar) in your church. Invite everyone who calls your church home and cast a great vision for what your church is all about and what’s on the horizon. During that time, you can challenge people to be “all in” at your church. Define what “all in” means and lead them to respond in some way that you can track. We had people fill out a card and then followed up with anyone who indicated they wanted to serve but wasn’t currently serving.

Launch and Promote a Volunteer Orientation

Often times what people need before they commit to volunteer is a safe place to ask questions. By starting a Volunteer Orientation and promoting it to your church, you can let people know there is a place where they can learn more about serving and get answers to any questions they might have. As you talk about the Volunteer Orientation, be sure to emphasize that it’s for anyone who is interested. They’re not committing to serve by attending the orientation, they’re just committing to consider it. Be sure to maximize your time with them at the orientation by focusing on vision and stories to help them understand why they should serve.

What has worked for you?

How to Reach More People by Leveraging the Volunteer Equation

numbers

Our staff leadership team had the privilege of learning from Daniel Floyd, Pastor of Lifepoint Church, a little over a year ago. One of the things we learned from him is something he picked up from Sam Chand, a great leader, and a great author. I call it The Volunteer Equation. I’ve written about it before, but I want to expand on it in this post.

I should mention a couple assumptions out the gate. One, I’m assuming you want your church to grow because you want to reach people who are far from God. Two, I’m assuming you track attendance, not because you care about numbers, but because of the first assumption. You may not track volunteers, but I would encourage you to and it’s necessary to leverage this equation.

The Volunteer Equation

The process of the volunteer equation is simple. You take your average total church attendance and divide it by the total number of individual volunteers you have. So, if your church averages 500 in attendance and you have 100 volunteers:

500 (attendance) / 100 (volunteers) = 5.0

5.0 = Reach Ratio

I call the resulting number the Reach Ratio. Reason being, that’s how many people you can reach for every volunteer you have. In that example, you have 1 volunteer for have 5 people. Unless something has drastically changed in your church recently, the way you do church takes about 1 volunteer for every 5 people in attendance.

Another way to think about is that you need 1 new volunteer to reach 5 new people. So, if you want to reach more people you should focus on adding more volunteers.

How It Helps You Reach More People

It’s probably obvious that the equation itself doesn’t help you reach more people. It’s the shift in your mindset as a result of this equation that can help you reach more people. The point of the equation is, don’t just obsess over attendance. You want to reach people who aren’t a part of any church, so attendance matters because people matter. Instead of obsessing over the attendance, obsess over the volunteer numbers. To understand why, let’s go back to the equation:

500 (attendance) / 100 (volunteers) = 5

What if you decided to obsess over growing the volunteer number? In fact, what if it was a huge focus in your church for the next month and, as a result, you added 50 volunteers? For the moment, let’s pretend attendance stayed the same, making your new equation:

500 (attendance) / 150 (volunteers) = 3.33

Now your reach ratio has changed and it’s 1 volunteer for every 3.33 people. But, that’s not the point. Your original reach ratio (5.0) is your number. Sure, it will fluctuate from time to time like you see here, but the idea is that it mostly stays constant. So, when you add 50 volunteers, you know what changes?

Attendance

It looks like this:

150 (volunteers) x 5 (original reach ratio) = 750

Does it happen right away? No.
Is it guaranteed? Absolutely not.

However, we experienced the fruit of this last year when we grew our volunteer base by almost 25% and saw the highest attendance growth in years. Don’t miss it. By adding volunteers you have expanded the capacity you have to reach more people. Plus, volunteers attend more frequently and invite more, which helps you reach more people.

What’s your reach ratio? Share in the comments.

In the next post, I’ll share some practical ways you can focus on growing your volunteer base to leverage this concept.

The Secret to Getting Great Attendance at Volunteer Trainings

volunteertraining

Almost a decade ago I was at a conference for churches who were thinking about going multisite. It was a small gathering of about 100-200 leaders, so it felt different than a typical conference. I’m not sure how it came up, but the speaker was talking about volunteer trainings they do and polled everyone to see what kind of participation we got at training events.

The most common answer was less than 50%. In that room, the average church was getting less than half of their volunteers to show up at training events. My experience talking with most family ministry leaders is similar, with a lot of people saying about 1/3 of their volunteers show up on average.

So, what’s the secret to getting better participation?

The Secret to Better Volunteer Training Attendance

There are a lot of factors involved with getting volunteers to show up at training events. Most of them are obvious, including:

  • Make training events fun
  • Tell stories to celebrate together
  • Cast vision to remind them why they do what they do
  • Feed them great food
  • Provide childcare if possible

All of that is extremely important. But, the secret, I believe, is follow up.

Why and How We Follow Up

Imagine one of your volunteers never RSVPs for your training and doesn’t show up. What now? I think what happens here is key. Often times they receive no contact because we don’t want to feel like we’re punishing them for not coming. The problem is if we don’t communicate anything, that alone communicates they were not missed. Why should they come if nobody notices if they were present or not?

We follow up differently to 3 groups of people, with one specific way geared just to them.

  • People who RSVP’d “yes”, or didn’t RSVP, and came to the event. These people receive a mass email thanking them for attending and we provide any reminders or notes from the event.
  • People who RSVP’d “no” and did not show. We email these people letting them know we missed them and we give them any important information from the training.
  • People who didn’t RSVP and didn’t show. This is the important one. We contact them individually via email or text and simply say we missed them at the event and then we ask an open-ended question, like “Is everything okay?” By doing that, they know they were missed and we open the door to hear what happened. No matter the response, we shower them with grace. We do our best to make them feel missed, not judged.

Following up 3 different ways is not easy. It takes more time. But, in the long run, we’ve seen this translate into better attendance at events we do for volunteers. For us, 60% would be the low end of volunteer turnout with 70% being about the average. There’s also a direct correlation between level of commitment for the role and how often they show up for trainings. But, that’s a post for another day.

How do you encourage volunteers to attend training events?