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Thank You Notes

Lynda Freeman

Creative ways to let your wonderful volunteers know you appreciate them!

Your volunteers go above and beyond their calling by faithfully serving -- often without anyone ever taking notice. And while "praise from people" certainly isn't the reason volunteers serve, it's appropriate-and necessary-to attend to and thank those who faithfully give of themselves through their personal investment in children's ministry.

Check out what children's ministers are doing to tangibly thank their volunteers. And discover creative ways you can end this school year on a positive thank you note.

All-Seasons Thanks -- "We have a plan to show our volunteers all year that they're appreciated," says John Wiseman from Neighborhood Church in Redding, California. "In the fall, we present returning teachers with a book about practical ministry to help equip and further train them as they begin the new year. At Christmas, I send a handwritten thank you card with a gift certificate for a pie from an area restaurant. And at the end of the school year, I give them a book to encourage them in their walk with Christ, along with a personal, handwritten note to thank them for their service."

Mardi Gras Event -- "We had Mardi Gras Night," says Larry Shallenberger from Grace Baptist Church in Erie, Pennsylvania, about a recent large event he planned for his church's volunteers.

"I went online to find out what the colors for Mardi Gras meant, and I learned they originally were chosen to reflect the royalty and power of God. I utilized these colors, ordered Mardi Gras decorations, and went all out decorating. We had Cajun food, and to take advantage of the teaching moment of the Mardi Gras colors, we asked our volunteers to form groups and think of ways they saw God's power, faithfulness, or wealth in their teaching ministries over the past year. I then presented each volunteer with a FaithWeaver TM cross pin (again utilizing the color theme) from Group Publishing to end the evening.

"I'm currently in the process of sending out letterhead I had made for the children's ministry to each family," continues Shallenberger. "And I'm asking the parents to write a note of appreciation to their children's teachers on one side and to have their children do the same on the other side. Then I'll collect these notes and bind them into books for the teachers to present a truly heartfelt thank you from our church to the volunteers."

Loving Volunteers -- "Volunteer appreciation is what ministry is all about-helping children come to Christ and loving the people who see that happen," says Mark Hoogerhyde of Kentwood Community Church in Kentwood, Michigan. "I present my volunteers with a gift each Christmas, send personal notes to our volunteers (especially when I see a volunteer do something special with the kids), and plan a catered dinner once a year.

"This year we're doing something new -- we're planning a children's ministry volunteer picnic for all volunteers and their families. We'll have food, games, and fun at an area park and are planning a time my volunteers won't forget."

Hoogerhyde also considers training part of his volunteer appreciation ministry, so he sends volunteers to many outside training events and provides in-house training throughout the year.

Eat, Drink, and Be Thankful -- We have an ongoing volunteer appreciation ministry at Sparta Baptist Church, in Sparta, Michigan. Year-round we thank our volunteers with notes, candy, and other little surprises hand-delivered to them before their classes begin each week.

Each fall we have our annual holiday open house where I open my home for two evenings and invite the volunteers and their guests to come, enjoy good food, good fellowship, and Christmas music. I present each volunteer with a gift certificate to an area restaurant (donated by the restaurants) and a handmade Christmas ornament. It's a fun evening that leaves my volunteers affirmed, renewed, and feeling appreciated.

In spring we have an annual volunteer appreciation dinner. This year we'll have coffee mugs with our children's ministry's new logo made to present to the volunteers.

Thanks on a Shoestring
If you're considering a ministry of appreciation to your volunteers but are constrained by your budget, consider the following ideas to send a clear message of gratitude. You'll delight your volunteers and rally your congregation and community around these irreplaceable people.

Community In-Reach -- Approach area restaurants, gift stores, and florists about donating a gift certificate. Many will be happy to do so. For the small amount of time it takes to contact businesses and pick up the certificates, you'll be able to present your volunteers with a truly wonderful gift at no cost to your church.

Magnetizing Ministry-Take a photo of each class on a digital camera. Print the photos on magnetic printer sheets, and present your volunteers with special photo magnets of their classes. Print cards that say, "Thanks for sticking in there! We're so thankful you were our teacher this year!" Have kids from each class sign the card.

Adopt a Volunteer -- Ask adults in your church who don't teach to be involved in your volunteer support and appreciation ministry by "adopting" a teacher. When they adopt, they're committing to:
•Provide one year of prayer support.
•Keep their adopted volunteer informed of any adult class activities such as dinners or parties.

• Celebrate the volunteer's birthday.
• Participate in volunteer appreciation day. That means showing up at the volunteer's home to wash the car. They can deliver a "catered" breakfast, lunch, or dinner along with flowers and a card that says, "Thank you for serving so faithfully in your class!"

When we involve others in our church in thanking those who serve, it's more meaningful to the volunteer and it provides the opportunity to make a powerful impact in the lives of those who become involved.

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