15 FRESH Volunteer Appreciation Ideas

Part of Multisite Monday

My new book, Don’t Quit, releases on September 8th. Coauthored with Gina McClain, it is written in such a way to offer insight on a variety of ministry topics, as well as inspire leaders to never raise the white flag of surrender. In our original pitch to the publisher, we shared our passion and commitment to see ministry leaders equipped, empowered, and strengthened to run the marathon race that is ministry. In several chapters we directly address volunteer systems and strategies. Volunteers are the lifeblood of ministry. The stronger your teams, the greater the impact.

If you plan to be in ministry for any length of time, you need support. While healthy familial relationships are important, that’s not what I’m referring to. You need passionate, dedicated individuals who are committed to seeing God move in and through your ministry.  In one of the chapters I share a formula to help volunteers last longer:

Clarity + Empowerment + Appreciation = Longevity.

Today I want to focus on the appreciation variable of that equation. Effective appreciation is shown on an individual basis. It celebrates, encourages, and publicly acknowledges excellence. Below you will find 15 volunteer appreciation ideas to help you care for the teams of volunteers and leaders who’ve been placed in your charge.

PRACTICALLY FREE

  • Use Siri to make the most of your drive time. Record voice messages and send to unsuspecting volunteers. Don’t ask anything of them. Check in, say a quick prayer and thank them for what they do. Be as specific as possible with your gratitude.
  • Mark off thirty minutes in your calendar each week to write cards, send emails and make calls. Don’t allow this small amount of time to be eaten up with administrative meetings or unscheduled standing conversations.
  • During your volunteer meeting or rally choose one person to honor each week. Tell his or her story, how he or she connected with the church and how he or she is making a difference in the lives of kids and families. Remember to choose only deserving volunteers to honor. Never point to someone who is lacking drive or commitment and say, “Be like them.”
  • Every other Saturday evening plan to bake a batch of cookies, brownies or muffins. Wrap them up, attach a note and bring to one or two volunteers for no other reason than you were thinking of them.
  • In your weekly curriculum email or volunteer newsletter, choose one volunteer to highlight each week. Tell about his or her family, hobbies, career, and passions. Provide a picture or two so volunteers from other teams can identify him or her and say hello.

ON THE CHEAP

  • Want to draw attention to a select few volunteers. Rent or purchase a small helium tank. Write notes of thanks and place them inside balloons. Use helium to inflate the balloons and tie them onto cars in the parking lot. Not only will it draw the intrigue and attention of attenders, but your volunteers’ last interaction with your ministry for the day will be one of gratitude and appreciation.
  • Create a ‘favorites form’ in which volunteers can share their preferred candy, restaurant, coffee order, color, hobby, etc. Keep these forms on file to use as needed. Not only will you be ready to show appreciation when the time is right, but you’ll also know exactly what to purchase to make a lasting impression. Appreciating your volunteers begins with knowing your volunteers. This is a great step in the right direction.
  • Set up a card-making center where volunteers can write thank-you notes to one another when they want to express gratitude. Provide $5 gift cards, candy, glitter pens and stickers. Ask area leaders to write two cards and team managers to write one card every week. Have these leaders write the first and last name of the person they are appreciating on the front. You can add the mailing address on Monday or Tuesday and drop them off at the post office. The number of appreciation cards you send each week will quadruple with very little added work for you. In addition, your volunteers will treasure the opportunity to highlight the efforts of their peers.
  • Have a variety of gifts purchased, wrapped and waiting to be given out at just the right moment. The best time to show appreciation is as soon as possible. When you notice a volunteer patiently comforting a crying child or scrubbing down a bathroom sink, grab a previously wrapped gift and attach a note. Don’t wait to say, “Thank you!” (Examples include a nice lotion set, a book on leadership, a pair of earrings, a car wash gift certificate, a travel coffee mug, a journal, or a gift card to a local eatery.)
  • Honor your team members by gifting them a special t-shirt on their one or two year volunteer anniversary. Consistency and commitment should be celebrated and publicly recognized.

FEELING GENEROUS

  • Have a particular team that consistently hits a home run? Schedule for their cars to be washed and detailed while they serve. Have them lined up, sparkling and ready to go when they head home.
  • Want to splurge on volunteers who have selflessly signed up to serve during Easter or Christmas experiences? Create a mobile coffee or hot chocolate cart and hire a barista to serve custom made hot drinks between experiences.
  • Have college students serving for the summer and want to thank them for stepping up when rosters are thin and regularly scheduled volunteers are traveling? Order travel mugs from the schools or colleges they will be returning to in the fall and fill them with their favorite candy or snack food. This will show your gratitude and reinforce the behavior for summers to come.
  • Want to welcome new sign-ups and help build community among teams? Book an ice-cream truck for the day and encourage leaders to bring their teams to share an icee and get to know their new teammates.
  • Want to show gratitude and increase relational equity with those special few leaders who go above and beyond to help your ministry make a greater impact? Schedule a cooking class and enjoy a hands on approach to dinner. Have fun, enjoy the process but don’t talk about ministry issues. Relational equity is rooted in friendship.

In a multisite model, volunteer appreciation must be systemized. Let me be clear…it has to be BUDGETED! A multisite model is complex and multilayered. If your church doesn’t set aside money to honor, encourage, and show gratitude for those who invest time and energy into your ministry, those individuals will be neglected. Neglect leads to dissatisfaction, which leads to disengagement and resignation. If you want to keep your ministry healthy, adjust your schedule and budget to accommodate for the care and encouragement of those who help you succeed each and every week.

(Tip: When deciding how much money to set aside in your budget for volunteer appreciation, first decide on the initiatives you want to pursue. Estimate the total cost of those initiatives and then divide that amount on a per capita basis in accordance with the number of volunteers you have at each campus. This will give you a per volunteer amount and allow you to estimate how much a single campus or location will need to adequately care for its volunteer base.)

I hope you find these ideas helpful and I hope you’ll consider purchasing Don’t Quit on September 8th.

For additional multisite articles, click HERE.

Jess Bealer

Ministry Leaders: Need More VOLUNTEERS?

Part of Multisite Monday


While on staff at Elevation, one of my responsibilities was to field and respond to church inquiries regarding family ministry. The question asked most frequently? “How do I recruit more volunteers?” It doesn’t come as a surprise. Even at Elevation, where we had more than 2,500 volunteers in children’s ministry across sixteen locations, we always needed an extra pair of hands.

As much as you fantasize about a full volunteer roster, you need more than warm bodies that help you meet a state recommended ratio. But where do you start? How do you begin to staff your ministry with people who are as committed and passionate as you?

Your impact will be determined by the health of your volunteers, the attractiveness of your ministry and the vision cast by you and your leaders. In a multisite model, the effectiveness of your volunteer care and recruitment strategy will either stimulate or restrict church growth.

Last week I had the opportunity to speak on this very topic on the Kids Ministry Collective podcast. I hope you’ll take the time to check it out. Click HERE to listen to the podcast now.

For additional FamilyMinistry.Church articles on volunteerism, click HERE.

Jess Bealer

Is a 5AM start time too early? No!

A Part of Multisite Monday

I know what you’re thinking. 5:00AM is too early for anything! In most circumstances, I would wholeheartedly agree. However, in a non-permanent multisite model, there is rarely a “too early” for set up. Things never go as planned. A section of pipe and drape has disappeared (or maybe the whole cart), the computer dongle that connects the laptop to the projector has walked off again, the baby gate hardware is bent, the four volunteers scheduled to set up your preschool room called in sick fifteen minutes ago, and why are there oil-like stains on all the rugs? Like I said…things never go as planned. At an Elevation non-permanent location we often asked our volunteers to arrive as early as 5:00AM to begin load-in.

Yes, these people were aliens from another planet that just happened to fall in love with our church. Just kidding. These were wonderful people who believed in the vision of our ministry and had a clear understanding of the role they were asked to play.

Often times in ministry we have to make the BIG ASK of team members, something that is crucial to the ongoing success of our ministry, but feels ridiculously taxing, something like a 5:00AM start time.

Through the years I’ve learned that although these BIG ASKS usually do require some sacrifice on the part of the team member, they are often as rewarding as they are burdensome. On many occasions, I’ve heard my husband coach ministry leaders through these tough conversations. He’ll often explain, “Don’t say no for them. You’re robbing them of a blessing.” Think about how you came to be in ministry? It’s probably because someone at some point asked you to do something that stretched you. You rose to the challenge, were given even more responsibility, and the rest is history.

Have I convinced you yet? If so, it’s time to start preparing. If you’re going to ask volunteers to step up, you must create a serving experience that is both efficient and rewarding. If you’re going to ask someone to arrive at 5:00AM, there better be music and coffee. Check out the start time and morning schedule for volunteers at a non-permanent Elevation Church location.

Sunday Morning

4:30AM: Box trucks carrying set-up equipment and supplies are picked up by a designated individual from a storage facility.

5:00AM: Box trucks arrive at the school or non-permanent location. Initial load-in process begins.

  • Music is playing.
  • Coffee is delivered.
  • The members of this team are in competition to beat their previous load-in time.
  • Breakfast is served to this team immediately following the completion of the initial load in.

6:00AM: Volunteers from all teams arrive to begin setup of various areas.

  • Music is playing in the hallways.
  • Coffee is available for all volunteers.
  • Supplies requested the previous week are delivered to perspective areas.

7:30AM: Breakfast is served in eHQ (Empowerment Headquarters) for all set-up volunteers.

  • Hot, homemade food is offered along with gourmet coffee and a variety of teas.
  • Volunteers are encouraged to sit as teams and catch up with one another.
  • Tables are decorated and scattered with tiny notes of encouragement.

8:00AM: An all-volunteer rally begins in eHQ (lead by campus staff).

  • Specific volunteers are recognized and honored for their sacrifice and contribution.
  • A story of life change, specific to the campus, is shared to remind volunteers of the impact they are having.
  • A short five minute devotional thought is shared.
  • All volunteers pray together.

8:30AM: Volunteers are dismissed to their perspective areas to meet as a team and discuss any special considerations for the day.

  • Volunteers are encouraged to connect, share and pray together.

9:10AM: Volunteers are in place to welcome and serve those attending.

At Elevation we ask all volunteers to serve during one experience and attend during another. During the first six weeks of launch all volunteers are asked to be present and accounted for at all times (an all-in mindset). At week seven, we assign half of our area volunteers to set-up and half to tear-down. Those that serve during the 9:30AM worship experience also serve on the set-up team. They serve, then head into the main auditorium to attend the 11:30AM worship experience. Those that attend during the 9:30AM worship experience will serve at 11:30AM and assist in tear-down. All volunteers are asked to be on campus by 8:00AM for breakfast and the all-volunteer rally.

There is no perfect schedule. Arrival times are always being tweaked and updated. Your goal should not be to ask less of your teams. The goal is to make the most of their serve time and create community among your volunteer base. When considering start times, set-up, tear-down and volunteer systems, it’s important to remember the benefits should outweigh the sacrifices. Focus on making your volunteer experience as rewarding as possible. Happy teams last. Fulfilled volunteers produce excellence.

Don’t be afraid to make the BIG ASK of your volunteers. 5:00AM isn’t too early if you’re prepared to make the experience an enjoyable one. Volunteers will enthusiastically accept a challenge when they feel called to something significant. Keep the vision clear, honor the sacrifice and make the experience fun!

For additional Multisite Monday articles, click here.

Jess Bealer

Help! I Need Somebody!

A Part of Multisite Monday

Have you ever looked at your ministry and been completely stumped? Have you ever had an insane urgency to sing an ode to the Beatles and break out with, “Help! I Need Somebody!” You’re not alone. We’ve all found ourselves at that crucial crossroads.

For the past 17 years, I’ve had the privilege to minister to children and families. At the age of 19, I took my first children’s director position. I was wide-eyed and passionate with big dreams. I can honestly say God has guided my path and allowed me to pursue greater opportunities than I could have possibly imagined. The past six years saw me leading the children’s ministry of one of the largest and fastest growing churches in America. It was an incredible journey.

About six months ago, my husband and I made a major transition in our life. We went on staff with Orange and began helping churches all over the globe better minister to kids, students and families. I also began consulting and coaching with leaders and ministries from around the country.

Whether you need a one time comprehensive evaluation or are interested in establishing on ongoing coaching relationship, I believe I can HELP.

My areas of expertise extend to children’s ministry multisite and launching, volunteer recruitment, coaching and appreciation, preschool and elementary age programming, systems, standards, atmosphere, staff culture, and time management and personal health.

Despite the demand of writing, speaking and managing the craziness of a six-person household, I have elected to open three additional consulting slots as we head into fall.

As summer quickly comes to a close and your church begins preparing for a SGS (strategic growth season), it’s always nice to have a new set of eyes and fresh ideas. I would love to partner with you and your team as we set the stage for God to move in miraculous ways!

If you’re interested in learning more, leave a comment below. 

Jessica Bealer

For additional Multisite Monday articles, click here.

Ready or Not: 3 Steps to a Successful Launch

Free Resource: Quick Check Weekend Observations

If you’re just starting out in Multisite, maintaining minimum standards may seem to be a manageable feat. For the most part, at two locations, it is. You essentially replicate what is working. Why reinvent the wheel? It’s a great starting point. However, the key to success in multisite is healthy systems that are built to last but can be adapted as growth occurs and expansion is needed. Think of it as adding spokes to the wheel. You’re going to be driving a bigger machine that will need better alignment and additional support.

Wondering where to start? Here are 3 goals for system implementation.

Define Excellence

I define excellence as, “the minimum standard required to make a positive and impressive impact.” Excellence is always the goal. Therefore, anything below this standard is unacceptable. When communicating excellence, it’s important to describe it in a manner that is easily understood and reproducible. Point to a situation and say, “This is great! Do this again.” or “How do you feel when you are being served at Chick-Fil-A or assisted at Publix?” Don’t negate the importance of emotion when identifying and labeling excellence with your teams.

Clarify Expectations

Written guidelines. Written guidelines. Written guidelines. Your expectations must be written down and distributed. Defining excellence is about emotional inspiration, but clarifying expectations is about practical application. What must your teams do in order to meet your minimum standards, your definition of excellence. Don’t assume your leaders know. Take the guesswork out of the equation and give them a framework to operate within.

Build Excitement

When your teams have a clear understanding of what excellence looks like and what is required of them, anticipation begins to develop. A healthy team is a hungry team. Once excellence has been achieved and unity has been established, there is a natural tendency for leaders to look around and ask, “What’s next?” When this occurs, it’s only a matter of time before an upsurge of attendance occurs and expansion is necessary. If you want to reach this stage sooner rather than later, make plans and establish timelines for the next season. Ask yourself, “What happens when we reach the end zone? What’s next?” Make sure to outline future endeavors and share these with your teams.

Here’s an example of how to communicate standards and expectations, as well as build excitement for what’s next:

Define Excellence: “Excellence is…when every family walking through the door of our church feels loved, known, and inspired. How did you feel when you first came? How can you help others experience that same connection?”

Clarify Expectations: “Every preschool family should receive individual attention during pick-up. A personal one-on-one conversation offering insight into their child’s classroom experience is expected. In addition, you will hand them a newsletter outlining the items parents are most interested in. Review this handout with mom or dad. Ask if he or she has questions. Give him or her the opportunity to share thoughts.”

Build Excitement: “Once our families feel connected and well cared for, I am certain we will see growth. At that point, we will consider adding another toddler room in our preschool area. If we continue to grow, the leadership of the church will consider launching another location nearby.”

In a Multisite Model, as you launch additional locations, you’ll find every campus is unique in size, ethnicity, culture, and economic class. Despite the diversity, your minimum standards of excellence should not vary.

Here’s an example of one way in which eKidz defined excellence and clarified expectations: Quick Check Weekend Observations

Once a quarter, each children’s director at every location was asked to work through this Quick Check document. He or she would talk to team leaders, observe system operations, and make notes of problematic areas. This encouraged campus directors to identify missed opportunities and make adjustments. In addition, by reviewing this document and tweaking it as needed, it allowed the children’s ministry admin team to update, maintain, and communicate centralized standards.

If your church is operating within a multisite strategy or just considering it, it’s important to position yourself for expansion. Excellence will never be reached if not defined. Your teams will consistently fail to meet your expectations if never communicated. Encourage leaders to dream of what could be and prepare as if it’s a certainty, not just a possibility. Work hard at being the best. Position yourself for expansion and watch God move.

For additional Multisite Monday articles, click here.

Jess Bealer

Can You Really Balance Life and Ministry?

 

by | Jul 14, 2017 | Ministry Leaders, Orange Leaders

I married my high school sweetheart. Frank was the lead guitarist in a local band, two years older than I, a rebel with a cause, and he was hopelessly in love with me. The good news…I felt the same. I was smitten, and at the age of nineteen I stood before God, friends, and family and promised to love him forever. I always have and I always will, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t experienced bumps along the way. As I mentioned, we were practically kids when we recited our vows. We literally grew up together. In the sixteen years we’ve been married, we’ve traveled the world, changed jobs a half dozen times, lived in four states, flipped eight houses, had three children, adopted a fourth, fought off a debilitating disease, and clearly heard the call to fulltime ministry, which required a 70 percent pay decrease.

Of all that we’ve experienced, the call to ministry was by far the most challenging, and it wasn’t because of the reduction in our finances. Read more. Click HERE.