Appreciating Volunteers

Saying thanks to volunteers is a vital part of ministry. But not everyone feels appreciated in the same way. Gary Chapman has proposed five ways people feel loved by those close to them. Consider these “love languages” for new ways to say thanks to those who serve in your church.

Words of Affirmation
Saying thanks is simple and appreciated by volunteers with this love language. Find ways to compliment and encourage these helpers. Some may like public recognition, while others may prefer quiet, personal conversations of sincere affirmation.

Acts of Service
Finding simple ways to assist these volunteers shows them you care. Ask them for ways they need help, then do them without being asked. You might be able to recruit others (parents, students, etc.) to help too.
  • A “gift certificate” to clean up the room after class, make copies, or shop for supplies.
  • Spring cleaning” their classroom closet, classroom, or even their home kitchen (with permission, of course.)

Quality Time
Nothing means more to volunteers with this love language than spending time with them. Whether it’s a few moments of sincere interaction before ministry starts or a bigger commitment to meet for coffee or a meal, these volunteers will be recharged through shared time with you.
  • Give a pocket calendar with a personal meeting time penciled in.
  • Stop by after class with two cups of coffee and take a few moments to catch up.
Receiving Gifts
These volunteers are easy to please with a meaningful gift. Beautiful wrapping is an added bonus. Consider greeting them with a small gift before class begins or choosing a higher priced gift once or twice a year to make these volunteers feel appreciated.

Physical Touch
From the slightest touch with a simple greeting in passing to a meaningful hug or holding hands as you pray for ministry needs, these volunteers will know you care through contact.

How Can I Figure Out How My Volunteers Will Feel Appreciated?
Start by asking questions like:
  • Have you felt truly appreciated as a volunteer? If so, describe your ideal way(s) to be appreciated. Then watch as they interact with you and others.
  • Do they send cards or encourage others with kind words? (words of affirmation)
  • Do they hug or touch others when talking? (physical touch)
  • Are they looking for ways to help you? (acts of service)
  • Do they invite you to get together with them or spend time
  • outside of class with their students? (quality time)
  • Do they remember special occasions with a gift? (receiving gifts)
"Every year my church hosted a picnic just for volunteers. I designed T-shirts that the church presented to everyone who volunteered, and they wore them at church throughout the year." – Dale

Getting Started
Because people often show appreciation in their own preferred love language, consider asking people you know with each love language for ideas. Better yet, recruit them to assist you. Give them a budget and let them choose ways to bless other volunteers. They’ll benefit as they reach out and say thanks, and you’ll be able to focus in on the areas that are most natural for you.

+ More On Love Languages
Ideas in this article are adopted from this best-selling book about how spouses can understand and show appreciation to each other.

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
Includes suggested activities and study guide questions. Paper. 204 pages.
Click here to order.

Adapted from The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

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