Lazy mornings, iced coffee with friends, and pool floats are all part of the goodness of summer. A much-needed break awaits. Oh…but wait…you’re a children’s ministry leader. You don’t get a break! Summer is when the schedule speeds up and the volunteer count goes down.

You’d love to give a million bucks to the volunteers who decide they don’t need summer vacation because they’d prefer to spend their summer with you and the kids in your ministry area. But obviously there is no church budget that can support that.

When our volunteers feel like they are part of a unified body, bound together in perfect harmony, and doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, then they know that they are appreciated.

Appreciating Volunteers

So how do you appreciate the volunteers you do have this summer without breaking the bank, and how do you appreciate the ones who were with you the whole school year when they are taking a break over the summer?

Here are a few ideas that have proven to be winners in my own ministry experience.

Start with the Basics

First, start with the basics. Write each volunteer a handwritten thank you card. How often do you receive hand-written notes? Probably not very often, but aren’t they fun and encouraging when you do? What a hand-written note shows your volunteers is that they matter enough for you to give up some of your time for them.

A few years ago, we surveyed our kids’ ministry volunteers, and one of the questions we asked was about what made them feel most appreciated. The number-one response? You guessed it … hand-written notes. And just as special as a note from you is a note from the kids to their leaders. So, include kids and parents on this campaign. You can’t go wrong with hand-written notes from kids.

If you want to add some summer pizazz to those thank-you notes, grab your kids’ staff (or entire church staff), and take some fun summer photos with snorkel and mask, or Hawaiian shirts, or maybe even a pool floatie and use them to create a postcard. When we did this, we posed individually with something on that represented summer in front of fun-colored walls, then laid it out in a “Brady Bunch” style grid pattern.

You can’t go wrong with hand-written notes from kids.

You can design yours on Word, Canva, or some other desktop publishing software and then print them online, at your local office supply store, or possibly even a local print shop. You will bring a smile to your volunteers when they open their mailbox and see your summer crazy staring at them along with your personal words of appreciation.

Get Practical

A second simple idea to say thank you to your volunteers is more practical in nature. If your summer Sunday mornings are like ours, then you struggle to fill all your volunteer spots to safely cover your classrooms. So, instead of small groups being in individual classrooms, bring your small groups into your large group worship space having small groups sit at tables.

Our leaders loved it when we did this each summer because it lowered the stress of low leader ratios and built comraderie and connection between our volunteers. In our context, we put the tables around the perimeter of the room and left the center open for worship and story time. Then crafts and small group activities were done at the tables. For our leaders, the change from the norm was encouraging and fun.

Wonder Ink’s 3-year, 52-week children’s ministry curriculum offers kids space to fully find their place in God’s Big Story. Children discover they are Known by God, Loved by Jesus, and Led by the Holy Spirit.

Go Big with Appreciating Volunteers

Now, if you like to go bigger, and have the bandwidth, schedule a special “family splash day” for your volunteers and their families. No agenda, no structure, just fun. Having fun together builds community and ultimately creates stronger teams. Including their families let’s your volunteers know that you value them as more than just a “warm body in a room.”

This splash event could include renting water inflatables, such as water slides or giant slip-n-slides or could be as simple as grabbing a few kiddie pools and filling them with water, having water balloon fights or tosses, and setting up some sprinklers. And of course, you want to fire up a grill and feed them hot dogs or burgers, because who doesn’t love free food? (We used to always say, “if you feed them, they will come.”)

To top it off, find a shaved-ice truck or make serve some homemade ice-cream.

Saying Thank You Is Important

Whether a family splash day or even something as simple as an individual text saying “thank you,” the specific item or activity we use to show our volunteers appreciation is ultimately not the point. The point is that we are thankful for what Christ is doing through them.

We are thankful that they are choosing to be obedient to His call on their life to serve His kids. We are thankful for their participation in teaching and modeling the gospel to kids, and for partnering with us and parents so these children may be introduced to Jesus at an early age.

When we think about how we appreciate our volunteers, Paul said it best in Colossians 3:14-17 (ESV):

“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

We are vessels that God is working through. And He wants us to work together in unity, whether we are paid for it or not. He doesn’t need us, but He chooses to use us. He has given us a flock of volunteers who matter to Him; therefore, they matter to us.

And one of the best ways we can show our appreciation to them is letting them know that they matter to us, they matter to God, and they matter to the kids they are discipling every Sunday when they show up to serve.

When our volunteers feel like they are part of a unified body, bound together in perfect harmony, and doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, then they know that they are appreciated.

So, have fun celebrating your volunteers this summer and be thankful in your hearts to God.

Articles for Encouraging and Engaging Your Volunteers