Church plants live and die on volunteer leaders. I am constantly amazed at the faithfulness and effectiveness of our volunteers. Unfortunately, our people don’t always realize how thankful I am because I only think it instead of saying it. While gratitude itself is a matter of attitude and heart, communication of gratitude is a matter of execution and intentionality. Here are three things that help me and our leaders to be more intentional about saying thanks.
Plan to say thanks.
My goal is to build in at least a few volunteer appreciation events each year. During our yearly planning meeting, all of our team leaders come together to schedule our major and recurring events like baptism classes, newcomer’s desserts, community group leader trainings, etc. Here, I can be proactive rather than reactive in appreciating our volunteers.
No volunteer has ever said, “We are being thanked too much.” A thank you expressed is never wasted. Plan the event and thank your volunteers. Recast the vision, share the wins, and treat them like the most important people in the church—because they are.
Budget to say thanks.
Because we value gratitude, we budget “perks” and “gifts” for each ministry. We ask leaders responsible for a budget to think of how they will thank their team and request the funds needed to do so. Doing so enables the leader to value his or her team with a small gift and reinforces the expectation that they should be proactive in thanking their teams. We never want to hear the excuse, “I can’t afford to thank my team.” We can’t afford not to.
Train leaders to say thanks.
Each week, as part of our staff meeting agenda, we ask “Who are you going to thank?” We must thank someone not at that table. Now, to be sure, we are allowed to thank other staff members as well, just not in place of our volunteers. We want to push the culture of gratitude further into the church, instead of habitually thanking one another and forming a “good ole boys” mentality among our staff.
As we write thank you notes, we clearly state what we appreciate because what is celebrated is repeated. We always connect it to the vision of our church. We do it weekly, so a minimum of seven volunteers are getting personally thanked each week. And finally, we seal it, stamp it, and mail it. “Can’t we just deliver it in person?” No, we can’t. Each volunteer is worth the walk to the mailbox and the stamp, and we want to communicate that.