We HEART Volunteers (part 6)

Notes & More!

Note!  This is one of several posts in the We HEART Volunteers series.  Be sure to check out the rest of the good stuff on this same topic!

We HEART Volunteers
… snail mail style!

Expressing yourself in writing can go a long way with folks.

Whether … you purchase cute thank you cards with most of the sentiment printed and then jot a very brief personalized line or two.
… you purchase blank notecards intended for a longer note from you, your thoughtfulness will be recognized.

This effort is so worth your time and the cost of stamps (and, yes, send these directly to homes rather than hand-delivering on a busy Sunday morning).


After the decorating, food preparing, giveaway giving and notecard writing, here are just a few other ideas to prompt your creativity during your appreciation month:

<> a word of thanks from the Senior Pastor during the worship service on Sunday morning
<> a fun “thank you for serving” video shown during the month – this can either be one that find online or create yourself ahead of time
<> a Parent’s Night Out JUST for your volunteers who have kids; for those without children, a small gift card to a local ice cream place
<> a movie night at a theater that you rent out for entire families of your team members. Folks of all ages will enjoy this!
<> a red carpet dinner with a more formal-&-fancy tone including a sit-down meal and fun entertainment
<> WHAT ELSE would you add?

Set …
GO …
have a fabulous time appreciating your folks in February (or any other month you choose)!!
And, I’d love to hear all about it!! Send me emails with pics so I can celebrate with you.

We HEART Volunteers (part 5)


Note!  This is one of several posts in the We HEART Volunteers series.  Be sure to check out the rest of the good stuff on this same topic!

We HEART Volunteers
… fun freebies!

Who doesn’t love to win something free with no strings attached??!?  Consider purchasing gift cards, jumbo candy bars, movie tickets or whatever fits your budget to giveaway during your appreciation month.

Be sure your gifts are fairly gender and age neutral.  The worst way to “appreciate” an amazing male volunteer is to ‘award’ him with a manicure gift certificate … no doubt he would prefer chocolate or an Amazon card!

Name-In-The-Hat-Giveaway. Place a heart-shaped container at the breakfast area for folks to drop their name into one Sunday morning. Provide slips of paper and pens to make it easy to enter.

Estimate-and-Win-Giveaway. Get creative with those cute estimating jars – fill a mason jar or some other clear container with a lid full of candy hearts and let the guessing begin. This contest can go on for the entire month and the winner will be the math whiz who gets closest to the actual number of candies. The prize could be the actual jar of candy and/or another fun freebie.

Sneaky-In-The-Email-Giveaway. Send an email at some point during the month and ask a fun question right in the middle … if folks are “really reading” your update, they will reply with their answer, you’ll put their name in a hat and draw a random winner to receive the surprise.

Facebook-Page-Giveaway. If you have activity on a Facebook page, announce a totally separate giveaway and let folks comment to a question that you ask as their method of entry. Ask a question ministry-related such as, “What is your favorite part of serving in Children’s Ministry (or whatever area you are in)?” Or, ask a season-related question such as, “What do enjoy most about the cold winter months?” When you post on FB, be sure to attach a picture that will call even more attention to your words. And, for fun, don’t mention this give-away in any other setting. You may only have a few comments and those folks will have a higher chance of winning … yay for them for paying attention to your post and for responding!!

As you award the giveaways, announce it as big and loud and public as you can. Make it special for those who won and thank them again for all they do.

We HEART Volunteers (part 4)

Let's Eat!

Note!  This is one of several posts in the We HEART Volunteers series.  Be sure to check out the rest of the good stuff on this same topic!

Nothing says “Thanks for serving” like chocolate and other good eats.

Know your budget and decide what works best for your setting.  If you are planning far enough in advance, there is a good chance that you could acquire some donations from stores and restaurants to supplement what your budget can’t handle!

Here are a few practical ways to incorporate food into your month of appreciation:

[ ] provide baskets of individually wrapped candy for volunteers and team members in strategic locations

[ ] prepare Sunday morning breakfast. Whether it is Bojangles heart-shaped biscuits (seasonal) or homemade egg and sausage casseroles, invite your volunteers to come a few minutes early to a designated location for the buffet style meal. Be sure to complete it with fresh fruit, coffee and juice. Fun heart themed paper products add to the decor and make for easy clean-up. If you’re extra ambitious, provide some type of breakfast each Sunday morning of the entire month. But, be warned that the first Sunday of March will be a let-down when breakfast isn’t available!!!

[ ] reserve a room at a local restaurant. This can be for volunteers only or for entire families of your team members. Promote the time and date for them to meet you there and share a meal and laughter and other fun surprises (including giveaways). The cost of the meal will likely need to be the responsibility of each person/family. If you ask in advance and explain that you are appreciating volunteers, you may be able to get some coupons or percentages off from the restaurant to give to your folks.

[ ] plan a Sunday Soup & Sandwich. Intended for the entire family of all your volunteers, prepare simple soup and sandwich options for them to enjoy together immediately after church on a Sunday. If you will have potentially large numbers, an RSVP is recommended. Provide nametags since some of your folks may not know each other. Fun surprises include something simple at each place setting OR a candy-bouquet centerpiece that also serves as a giveaway for each table. Again, Valentine-themed paper products fit your objective and make for quick and easy clean-up! Consider planning far enough in advance to recruit a couple of folks who would not be invited to this gathering to assist you with the decor, centerpieces, food prep and clean-up. Protect your sanity for a Sunday and get help for events like this!!!

[ ] provide a Grab & Go Meal. Maybe a full after-church-on-Sunday gathering isn’t an option for you. Consider a “grab and go” meal for your volunteer families. This is particularly do-able if you have a small number to provide for. Create a box or brown bag meal for each family including prepared items such as sub sandwiches, cups of soup, pb & j for the kids, bags of chips, carrots and other cut veggies, apples, bananas, individually wrapped packs of snack crackers and sweets. Have fun with the lunch-to-go and know that your volunteers will be ever grateful to not have to eat out or fix something quick at home. You have provided an easy answer for their hungry families and maybe even given the gift of time for a Sunday afternoon nap.

[ ] set up a Candy Buffet. Find a spot to be “extra sweet” to your folks and set up a candy buffet for them. Whether you go all red for heart month or you mix in lots of chocolate and such, you can’t go wrong with appreciating people via their sweet tooth. This effort can be as simple or elaborate, as expensive or frugal as you like. If you are tapping into someone else’s expertise and time to make this happen, be sure to talk through your expectations and budget to keep it on track.

No doubt you’ll think of other ways to say THANKS with sweets & eats.  Have fun watching the smiles.

We HEART Volunteers (part 3)

Let's Decorate!

Note!  This is one of several posts in the We HEART Volunteers series.  Be sure to check out the rest of the good stuff on this same topic!

We HEART Volunteers … Let’s Decorate!

There’s nothing like the surprise of walking into the normal hallways or office areas to find hearts galore. And retailers (especially dollar stores) make it super easy to make it happen. On the walls, from the ceiling, propped on tables and floating in the air, hearts of all shapes and sizes whether plain or with writing, give the areas your volunteers serve in a fun pop for the month while you celebrate them.

If your budget is going to be super thin for the year, recruit some folks who are watching TV on these cold winter nights to cut out a gazillion hearts in various sizes and colors. You may want to give a pattern cut out on card stock. Also send the construction paper or scrapbook paper and a good sharp pair of scissors to make their job easy. Let them know the date you need the hearts in your possession allowing plenty of time in case someone falls through because of some unavoidable life circumstance.

Mylar balloons are an easy way to give a big splash. Red heart mylars are typically available at Dollar Trees (where everything is $1) and they will last all month long!

If you have a little money to use on decor, consider Oriental Trading, dollar stores, and thrift stores to stretch those precious dollars as far as possible. While you’re shopping, be on the look-out for wall and ceiling decor, paper products, plastic heart serving containers and other things you may find helpful throughout the month.

Take advantage of %off deals after the 14th and add to your collection. In a short time, you’ll have lots of fun things to choose from and your volunteers will look forward to the special month that you have designated just for them. Be sure to find a safe storage area for the items that can be used again in future years.

We HEART Volunteers (part 2)

The How!

Note!  This is one of several posts in the We HEART Volunteers series.  Be sure to check out the rest of the good stuff on this same topic!

We HEART Volunteers … Yes, but how?

We’ve established great reasons to make ourselves extra tired during the month of February to love on our volunteers.

The second month of the year lends itself so easily toward appreciating and loving on our teams. Whether you have a volunteer base of 200+ or a ministry team of less than 5, you can tap into all of the hearts and chocolates that come with February to show how much you care!

Let’s get to the nitty-gritty. To the FUN stuff!!!

Here are several keys to a successful appreciation month:

Plan ahead. This is not something that you can pull off well the night before. Give yourself brainstorming time.

Make lists. Lists of items needed for decorations, food, giveaways, promotions and folks to join you on the adventure.

Recruit others. Find folks outside of your ministry area to help! Who loves to decorate? Who loves to cook? Who loves to shop? Meet with these folks either as a group or individually, share your dream of loving on your volunteers for an entire month, communicate your why. Invite them into your brainstorming and watch the magic of team unfold. Get clear about what you are asking them to do – something in writing with dates (by when) is most helpful. Then, turn them loose to make it happen. Check in periodically to see what they need from you and to ensure that everything is on track. Give away as much as you can. Trust me that you’ll still have plenty on your plate that only you can handle.

Promote. Be sure your volunteers/ministry teams know all the fun things just ahead! You’ll want them to “save the date” for some of your specials. You’ll also want them to come hungry to any Sunday a.m. breakfasts that you provide. Communicate well so they will get the most out of your appreciation efforts.

Sample promo for your worship folder/Sunday bulletin:
We HEART Volunteers!!!
February is Children’s Ministry Volunteer Appreciation Month … and we want you to know how very much we love you.  If you currently serve in any area with 5th & under, then this is for YOU !!
Be sure to read your mail carefully for all the details …
and keep your eyes and ears open for other info to unfold during the month.
YOU are making an eternal difference!

Now, are you ready for some easy and practical ideas??
Stay tuned … for details on decorating, food, giveaways, and more!

We HEART Volunteers!

Part 1: The WHY

Note!  This is the first of several posts in a series.  We’ll get on the same page with the “why” and then we’ll get very practical toward the most amazing appreciation focus ever!

Why in the world, with so much else to do, would we celebrate and appreciate our volunteers and ministry teams for an entire month?

1. Speak their language! Just as everyone has a love-language, everyone also has an appreciation-language. While cute cards work for some, others prefer hugs and still others much prefer chocolate. Yes, please!! An entire month of appreciation gives plenty of time to be certain that everyone’s language has been spoken and that appreciation has been truly felt.

2. Create a wow! Do you want your volunteers to create wow experiences for children, families, and others? Then model what that looks like. From decorating to food to fun giveaways (more on that coming soon), an entire month gives time to show off just what a “wow” is, how it feels and why it should happen.

3. Catch everyone! Folks are going to be out on various Sundays. (really? – haha!) So, if your appreciation effort is just 1 Sunday, you’ll miss out on thanking some of your people. If, by chance, you have a volunteer who is out for the entire month due to an illness, birth of a baby, etc, do something very personal and make a special delivery.

4. Go overboard! When your volunteers stop serving in your area, they will never say, “I was appreciated too much!” Seriously. We cannot thank folks enough. Spending 4 weeks of effort will be so worth it.

Volunteers and ministry teams often go beyond the call of duty. They accomplish things that we couldn’t possibly do alone. They make ministry happen every single time the church doors are open. Your efforts to appreciate them for the month of February will be multiplied by 50 or more. Give it a try!! If you don’t like it, you don’t ever have to do it again. My guess is that this may become a much anticipated annual happening for you and your volunteers. And, from experience, the word will get out and your area will become THE place to serve!!


... 4 quick leadership bits for your Friday ...

Things to consider as you’re planning to appreciate folks.
In a good-better-best format …

When was the last time you asked for intentional feedback from someone in your life?

“You can’t be fearless without being curious about what’s possible in your life.”
@MollyFletcher #leadercast17

On leadership: what’s your lollipop moment?
Worth a few minutes of your time …

Feeling the Love … or not …

Appreciating people individually can be a tricky thing!
Much like Gary Chapman’s identified Love Languages, we need to thank and appreciate so that the other person feels thanked and appreciated.  We tend to gravitate toward acts of appreciation the way we would like to be appreciated.
If I enjoy receiving cards, I would tend to send cards.
If I enjoy receiving chocolate, I may tend to give chocolate.
Let’s play out the chocolate example for a minute:
… there is an amazing team member who has gone above and beyond.  I want to show my appreciation. As I’m munching on peanut M&Ms, I think there could be nothing better than giving chocolate.  So, my well-meaning self drives to the store and creates the best chocolate-y basket that anyone could ever want.  I’m personally not much of a card gal but I manage to find a thank you card that expresses the sentiment, give it a quick sign and toss it in the middle of all the creamy sweets.  I drive to the recipient’s house and (with great pride in what I’ve done) ring the doorbell.  She comes to the door, I hand over the basket and catch what I think is a slight wince but convince myself she is simply overwhelmed with my thoughtfulness.  I verbally express words of gratitude and off I go (still quite proud of the mission accomplished).
Are you wondering what could possibly be wrong with this example??
Well, nothing and everything.
If it were any different team member, it would have been amazing.  This particular person, though, has been on an incredible health improvement journey for nearly a year and has lost quite a bit of weight. We all have been cheering her on.  And, in one single unthinking moment as I was attempting to show appreciation, I just gave her a slap in the face in the form of chocolate goodness.  I was incredibly careless.  I did not take enough time to think about the person I was trying to appreciate and how she would feel appreciated.
As leaders, we should be appreciating folks frequently.
Let us be certain we are showing our gratitude to staff and volunteers in a way that they really hear us and feel the love!


... 4 quick leadership bits for your Friday ...

Want to challenge yourself?
Here are 10 questions to reflect on.

Something special for Sunday!!!
The 27th is National Just Because Day.
Think of a fun way to celebrate your team … just because!!

Annual Volunteer Training is in full-swing in many places.  Thinking past the “big event” in August or September, here are other ways to train year-round.

Anyone else guilty of this or is it just me?!!?


... one of the best ways to develop as a leader


Leaders who strive to be life-long learners are constantly ready for the next great book, anxious to hear the upcoming podcast, available to attend the new conference and always looking for ways to grow.

An often overlooked ‘best practice’ for leadership growth is through serving opportunities.  Seriously.

This particular “serving” that I’m referring to involves the leader putting herself in the position NOT to lead.  Just by virtue of the way leaders are wired, this can be a challenge to find such opportunities.  I promise they exist because I am committed to finding them and have involved myself in many.

I specifically look for situations where I can truly be the volunteer, be the one who asks the questions, be the one who doesn’t know the answers or have the plan or have the lists.  On one level, there is a very personal motivation to give of myself.  There is also such a huge potential to learn as a volunteer how to better equip and communicate with volunteers.

Here are just a few examples from my personal experience:

  • Mission Trips.
  • Conferences.
  • Disaster Relief Call-Outs.
  • Local Food Pantries.
  • Town-Sponsored Events.
  • Elementary School Reading Programs & Events.

What are other situations you’ve been able to serve in (without being the one in charge)?



There are a zillion great podcasts to learn from.  You, no doubt, have some personal favorites and I would LOVE to know what those are (comment below).  If you are not already a subscriber, Dr. Henry Cloud’s Leadership University is totally worth your time.

Do you love lists?
You may find yourself somewhere in this list of 20

Dave Ramsey on a mistake we need to avoid.  Take a look at the (less than 3 minute) video that could potentially impact your leadership in a big way!

Every single day is the right day to say Thanks!  Need some creative ideas that work for volunteers as well as paid staff?  98 Thank Yous For Volunteers is a good list to keep handy.

The #1 Recruiter

Every single ministry area within a church needs more volunteers.  Children’s Ministry seems to particularly have this on-going need due to the numbers of littles that need extra love and care.

So, who exactly is the #1 Recruiter?  Do you believe the answer is someone who is paid?

Well, actually, the very best recruiter/enlister/asker ever is the person who is already volunteering.  MANY more thoughts and practical helps on this topic coming very soon!