Staff and volunteers who feel valued and appreciated are more effective in their roles and stay in those roles for longer periods of time.  

Think about it.  Any staff or volunteer role you’ve been in where you didn’t feel appreciated…chances are you don’t occupy that position anymore.  

So, how do we clearly communicate appreciation and value to our people?  This is an important question right now.  We are traveling through one of the more disappointing and frustrating seasons any of us have experienced. 

I have a few ideas that have worked well in our Church over the last decade. 

Speak Their Language

First things first, what makes me feel appreciated and valued might not be what makes you feel appreciated and valued. 

For example, what would happen if your senior pastor thanked you for your service from the stage on Sunday morning?  Some of you would be deeply moved.  Others would be mortified!  

My point is that to truly make someone feel appreciated, speak their language.  

Years ago, one of our student ministry staff came up with a brilliant idea.  At the beginning of each ministry season, they sent out a survey to our volunteers. The questions on the survey were all about favorite things.  

  • What’s your favorite Starbucks drink?  
  • What’s your favorite candy?  
  • What’s your love language
  • What’s your favorite lunch spot?  

With this valuable information collected, they systematically used it whenever possible.  When setting up a check-in meeting, pick their favorite lunch spot.  After a particularly rough week of youth group (6 grade boys…) show up with their favorite candy or Starbucks drink.  

All I’m saying is that there is general appreciation, and then there is the “Oh my!  You thought of me!  How did you know that was my favorite?!?”  kind of appreciation.  

Go ahead and cheat.  Make a list and use that information strategically.  

Quality Time

We set the expectation that our staff members check-in with volunteers twice a year.  And, I don’t mean an email or a text.  I mean in-person, for coffee or lunch. 

Quality, in-person time, is an important foundation for any relationship, and the same goes for volunteers or staff.  

These are the moments when relationships are deepened. These are the moments when care and discipleship opportunities come out.  And, these are the moments when we learn how to better support our staff and volunteers as they do ministry.  

If you want to show appreciation and value to your staff or volunteers, schedule lunch or coffee with each of them and when you get through the list…start over.  

Clarify the Win

Clarifying the win might not seem like it belongs in this blog post.  Isn’t that more of a goal or strategy topic?  Ever been part of a losing team?  Ever feel like you were part of the problem on that losing team?  It is demoralizing.  

Whether it’s sports, business, money, fitness, or volunteering–people want to win.  In other words, they want to feel like they are doing a good job.  

We do our staff and volunteers a disservice when we don’t clarify what winning looks like.  “Am I doing a good job?  Who knows?!?”  

One of the best ways to help your staff and volunteers feel valued is to make it very clear what “doing a good job” means.  For example, back when I was a youth pastor, we would put it this way:

  • Did you greet your students by name?  
  • In your small group time, did you share highs and lows?  
  • In your small group time, did you talk about the message for 10 minutes?  
  • During the week, did you personally connect with each student by text?  

If so, you’re winning.  

Make it clear and make it measurable.  Helping your staff and volunteers feel like they are winning is a great way to show value.  

Equip Them to Win

Let’s take this one step further.  It’s one thing to know what the win is.  It’s another altogether to be equipped to win. 

Using the previous example, if winning looks like leading a good small group discussion, how do you actually do that? And, am I equipped?—Do I have the tools, to actually do it?  

This may feel counter-intuitive, but one of the best ways to show your appreciation to volunteers is by equipping them.  

Most of our ministries have a volunteer meeting before every event.  Part of that volunteer meeting is a short time focused on equipping them. 

Constant, small investments can go a long way in helping a volunteer feel equipped to win.  I wonder if something like this might be helpful in your context.  

Wrap Up

I believe that this is an important time to invest in staff and volunteers.  This COVID season continues to be disappointing and discouraging in so many ways. 

One of the most strategic ways you can spend your time in the coming weeks and months is to show appreciation and value to your people in creative and compelling ways.  

If you’re looking to develop and grow church staff and volunteers, then check out this article. 

Posted by Aaron Buer on January 13, 2022