Why Gifts Are Important
As the end of the school year rolls around, we typically start to reflect on the year before and gear up for the year ahead. We look back with humble gratefulness for our volunteers (For some, we are grateful for their time and effort. For others, we are grateful for the fact that we made it through a year with them!). We also might look ahead with anxious anticipation of needing to continue to build a strong team of adult volunteers. Finding the perfect gifts for our adult volunteers is a very practical way to address both of these feelings. Gifts make volunteers feel appreciated. Appreciated volunteers make for more committed volunteers. Committed volunteers are themselves a gift to your youth ministry. The goal with volunteers (especially teachers and small group leaders) is vitality and longevity. Gifts are crucial for both.
So, letʼs take a look at some gifts that you can give your volunteers – not only at the end of school, but throughout the year as well. First, letʼs list the Top 5 Free Gifts for your adult volunteers…
Freely Given (Part 1)
It is important to note that some of the best gifts you can give your volunteers donʼt cost you anything monetarily. Here are some ideas to get your started:
The first and most important gift you can give your volunteers. If you are expecting your adult volunteers to make investments in the lives of the students in your youth ministry, then you need to be willing to make a relational investment in them. Having an “open door policy” lets volunteers know that you are available to them, not just for ministry concerns, that you care about them as people as well. If they are parents in your youth ministry, a trip to their sonʼs or daughterʼs game, play, or concert is a double win!
Closely related to the first one, this second gift is a more specific, intentional use of your time with leaders. As we are well aware, youth ministry is often a thankless endeavor. The intangible measures of success in ministry make it easy for even the best of adult volunteers to get discouraged. Our encouragement is an invaluable gift that might make the difference between a current small group leader and a future usher. Encourage and praise them, both one-on-one to the larger group and church. A phone call, a text, a card, or even an email can go a long way. Make sure you make deposits in their love bank more than you make withdrawals. In other words, make sure that your adult volunteers donʼt just hear from you when you need something from them!
Even the most committed volunteers eventually need a break! Whether it be offering to teach Sunday school or lead a small group for someone, or canceling a program and telling your team to enjoy a Sunday night with their families, giving your leaders time-off does two things: (1) it communicates that you see and value the work that they do, and (2) it reminds them that you are “in the trenches” with them and understand what they do. It also keeps you from becoming disconnected with youth…but thatʼs another story.
One of the most important gifts that you can give your volunteers day in and day out is the gift of information. Probably the #1 that adult volunteers appreciate is information on programs and events ahead of time. Thereʼs nothing worse than showing up to a Sunday night leader meeting right before the program starts and dump a lot of responsibilities on your volunteers that take them by surprise.
Sometimes, the greatest gift you can give a volunteer is the opportunity for them to use their gifts and talents to lead. This could come in the form of a specific task, such as taking pictures or designing t-shirts, or the freedom to create a program or ministry that they are passionate about. Sometimes, volunteers can feel like just a “warm body” unless you identify, value, and empower them to use the unique gifts that God has given them to make a positive contribution to the ministry and to the Kingdom. Let others lead! (How to do that could be a whole another blog, too!).
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post.