Every week this year we are exploring the theme “The People.” Today we think about……
The People who deserve appreciation
Felicia Fox is the Associate Pastor of Students & Families at First Baptist Mount Olive. She is a graduate of the M. Christopher White School of Divinity at Gardner-Webb University. She enjoys helping young people see God in their everyday lives, painting, and playing with her three dogs.
As I think about the people I get to minister with my mind goes first to my students. I’m sure that’s true for all of us youth minister types. The students are the ones who make us laugh, cry, and have gray hair. Seeing them encounter Christ and then share Christ to the world is what keeps me going in my ministry. But the volunteers are what keep the ministry going.
I have been blessed to be at a church where we have a strong group of volunteers who support our youth ministry. I honestly think I could ask them to build me a rocket ship for a Bible study on the moon and they would some way get it done. They spend countless hours feeding, leading, and loving on our youth. With these great people in mind I want to give a few suggestions on how youth ministers can make sure our volunteers feel they are appreciated.
This may seem too simple but the first tip is to simply say, “Thank you.” After a program at church everyone is usually busy cleaning up and running for the door. In those moments on busyness it can be really easy to forget to thank those who have put in the work. I’ll admit I don’t always remember to thank them in the moment. I’ve found that a thank you text or mailing them a hand written thank you card is a great way to let them know how thankful you are for their hard work and support. Everyone loves getting a reminder that what they did matters.
Tip two is to make sure your youth also show their appreciation. Share with the youth how much work your volunteers do behind the scenes. Youth may not fully notice the amount of work that it takes to make sure each event happens. Maybe that lesson will translate to their life outside the church. Teaching them to notice the often hidden work can also teach them to notice and appreciate those hidden workers like the school lunch lady or custodian. Helping teens become comfortable with showing appreciation and being grateful is a lifelong skill they will need.
One less obvious way to help your volunteers feel appreciated is by making sure they have a voice in the planning of events. They love your youth and spend countless hours making sure the ministry runs smoothly. They know what has worked well in the past and what hasn’t. They will have a sense if an activity will be a hit or fall flat. These people invest a lot of time and energy in the youth and care about them as much as youth ministers do. I’m willing to bet they are also among the biggest supporters of the youth minister. Showing them respect and valuing their voice will make the ministry better.
After spending some time thinking about the people that actually make the youth ministry here at my church work I’m committing to doing a better job of showing them how much their support means to me and the youth. Maybe I’ll go home and bake some thank you cookies.