Volunteers are a gift. They are the lifeblood of your ministry to children all year long. None of your workers do it for the applause. But without some sort of expression of our thanks to them, we risk making them feel uncertain, underappreciated, or even burnt out. Traditionally, churches save worker appreciation for the end of the school year. But why contain it to one time a year? We love our volunteers all year long.
This year, give your workers a fun and festive Christmas gift to let them know how much you appreciate them. Got nothing left in the end-of-year church budget? No problem. A meaningful thank you gift doesn't have to be expensive. On our list of 25 fabulous volunteer gifts, we have options that fit any budget – even if that budget is zero.
FABULOUS, FESTIVE AND FREE
NOTE OF THANKS
For most of your volunteers, your heartfelt appreciation for what they do means more than anything you can purchase. Take some time to write out your thanks to each volunteer. Be specific – no cookie-cutter thank you. Write it out by hand – don't type it. Use the nicest paper you have on hand.
(A personalized Note of Thanks is probably the best way to show your appreciation for your volunteers. We recommend writing one to go with any of the other Thank You gifts you might give from this list.)
Your words of appreciation will certainly mean much to your volunteers, but a thank you from "their" kids will touch their hearts for years to come. Find or create an opportunity for kids to make/write their own thank you cards for each volunteer when the team member is not around.
KIDS SAY. . .
Ask each kid, "Why do you like Ms. Park?" or "What's your favorite thing about Mr. Jackson?" and video record their responses. Edit all of the responses together for each volunteer. Email the edited video file to your volunteers, or show them at your volunteer dinner.
That's right, a volunteer dinner in the free column. So, maybe it won't be absolutely free, but a volunteer dinner doesn't have to break the bank. A few weeks before, make a sign-up sheet available where the other members of your congregation commit to bring a dish. Use the decorations you have hiding in the back of the supply closet. Or better yet, have the kids get crafty and make decorations for the event.
Put up signs in your church parking lot to designate a few choice spots as reserved for your outstanding volunteers for the next month. Smaller churches can give a spot to each member of the team. Medium-sized church can gift the spots for one month at a time (preschool workers get the month of January, 1st and 2nd grade volunteers get February, and so on). Larger churches can have all the team members (including the volunteers) vote on who should get the coveted spots.
Set aside time during the worship service to recognize your volunteers. Have them stand where they are, or come up on stage. (If you have a children's church, bring them in during this time, so you can recognize those workers too.) A public show of appreciation doesn't cost you a thing, but it means a great deal to your workers.
YULE LOVE IT ($1 - $3 GIFTS)
MAKE YOUR MARK
You can tell your volunteers how much you appreciate them with just a small trinket, as long as it is accompanied with a cheap pun or play on words. How about a box of markers with a note: "You are a re-MARKER-able part of our team"?
Give an inexpensive candle and let each member of the team know: "No one holds a CANDLE to you."
A BRAND NEW CAR
Well, a toy car. Give your volunteers a Hot Wheels car with this note: "Great volunteers like you are what DRIVE our Kid's Ministry forward."
Give your volunteers a packet of seeds (and maybe a small plastic planter) from the dollar store with a note that says "Thanks for helping our kids GROW in the Lord. You are SOW important to our ministry."
YOU DESERVE A MEDAL
Let's be real: Everyone who works in Children's Ministry year after year deserves a medal. So this Christmas, why not give them one? When you buy them in bulk from companies like Oriental Trading, it'll cost you less than $1 per meal.
SLEIGH IT! (GREAT GIFTS UNDER $25)
STUFF THAT STOCKING
One gift is great. Seven gifts is greater. Give each volunteer their own stocking filled to the brim with little tokens of your appreciation. The dollar store is a great resource to avoid breaking the bank. Fill the stocking with any or all of the gift suggestions in the previous section, or come up with your own.
A CUP OF GOOD CHEER
Get into the holiday spirit by giving your volunteers a Christmas-themed mug. Place a packet of hot cocoa inside. Add a couple of candy canes for decoration (and to stir the hot cocoa).
Maybe your team members will want to enjoy their hot cocoa curled up on the couch reading a good book. Think about a Christian living book or a piece of light Christian fiction that might be appropriate to give to the members of your team. Unless specifically mentioned by your volunteer, avoid titles focused on being a better children's ministry worker – we want to give a gift here, not a homework assignment.
Gift cards don't have to cost a bundle. A $5 or $10 gift card to Starbucks, Dunkin', or a popular local joint says, "Thank you for all that you do for our kids. Your next coffee is on us." (Note: If you give a $5 card as a gift, we recommend it be a coffee shop. You won't to make sure that $5 can actually buy something. A $5 gift card to The Sharper Image isn't really a gift; it's basically a coupon.)
LET THEM EAT CAKE
Or some other sweet treat. Consumable gifts are great – they fill the belly but don't fill our houses with clutter. Purchase some holiday cookies or candies. Or better yet, make them yourself. Your volunteers will appreciate your effort to let them know that you appreciate theirs.
CAN WE CALL IT A MOSES BOARD?
While we're not crazy about the name, a Buddha board is a fun tool for relaxing and unleashing creativity. And who's more creative than people who work in children's ministry? While marketed for kids, we think your adult volunteers will love it too.
I'VE BEEN FRAMED
Create a keepsake photo book of your volunteers in action. Take lots of pictures on your kids ministry – focus on capturing the leaders and volunteers. Then head over to Snapfish (or other photo printing site) and create a Photo Book. While there are plenty of more expensive options available, simple photo books start at under $25. Just make sure every member of your team is pictured in at least one of the photos – you don't want any of your workers to feel left out.
THIS THE SEASON TO SPLURGE (GIFTS OVER $25)
MORE GIFT CARDS
We've already covered $5-$10 gift cards. But perhaps you have the means to be a little more extravagant this year. Gift cards for $25 and up expand your options. Find out your volunteers favorite places to shop and get your gift cards from there. If you don't know this information, Amazon gift cards are a solid go-to.
Design a logo or catchy name for your ministry team. Create T-shirts using the services of a site such as Zazzle. This gift not only helps volunteers take more ownership of their role in the ministry, but goes a long way toward growing your volunteers together into an actual team. Watch as your volunteers – unprompted – begin wearing their T-shirt each week to church.
Why stop at T-shirts!? Custom print shops such as Custom Ink can place your ministry's logo on water bottles, back packs, ball caps, and just about any other swag that you can probably imagine.
TOO CUTE TO EAT?
Did you know you can have your ministry's logo printed onto M&Ms? With personalized M&Ms – available through their website – you can give a tasty treat featuring logos, text, or even your volunteer's face.
CUSTOM STREET SIGNS
Personalized street signs are a fun and unique way to say thanks. Sneak around your town at night looking for streets in your city that match the names of your volunteers, then remove these street signs. (That's a joke – PLEASE don't break the law!) Better yet, go to a company like Build a Sign and have them do it for you. Their plastic signs are under $25; but why not go all out and get the metal signs.
CUSTOM CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS
If you like the customization idea, but want something a little more holiday-themed, consider buying each of your volunteers a Christmas ornament, custom-designed for them.
Events tickets make a great gift. Tickets to sporting events, concerts, musicals, or holiday-themed programs are all options to consider. Just don't make the getting to the event a chore for your workers – check out what is happening in your local area.
Any of these Christmas gifts are sure to bring a smile to your volunteers' faces, as they realize just how much you appreciate the work they do with your church's most precious gift – the children of your church.