33 Ways to Show Appreciation to Volunteers at Your Church

Volunteers are the lifeblood of your church. In fact, your church literally wouldn’t exist without them! Small actions often show your true feelings about your volunteer teams. Why not pick a few things from the list below and try them this weekend at your church? The first step toward building healthy volunteer teams is making sure that your existing team members feel appreciated!

  1. volunteersAt the beginning of every shift, make sure team leaders cast the vision for why volunteers are critical to your ministry.
  2. Visit every service area that you’re responsible for this Sunday and say, “Thank you!”
  3. Send birthday cards.
  4. Every time a volunteer serves, send a “what to expect” email three or four days in advance.
  5. Assign key people to spend time with new volunteers on the first weekend they serve with you.
  6. Take time during the message to brag about how amazing your volunteers are.
  7. Get to know what’s happening in your volunteers’ personal lives.
  8. Make sure there’s enough work for volunteers to do when they arrive … don’t waste their time!
  9. Always have food available before or after they serve.
  10. Make it easy for your leaders to send regular thank-you notes to their team members.
  11. At the end of every shift, find out what your volunteers think could be improved for the future.
  12. Open up leadership development opportunities for volunteers to advance in the church.
  13. Don’t impose new policies and procedures without talking them through with your team.
  14. Throw parties regularly!
  15. Write letters of reference for students who volunteer with you.
  16. Show your team the “impact emails” you get about how great your church is.
  17. Create easy off ramps … don’t lock your team into perpetual service!
  18. Send a press release to your community paper celebrating your team when they do something “above and beyond.”
  19. Make sure your volunteers are the “first to know” about exciting things happening in the future of your church.
  20. Give them a team t-shirt. 
  21. Make sure everyone gets and wears a name tag.
  22. Use quotations from your team members in your annual report or other donor-targeted communications.
  23. Calculate how many hours your volunteers have served in that past year and celebrate it!
  24. Reinforce regularly with paid staff that our #1 role is to support your volunteers.
  25. Take photos of your volunteers serving and post them on social media channels.
  26. Make sure your volunteers have the best equipment you can afford for them to carry out their work.
  27. Create easy channels for your volunteers to communicate with the church leadership.
  28. Insist that the church reimburses them for out-of-pocket expenses.
  29. Send volunteers a hand-signed Christmas card.
  30. Have good coffee available when they arrive.
  31. Allow core volunteers to gain influence and take on more responsibilities.
  32. Take at least one volunteer out every week to thank them and get to know them better.
  33. Buy 10 books that have impacted you and give them to 10 outstanding volunteers.


  1. Love these ideas! They are great for the group that I lead that is dependent on the volunteers who watch over the kiddos.

  2. Rich – I love you, man. But I have to take serious issue with you here because you stepped on my sore toe.

    The church as no volunteers. If people are volunteers, they aren’t the church. If they are the church, they are fellow ministers.

    “Volunteers in your church” is an awfully common phrase. It is also an awfully big blunder with far reaching and, frankly, damning implications.

    I’ll avoid a treatise here (I’ve written it elsewhere), but a short list might be helpful:
    – Volunteers arrange around bigger priorities. Ministers have no bigger priorities.
    – Volunteers are in until it gets uncomfortable. Ministers expect it discomfort
    – Volunteers leave when they lose interest. Ministers serve God’s priorities, not their own

    We aren’t the United Way. This isn’t the Red Cross. We aren’t the public library or the Kiwanis. This is a calling to abandon self and serve God. Volunteers are not welcome.

    1. JB!

      Thanks for checking out the blog and jumping in on the comments.

      I agree with the sentiment of what you’re talking about. Obviously we serve a higher “cause” than any other organization in our communities.

      My challenge has been that so many non-profit organizations treat their “volunteers” so much better than churches treat “the family”. Why is that? I understand that our people are “more than” volunteers … but I want to make sure at least treat them like that.

      I’d love to see a link to somewhere else where you flesh your thoughts out more.

      Again … thanks for being a part of the conversation!

      – Rich

      1. Thanks for the dialog Rich.

        I have written on this, but old school (not online). Actually, I did write a more extended comment to a similar blog article here:

        I didn’t use my real name as I did here. My pseudonym there was “Nebulous.” Mine is the only comment.

        I agree with you about the poor treatment of what are variously referred to as “volunteers” or “lay ministers.” But the core of the problem is the same on both sides. People are less involved or committed because they see ministry needs as volunteer opportunities rather than kingdom callings. And church staff treat them poorly because they see them as volunteers rather than fellow ministers.

        As a small-time consultant, I help churches become hated by the world. It’s not a great marketing message, and I don’t spell it out that way directly, but that’s the gist of it. One part of accomplishing that, though, is backing off from appealing to the part of the world that has infiltrated the Christian. And that boils down to “self.” Self requires certain conditions and affirmations in order to find joy. But genuine joy is found only in self-abandonment.

        The discomfort, though, is that becoming this way as a church – drawing people to self-abandoned ministry over self-satisfying volunteerism will probably drive many away. That’s not the goal any more than it was Jesus’ goal in places like John 6:60-71. But the prospect of it must be faced squarely, and we must elevate faithfulness above appeal.


        1. I would disagree on the line being drawn here. Volunteers like myself give time and money away to the church to dedicate our lives to a greater cause.
          Ministers are being paid. I do not receive a paycheck. Is it a kingdom calling? Or I have to do this or I lose my paycheck? And where’s the difference?
          This is why some churches are completely volunteer based. There are no paid bishops, ministers, teachers, etc. They are there because they want to be. Not because they are going to lose their job/paycheck.

          I agree totally about finding joy in abandoning the self. Though this sounds a little more like Søren Kierkegaard and Frederich Nietzsche.
          The #1 way to get out of depression? Help someone else. In other words, the most rampant disease in the nation is cured by thinking of someone other than yourself.

          1. Mary … great to hear about all your passion for serving! Your church is fortunate to have you plugging in and making such a difference!

            – Rich

  3. how about that # 10
    Let’s bring it back.
    My opinion… Great, and needed for new people. When I was new, It helped me to understand that, although the job was not difficult, it is vital in ministry.

  4. Ultimately, showing appreciation to volunteers is based on knowing them personally. One key question I ask is: what’s their love language (to use Gary Chapman’s terminology)? (Or another way to phrase it is: how do they receive care or appreciation?) Many of these suggestions fall into one of those 5 categories; we need to determine which makes sense to which person.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.