25 Church Volunteer Appreciation Ideas

thank you flowers

Making time for volunteer appreciation events within a church encourages a spirit of “volunteerism.” Check out this unique list of appreciation ideas, organized by small or large efforts.

  1. Holiday Baskets – Give a basket of holiday foods and festive decorations for your volunteers’ Thanksgiving or Christmas tables.  Some ideas: hams, cookies, sparkling apple cider, small centerpiece, ornament, or a small poinsettia.
  2. Helping Hands Bag – At a volunteer recognition event or church service, put out gift bags or totes with a handprint and/or volunteer’s name on each one.  As other folks come in, ask them to write a compliment for at least three different volunteers on a notecard and put it in each person’s bag.  Include a few goodies, such as mints, notepads, or a gift card.  All volunteers get their own bag of compliments and goodies at the end!
  3. Service Spotlight - Recognize a fabulous volunteer who gives of their time, talent, or treasure.  Ask someone to write a brief testimonial that can be read to the membership during services.
  4. Volunteer Sunday – Recognize a different group or ministry once a month during services, using any or all of the following ideas:  Give out flowers, sit together in a reserved place so they can stand up and be recognized together, include them in a prayer, have children create thank you cards or sing a song to them during the service.
  5. Shine a Light – In an email or newsletter, include a photo and description of a volunteer, what they do, their family status, and a quote from that person. 
  6. A Good Book – Give each volunteer the gift of a spiritual book that is a favorite of one of your church leaders.  Make sure the leader signs each book with a personal thank you inscription.
  7. Volunteer Raffle – Once a week or month at a church event or service, pull a volunteer name out of the “hat.”  The winner receives a $25 movie or restaurant gift card.
  8. Custom Bobblehead – Everyone loves a personalized gift.  It can be notecards or a tote with their initials.  A new trend:  a custom bobblehead!
  9. Inside Scoop – Your group will feel rewarded for their service with the most up-to-date church news presented in a monthly Volunteer Newsletter. This is a great place to offer current volunteers a sneak peak at opportunities to come, while also sharing ways for them to invite a friend along to the next informational meeting!

Assigning Volunteer Opportunities is Easier with a Sign Up! SAMPLE

  1. Chairs Meeting – Assign each volunteer a chair name such as: Festival Chair, Tithing Chair, Mission Chair.  Host a meeting of these chairs once or twice a year, where church leadership asks for feedback on things like:  what can be improved, what should we do with extra money, and how can we boost membership.  If volunteers feel like they influence decisions, they will have a stake in signing up again.
  2. Lunch with Leadership – Once a week or month, make time in the calendar for a church leader to have lunch or coffee with a volunteer.  Volunteers enjoy it when someone makes time for them just as they do for others.
  3. Lenten Sacrifice Basket – Use Lent as a time to thank your volunteers for their time and sacrifice.  Give them thank you cards, a small gift, flowers, or a gift basket to commemorate their contributions.  Even small religious items are a nice gesture: a cross, rosary, or prayer coins.
  4. Reference Letters – Volunteer work can lead to other opportunities.  Point that out to your membership and encourage them to ask for college and job references. 
  5. Training Seminar – In the spirit of building up their skillset, send volunteers to training. Topics may include: leadership development, finding your strengths, prayer meditation, event planning, organizational skills, time management, and life strategies.  This will also help their professional lives outside of church.
  6. Education Scholarship Fund – Set up a college or preschool scholarship fund that immediate family members of volunteers can apply to receive.  Make sure you have a well-defined set of criteria and an unbiased board to award the scholarships.
  7. Volunteer thank you appreciation sign up

Use SignUpGenius Payments to Collect Money for Volunteer Appreciation Events!

  1. Feed the Thousands their Loaves and Fishes – For a large group of volunteers participating in a prolonged event, bring in food for them: granola bars, smart popcorn, apple slice bags, potato chips, Gatorade, water, coffee, doughnuts, and/or cookies. A little food can go a long way.
  2. Recognition Sunday – During a certain service each year, recognize volunteers with positive awards such as: Most Enthusiastic, Inspirational, Grateful, Positive, Merciful, Sacrificial, Humble, Patient, Loving, or Generous.  Give a flower or special pin to those who do not receive an award.
  3. Cookie Exchange before Christmas– Ask members to bake five dozen cookies each.  Instruct them to put ten cookies in six different Ziploc bags.  On the day of the cookie exchange, your lovely volunteers get a gift bag and go cookie shopping!  Send out a sign up to make sure you have enough folks baking cookies.
  4. Retreat Day – Give your volunteers a true Sabbath Day! Some ideas:  arrange for a speaker, bring in lunch, hire a massage therapist and ask a church leader to come and thank them. You could also facilitate a feedback discussion with the leader so volunteers could give input. Use SignUpGenius to promote the day and encourage volunteers to attend. 
  5. Spring Flowers Reception - On a spring day after services, host a reception where other church members (not the volunteers) bring homemade food items.  Volunteers get a corsage/boutonnière, a table centerpiece or little memento.  A church leader can give a speech or toast where each volunteer is mentioned by name.  Use SignUpGenius to make sure you have enough main dishes, desserts, and sides.

Organize a Volunteer Appreciation Event with SignUpGenius!

  1. Special Event Tickets - Reward your volunteers with an annual trek to a Broadway show, religious concert, or blockbuster movie relevant to the faith.  Sporting events and golf are great ideas, too! Research group rates, or consult your list of contacts for ideas.
  2. Wrap Christmas presents – Recruit an army of church members to wrap Christmas presents for your volunteers.  How awesome is that? Use SignUpGenius to make sure you have enough wrappers on hand.
  3. Volunteer Night Out – Host a movie night at the church for young children, and give moms and dads a free night of babysitting.  Tap into your middle and high schoolers for help with this.  Use SignUpGenius for Mom and Dad to sign up, as well as your babysitters. SAMPLE
  4. Being Christ’s Hands and Feet - Pick a wall in your building and have volunteers put their handprints and/or footprints on the wall, with their names underneath.  Title it “Helping Hands Wall,” or “Being Christ’s Hands and Feet.”  You can paint over it each year and start fresh!  For a more formal look, take pictures and put them in frames on a photo wall, with a description of their position.
  5. Team T-Shirt – Pass out matching t-shirts to your volunteer team with a catchy name or slogan.  At events they can wear their shirts, and other members will easily identify them!
Volunteers don’t sacrifice their time in order to be appreciated publicly, but they do enjoy seeing that their efforts are making an impact. As you choose to spotlight their value, you will not only encourage them, but your entire church!

Emily Mathias is a freelance writer living in Charlotte, NC.