I’m not great at predicting summer attendance in my children’s ministry but I still like to offer the community a few kids’ events between June and August. To pull off my wacky outdoor programs and big Sunday promotions I need volunteers – and lots of them! I know it’s a big sacrifice to volunteer during the summer months; lots of people take off to spend time with their own families. Despite these natural setbacks, my volunteer roster is usually full during summer months. I credit a lot of my success to the way we recognize our volunteers. When the last water balloon has been tossed and the hula-hoops are put away, it’s time to shower my helpers with praise.
Over my fifteen year experience, I’ve stumbled across some good appreciation ideas for summer volunteers. No matter what your budget, you can afford to say thanks for the extra hands. Take some of these ideas and scale them to your specific needs.
Host a treasure hunt. I live near a beach but you could make this work in your own backyard. First, you will need a cooler filled with cold drinks and candy bars or whatever snacks your group likes. Bury the treasure in the sand (at least partially) or set up a canopy beachside and host a barbecue. This is the perfect theme for telling volunteers that “You treasure them,” or “God treasures you.” Draw a map to the party location and give them out to volunteers some time before the event.
Take the “grown up” kids to the water park. Grab some end-of-season ticket deals and invite your group to be your guest. Let them be kids for a day! If your group has children of their own, provide a babysitter and make it a no-kid day. (Taking kids to the volunteer appreciation party defeats the purpose.)
Make s’more goodie bags. Nothing says summer like a tasty s’more. Fill clear plastic treat bags with marshmallows, mini Hershey bars and Graham crackers. Tie them tightly and add a cute note that says, “We need s’more volunteers like you!”
Host a summer bonfire. I have extended family that own some country property. Some years, depending on my group, I host a bonfire as a thank you party out on the farm. I provide the hotdogs, condiments and drinks. While we hunker down around the fire in our chairs and blankets, I encourage the volunteers to share their favorite summer ministry memories. You’d be surprised at what touches people.
Sometimes, even a simple token of thanks like a summer sand pail full of candy or a even an interesting jar of colored sand shows your sincere appreciation.