Forming Faith Blog

Nurturing Volunteers

What are volunteers worth? How do you “pay” them? Do you encourage, appreciate, and recognize each volunteer? Share your ideas in the comments section.

Audience clapping, appreciating volunteers.
Photo by SAULO LEITE on
Paying Our Volunteers? Value?

Church volunteers serve our faith communities and are essential to a healthy, growing church. It is not a stretch to say church volunteers are vital. Most ministries could not function without them. Churches need volunteers to do the work of ministry. What are volunteers worth to you? What is their value? Do your volunteers know your answers to these two questions?

In paid employment, compensation usually represents the job’s worth and its value to the organization. How do we “pay” volunteers for their value and worth in our ministries? We encourage, appreciate, and recognize; that is their pay.


Encouraging volunteers can take many forms. When you support what they are doing, you are encouraging them in their service. You will be communicating that you value them, their ministry, and their time and effort.

  • Curriculum. Choose one that is easy to use, fun for both students and volunteer teachers, flexible enough to allow the volunteer to be creative to match their own talents, and that will ensure that they are teaching quality, theologically sound lessons to their classes. Spirit & Truth Publishing has many great options.
  • Supplies. Have all supplies ready when they walk in the door.
  • Communication and Education. Help your volunteers understand what is happening around them. (Examples: What and when Ash Wednesday is, planned calendar events, and any overarching themes.)

Encourage them by sharing Scripture and devotions as well as teaching skills. Pay attention to your volunteers, check in with them on a regular basis, and include them all in your prayers.


Showing appreciation does not need to be extravagant, but it should be sincere, personal, and delivered in a timely manner.

  • Just say it. An important way to communicate appreciation for a volunteer’s efforts is to say, “Thank you!”  However you wish to thank them, it is not one-and-done. Communicate this appreciation to them frequently and thoughtfully. Communicate by cards, emails, letters, texts, phone calls, or in person.
  • Listen. When you appreciate someone, you respect their time, energy, and opinions. Listen to their feedback and utilize their strengths. Listen to their suggestions and implement them when possible. Tell them about the things you have noticed that are noteworthy.
  • Give gifts. Tangible gifts of appreciation can range from flowers, chocolate, candles, books, or an ice cream coupon. There are so many possibilities for gifts. Share your favorite ideas in the comment section on Facebook or below.

Appreciation for effort or contribution builds passion and inclusion, communicating that their time and effort have value.


How do you recognize your volunteers and their impressive efforts? Public recognition can build a deeper and more meaningful relationship with your volunteers. As you recognize them and their work, you are demonstrating how much your faith community values their contribution. What are your current possibilities to recognize publicly?

  • Written acknowledgment in newsletters, annual reports, and social media.
  • Spoken gratitude in dinners, announcements, and sermons.
  • Individual class recognition organized by their students or parents.

Volunteer recognition can also vary between the different levels of experience. It can function as gratification for new volunteers. Volunteers with more experience might value being given more responsibilities, further training, and room to grow in their role.


If you consistently encourage, appreciate, and recognize volunteers, your volunteers will feel how much they are valued and that their time and energy is worth it. Whichever ministry the volunteers are serving, nurturing will help that ministry remain healthy.

Remember to prioritize (your) volunteers:

  • Encourage them with your support.
  • Appreciate them by thanking them often.
  • Recognize them in public.

Be creative! Let’s brainstorm all the possibilities! Share your ideas in the comments section on Facebook or below.

By making it a regular priority to demonstrate gratitude for all those who support your ministries, you will develop a healthy culture of appreciation and recognition within your faith community.

It is a privilege for leaders to be able to work with volunteers. We are all so much more than bodies taking up space. It does take time and effort to show your appreciation for the efforts of volunteers who support your ministries and faith community. But in my view, this time and effort of encouragement, appreciation, and recognition are valuable, worthwhile, and necessary.

To all volunteers, thank you for the ways you serve Christ and the church.

Grace & Peace,

Kirsten Patterson

About the Writer

Kirsten is an educational professional with 28 years of experience in communities of faith, skilled in motivating, teaching, and team building. She has demonstrated expertise in building an arc of faith formation and educational opportunities from age two through adult. This has included fellowship, outreach, and both intergenerational and age-specific classes. With Spirit & Truth Publishing, Kirsten is happily employed as a writer and collaborator

This blog post is part of a monthly series of practical advice for faith formation leaders by faith formation and education professionals. Summaries of these posts are sent in a monthly email to email subscribers. Subscribe today!

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