Five heartfelt, yet affordable, gifts for church volunteers

If your church is anything like mine, you cherish your volunteers.  Without these faithful servants who sacrifice their time and energy for the cause of Christ, our churches couldn’t come close to achieving all we’ve seen this year.  If you’re a volunteer at your church – we thank God for you!

More and more churches are taking up the fantastic initiative of Volunteer Appreciation Evenings – nights dedicated to thanking, honouring, and spoiling our volunteers with meals, entertainment and fun, to thank them for another year of service, and to thank God for the privilege of working for Him.  

But it’s always such a struggle – we want to be generous to the volunteers who have been generous to us, but most churches (in Australia, anyway!) aren’t exactly rolling in cash, and when every dollar counts, it can be hard to justify spending hundreds or even thousand of dollars on a single night.  

We can always cut costs by having staff cook dinner (rather than outsourcing caterers) and reusing decorations and supplies from previous events, but here are some ways you can give a physical “Thank You” gift to your volunteers that is heartfelt, meaningful, but super thrifty.

  1. Magnets (from 32c each)

Magnets are a great way to give your people something that will last (unlike chocolate or candy!), is visible (sits on their fridge all year!) and meaningful.  Choose a verse from the Bible, or even just write a simple “Thank You” message, type it onto a pretty background, and upload it to VistaPrint to have 100 magnetic business cards produced for just $32.

  1. Seed Packets (from 15c each)

This gift has just the right amount of cheesiness to make your volunteers smile, but also has a deeper meaning behind it.  Drop a couple of sunflower (or other happy flower) seeds into a little bag, and attach a card saying “Thanks for helping this ministry GROW!”.  Don’t forget to include care instructions for how to grow the seeds!  That way, as the seeds begin to grow in everyone’s garden, memories will flood back, reminding them of the event, their church, and why they do what they do.

  1. Hot Chocolate Jars (from 50c each)

This one will take some forward planning if you want to really keep costs down, as you’ll need to start collecting jars early.  But if you manage to collect enough jars, and you have a bit of time on your hands, layered Hot Chocolate Jars are such a sweet gift!  All you need to do is scour Pinterest for hundreds of ideas and recipes, and attach a little gift which includes instructions for how to make the hot chocolate, as well as a Thank You message to your volunteers.

  1. Instant Photos (from $1.10 each, plus once-off printer purchase)

This is especially fun if your event has a dress-up theme!  Set up a cute, decorated photo booth, have someone take photos of guests as they arrive, then hand them their instantly printed photo as a takeaway gift.  There are loads of instant printers to choose from, but the Polaroid Zip Mobile Printer is a great option that allows users to print directly from a smartphone.  Plus, once you have the printer, you can use it over and over again at all kinds of events (don’t forget to stock up on paper refills!)

  1. Handmade Christmas Decoration (from 10c each)

If you’re running an end-of-year event to thank your volunteers, making homemade Christmas decorations is a cost-effective way of giving everyone something they can use, that is also rich with meaning.  Even better – have the recipients of their ministry make the decorations!  Have your children or youth group make Salt Dough Decorations which they can then paint, and hand-write a short thank-you message.  Everyone will receive a unique, meaningful gift, filled with love!  You’ll need to be organised for this one, and maybe even try to find a way to have your kids make them without the volunteers finding out!

As much as we’d love to shower our volunteers with fabulous gifts like mugs, keep-cups, shirts and tote bags, costs quickly add up when you start multiplying by 50, 100 or more.  So although we may not have the luxury of spending the money we’d like to spend, we can still fill our gifts with meaning and gratitude.  And, as we all know, it’s not stuff that makes us happy – it’s the thought that counts.  So do what you can to show your volunteers what you think of them – even if all you can muster is a hand-written note, it will be so much more meaningful than throwing chocolates or branded pens in their faces!

Laura Hurley

Laura's favourite way to spend her time is to hang out with her husband and crazy-cute son Ethan at hipster cafes, but also finds time to work in a communications, design and events role at her local church where her husband is a pastor. She works for Gospel Powered as a Blogger, Equip Writer and Social Media Manager. She also dabbles in photography, baking and binge-watching crime drama TV shows.
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