Monday, June 10, 2013

Let's Plan a Volunteer Appreciation Dinner!

We've looked at supporting your volunteers with prayer and encouraging them by remembering birthdays, sending emails and notes and "adopting" your volunteers. All of these are fairly easy to put in place; just takes a bit of organizing. Today we will talk about how to encourage your volunteers by planning an appreciation dinner. This takes some planning and preparation to pull off, but is well worth it! Since our "year" of ministry tends to run from September to June or August, the spring is the ideal time to have your dinner, but you could also have a dinner in the Summer or to kick off the Fall ministry year. Today I'll give an overview with several ideas for unique dinners you might want to try with your volunteers! Consider the following . . . 
  • The first step is to set a date for your dinner and get it on your church calendar. Give your volunteers about a month's notice so they can plan to be able to attend.
  • Once you have set your date, determine what your budget is for this dinner. Some churches choose to purchase whatever they need for the dinner, and others just do not have a budget for a dinner. If this is the case in your church, you still can have a dinner for your volunteers, but you will need to be creative in the financing of your dinner. Consider asking non-volunteers to donate to the dinner - either money or specific ingredients. 
When determining your budget you need to decide what type of dinner/event you will have . . . consider some of the following ideas!
  • At one church I attended, I planned a Cajun dump dinner for our volunteers. I purchased colorful plastic tablecloths and covered each table with a bright, but different color. Then I cooked large pots of corn on the cob, small red potatoes, sausage, shrimp and crab legs. As my volunteers arrived they thought I was running behind because there were no plates on the tables and no tables with food - some of my teachers asked if I needed any help setting the table or getting the food out! I just smiled and asked everyone to sit at the tables as I had some teens bring out large pots of the food . . . our volunteers were stunned when we poured their dinner on the tables in front of them! It didn't take long for them to get over their surprise and "dig in"! There was lots of laughing and talking as they all enjoyed their unique and unforgettable dinner! I brought out lemon pepper chicken for my volunteers who didn't enjoy seafood or may have allergies, rolls . . . and lots of napkins!
  • Another year we had a barbecued chicken dinner for our volunteers. Our assistant pastor fired up his grill and I cooked two kinds of potatoes, corn, rolls and salad for an enjoyable dinner! 
  • For a very affordable idea consider putting on a spaghetti dinner and make sign up lists for all the food you need – adults in your church who are not volunteers can sign up to donate each part of the dinner! This is a wonderful way - regardless of the church budget - to involve the people of the church, "hands-on" in giving your volunteers this appreciation dinner!
  • Or, have a “Heart for the Teacher” pot-luck dinner after a morning service and invite the entire church to join you! Only non-volunteers may bring food – plan on bringing some extra dishes so you have enough – and ask everyone . . . children included . . . to bring a “heart” gift for their teacher. Little ones might draw or color a picture of a heart; someone might bring heart candies while another might make heart shaped cookies! After the dinner, allow everyone in your church to shower their teachers with their “heart” gifts for an appreciation dinner no one will ever forget! 
Whichever type of dinner you decide on, consider this idea for desserts - ask non-teachers to make their best dessert which serves six to eight and then set up a dessert bar . . . your volunteers may choose whatever they like! Expect the decision to be difficult as there will be so many delightful choices to select from!

Once you have set the date and determined they type of dinner you will have, invite all volunteers and their spouse/guest to the dinner in their honor. If you aren't putting on the "Heart for the Teachers" dinner, decide if you will give each volunteer a small gift; book, pen, or hand made item donated by the members of your church. Your final decision is to decide on a speaker and music and make it a truly special evening for your volunteers! 

Well . . . this is a basic overview for planning a volunteer appreciation dinner. Take time in the coming month to set your date, determine your budget and decide what type of dinner you want to have!

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