Practicing gratitude is not just a spiritual discipline we should teach to our students; we should also show it to our leaders.
For those who show up to help in a variety of ways, here are some awesome and fairly inexpensive ways to say and show you really care.
#1 Handwritten notes: Artifacts that show you care.
The first way is one that gets mentioned often but is practiced too little. Everyone says they should do this more, so be encouraged to act on it. Make it one a habit to write three notes a week. Seriously, slate it into your weekly work flow. Attach some $5 gift cards from time to time, and watch the culture of your team shift. The effort is minimal—it’s the prioritization of it that’s the problem. I promise, if you commit to doing this regularly for three months, the tone of your team will change for the positive.
Or, batch ‘em! Take one day a season to write up a bunch and then mail them out over the course of a few weeks. Whatever it takes, schedule it into your work week.
#2 Let them eat cake! Gift their favorite things.
The only thing better than getting an unexpected gift is receiving a gift that was something you really enjoyed. For sure, a coffee gift card or dinner gift card is nice, but you know what’s better?
Getting a personal favorite.
- Coffee from a favorite roaster: “Awww, you know me!”
- A gift card to a favorite local restaurant: “Wow, you WERE listening to that story!”
- The exact favorite cupcake from that place in town that’s always busy: “I will volunteer another year!”
Q: How do you accomplish this?
A: Get their info early on, store it, and then use it when the time is right.
Remember all of this is relational investment, so the more precise the gift, or compliment or showing of gratitude, the more deeply it’s felt. Generic gratitude is almost no gratitude at all.
#3 Swag: The gift that keeps on gifting.
Swag! Stuff.We.All.Get. Well, not everyone, because that’s less fun, but stuff all your leaders get? Heck yes!
There are lots of types of swag to choose from, but I would start with things that show up in places where they can show them off. This might mean a shirt they can wear to ministry functions or a coffee mug they can flash during a Zoom call, but get them quality swag that they will actually enjoy and use.
#4 Time With You, Youth Pastor.
It’s so simple that we overlook it, but one of the best ways you can prove you care is to gift some of your time to them with no agenda or reprimand. Just take them to lunch, buy them coffee, treat them. At some level, they like you. Give some time to care about each other and not to ask them for more help or investment.
#5 Celebrate them publicly. Say it for the people in the back.
I will admit that this was something I didn’t do early on, but I am learning how to do better now. We’ve got to proudly and publicly call out our volunteers (and student leaders) when they are doing well what we asked them to do.
You should praise as loudly as you can. This might mean a stage announcement, a mention in a church communication, a featured video/post on social media, or a round of applause at your next leader meeting, but praise them; praise them specifically and praise often.
Gratitude is a gift that we need to cultivate. It starts in our own commitment and nurtures throughout our entire ministry. Much of what works and doesn’t work in your leadership is intertwined with how people feel about their commitment to serve. Be eyes-up enough to see and voice loudly enough that they hear it.
We see you, and we are thankful for your commitment to grow as a minister and invest in leaders who love students. Happy Thanksgiving, friends.
This post was written by Zac Workun. Zac serves as the Student Ministry Training Specialist for Lifeway and is one of the co-founders of Youth Ministry Booster, Lifeway Students’ collaboration and training network. He has served the local church in various youth ministry roles for over 15 years.