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Join this discussion about ways to show our appreciation to our wonderful volunteer Sunday School teachers and leaders in Children's Ministry!



Being Appreciated as a Sunday School Teacher and Children's Leader

Some opening thoughts from Neil MacQueen

Back in the day, it was typical for churches to host a luncheon after worship and give gifts to their teachers and children's ministry team. You could even shop for a multitude of "Thank You" tchotchkes --pins, cups, candies. I've been given all of those. But these days, most churches are lucky to have all their teachers in attendance at the end of the springtime, let alone find their teachers willing to show up so they can be singled out for recognition. And for whatever reason, those pins and pens and daisies never seemed to mean that much to me.

Truth is, teachers don't teach for the recognition, but the congregation has a need to appreciate you just the same, to value what you stand for, and who you sit with every Sunday morning or Wednesday evening. The question is "how."

Speaking as a teacher and for many of my fellow teachers

teacher-appreciationWe don't want a half-attended luncheon around tables that separate us.

...But if you really want to feed us your food and appreciation, have the pastor invite us for dinner at his or her house so we can mingle with each other and build relationships.

We don't want a pen that says "Jesus Loves You," a bunch of flowers, or a "certificate of appreciation" we'll just file away.

...But secretly, we do appreciate ice cream coupons. They can be a tasty gift that keeps the memory of your appreciation in front of us longer and literally on the tip of our tongue. Even better, have some of my students show up or take me there.

We don't like standing up in worship. (Was that a generational thing? My mom liked that.)

But we'll do it if you ask us. The only downside to that is the fact that these days and in the spring of each year it's hard to get all the teachers together in one service. Hurts the whole point if you tout "all your great teachers" and only three of us are there to stand.

Some of my most treasured mementos from teaching and leading are photographs you gave me showing me with "my" kids -- the classes, the outings, the fellowship groups.

So for me personally, if you really want to show your appreciation, send a photographer around to get some great photos of me with my kids in action. Post them around the church and on the church's social media, then give me a framed copy of a montage of several of your great photos with a warm note written on the back of it that I can reflect on.  And remember to add names on the backs of all these photos!

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The funny faces....

The times we prayed together...

The outings we went on...

And don't forget to put the names of the kids on the back of the photo!

And don't forget the faces of the adults I have served with. They are part of the reason I say "yes" to your recruiting.

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Last edited by Neil MacQueen
Original Post

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Yes! I agree that gifts of imprinted objects (cups and keychains) are not why I teach.  Pictures of the kids with me are wonderful! Cards/pictures with fingerprints or handprints (and the kids’ names)  are also nice.   Search for “class fingerprint tree” and you will find all sorts of ideas and even preprinted trees that you can use.  Here is one from The Country Chic Cottage:

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Also, if your Sunday school and volunteer program is year-round, gifts do not need to be at the end of the school year.  These thank you pictures and remembrances can be given at Christmas.  Laminate a picture of my kids and I will happily hang it on my tree every year.  

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Last edited by Amy Crane

I agree with Neil and Amy! I volunteer with no need to be recognized in church or via a gift.

My church though insists they give me something and for several years, each spring, it's been a beautiful annual flowering hanging basket. I hang it from our front porch where I see it ever time I come and go.

Very nice, but if they were to ever ask me what would be most meaningful to me, I could share my Sunday School wish list, and they could simply pick any one item to donate to the Sunday School.

Be it a video, storybook, story table-game-drama prop, etc. would have me dancing in the church hallways and it would be a gift that would keep on giving over the years!

But that's just what gets me excited.

We've served breakfast for volunteers a couple times a year at church on Sunday morning.  A really fun one has been a waffle bar!  Huge hit!  We had the breakfast set up to span a large period of time on Sunday morning so people could arrive early for SS and eat or eat later.  It was really well received.  

Another idea we've done for volunteers is to do a parent's night out for children's ministry volunteers.  We feed and play games with their kids for a 4-5 hour chunk of time giving parents a free night out.  This is a great one youth like to help with.

We also make some sort of art display incorporating the names of people who have helped throughout the year.  One year this was hanging paper pendants each with a name of person on it. We have over 100 volunteers a year with our children's ministry program so whatever we do is quite an effective display.  I keep a database of all the volunteers throughout the year so I'm sure to not miss anyone.  One year we made a giant coffee cup design on a bulletin board (like a "Starbucks" paper cup, and covered it with hearts.  Each heart had a person's name, and then we gave everyone a coupon for a free latte at our coffee spot.  

I've also baked cinnamon rolls for volunteers and had those in their classroom in the morning when they arrive with a note of thanks.  

We've done a couple of different breakfasts and those really are a huge hit, and pretty easy to put together.  They also make for a "Hey, What's going on here?  How do I get involved conversation piece."  So glad you asked!!  Love it!

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