Posted by: Justin Wallace | November 16, 2009

Appreciation & Motivation :: The Lost Art of Appreciation

trailsnight2editI don’t know about you but I am terrible at making sure my volunteers are appreciated. It’s not that I’m ungrateful. It’s just that I forget. I have great intentions but I rarely follow through.

Our volunteers are essential. A must have. All the staff members in the world can’t replace a great group of volunteers. They are the oil that keeps the motor running.

They sacrifice their time and their energy.

They give and give and give and give.

And I forget to say thank you. I forget to let them know how important they are. I forget to give them time off. I just forget a lot of things…

And honestly I’ve lost some really great volunteers because I forgot. So, these next few Monday’s we’ll be talking about motivation and appreciation. We’ll talk about two questions: 1) How do we motivate our volunteers? 2) How do we make sure to appreciated our volunteers?7127_142934076438_743781438_2670125_1737441_n

I sat down with a member of our community here in Impact who is great at appreciation and asked her a couple questions to get this conversation started. Her name is Amy and she sat me down a couple weeks ago and set off the alarm clock. She reminded me how important our volunteers are and she humbly told me that we weren’t doing a very good job at taking care of them. So, she’s helping us get better and these are her thoughts on the art of appreciation.

Why is it important that we appreciate our volunteers and leaders?

Simply, if we don’t, we lose them.

Humans function toward self-preservation, conditioned to only invest in what guarantees  a tangible return. One of the most compelling things about the Gospel is that is charges us to love for Love’s sake, claiming God as the unending source. Because of this, people should volunteer and lead in the church and never get burnt out or used up – however, on this side of heaven burn-out happens all the time.

The struggle: God is unseen. We can say that He is our source but don’t always know how to feed on an invisible feast. In wisdom, He designed the church accordingly, as an avenue through which we see an invisible God work. He ismongerdry the head, we are the body. If the foot itches the brain doesn’t jump out of the skull to scratch it, but it is the brain who tells the hand to move. So, when we are told to  “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13; See also Hebrews 10:25 & 1 Thessalonians 5:11-14} it is because God knows we need it and because He is so glorified in it. Without encouragement from the body it is easy even for a genuine servant to dry up and disengage.

Practically speaking, how do you see this accomplished?

Unfortunately we also wrestle with the sense of ingratitude that permeates humanity, we have to be seriously deliberate in appreciating one another, it doesn’t come naturally. Our ungratefulness stems from self-absorption, so ultimately, as we preach the Gospel and teach people to be Christ-absorbed, we seek to create a culture of thankfulness, where encouragement flows naturally. Initially it takes a lot of work to focus on what’s been given instead of what’s lacking, to extract common complaining and insert thanksgiving, and to really get people to understand that nobody owes them anything. But, the process will paint a beautiful picture of redemption and lead to healthier congregations.

unconventional-park-benchWhile I think a culture change should be a long term goal, we have to move one step at a time. There are simple ways to communicate to our leaders that they are supported and to our volunteers that they are invaluable. They range from a pat on the back and a “thank you” in passing,  to written notes, to public recognition, gifts, or events. Anything that demonstrates effort inspired by gratitude is beneficial. Be creative, be unconventional.

It is important to make sure those who are constantly pouring out don’t run dry.



  1. Good reminder about appreciation.
    I find it very easy to move past volunteers and look for people who are not plugged in yet. I think what concerns me is that when we start to plug people in we move on to the next group of individuals and forget about the ones serving.

    The fact that 80% of the work is done by 20% of people represents the need to appreciate your volunteers.
    Good reminder.

  2. I am very excited about this thread man. This is certainly a deficiency on my part.

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