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When volunteers are thanked, do they REALLY feel appreciated?

by | Sep 2, 2014 | Communications

photo by Barry DoyleBy Kate Strohmeyer, Writer/Editor

When volunteers are thanked, do they REALLY feel appreciated?

Maybe not. According to Dr. Gary Chapman, co-author of the best-selling books, The Five Love Languages, and The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, volunteers feel most appreciated in one of five ways: through words of affirmation, through acts of service, through quality time, by receiving gifts, and through physical touch.

Who needs to be thanked and why does it matter?

All volunteers who are thanked appropriately and intentionally tend to be more committed and have a greater level of satisfaction in their ministry.

How do we know which appreciation language our volunteers prefer?

Dr. Chapman explains that if you are unable to ask volunteers what would make them feel appreciated, look closely at how a volunteer shows gratitude to others and try to reciprocate.

Are there examples of how our church leaders can speak all 5 Languages of Appreciation?

Photo courtesy of Kathleen Athey

Kathleen Athey, Dave Chavalier, his daughter Karen Player, and her children Trinity and Trenton.

1. Words of Affirmation

Recently, the Conference Board of Global Ministries recognized one clergy person and one lay person with the Brammeier Award. Celebrating the spirit of Rev. Roland Brammeier, the award is presented for outstanding service in the areas of homelessness, hunger, and the needs of children. The 2014 Brammeier award was presented to Pastor Michele Kelley and to the family of Linda Chavalier (who won the award posthumously). Rev. Kelley, pastor of First Bisbee UMC, received the award for her work with the hungry in her Bisbee, AZ community. Linda Chavalier’s family of St. John’s UMC in Kingman, AZ, received the award for Linda’s work with many organizations in her neighborhood. The award was presented during Sunday Worship at each church. This public recognition is an example of showing gratitude through words of affirmation.

Photo Courtesy of Kathleen Athey

Kathleen Athey and Pastor Michele Kelley

The words affirming volunteer service can be spoken from the pulpit, engraved on a plaque, written in a note, or printed on a certificate. To a person whose appreciation language is words of affirmation, those words are meaningful and motivating. Dr. Chapman warns that not all volunteers welcome public attention, and one of the other four appreciation languages may be key in encouraging them to reach their full volunteer potential.

2. Acts of Service

The acts of service language can be demonstrated through hosting a volunteers’ luncheon, dinner, or celebration. Serving a meal of gratitude is one way many churches regularly thank their volunteers. This is an enjoyable and memorable time for those who prefer acts of service.

3. Quality Time

Let’s consider those who feel most appreciated with quality time. These are typically the shy volunteers who do great service independently. For a “quality time” volunteer, a personal phone call, a home visit, or an invitation to have coffee makes them feel valuable, and a volunteer who feels valuable is more likely to continue doing great service on behalf of the church.

4. Receiving Gifts

One of our churches gives out M&M’s candy to their volunteers who are recognized as ‘Mighty Methodists’ during worship. The M&M’s are an inexpensive example of a gift of gratitude for those who feel most appreciated by receiving gifts. It can be easy to spot a “gifty” volunteer. They will often show up to events or volunteering occasions with a treat or gift for others. They feel uplifted when someone reciprocates with a thoughtful token of gratitude.

5. Physical Touch

A pat on the back, an arm around the shoulder, or a handshake are all simple and appropriate ways to reach out to a physical touch volunteer. Dr. Chapman shares that while physical touch may be the least used method of expressing gratitude it’s not the least effective. For example, using physical touch to thank a volunteer who lives alone may be meeting a basic human need.

Is it necessary to be an expert in all 5 languages of appreciation?

It’s important to effectively communicate appreciation in the way that best suits volunteers at your church, but you alone don’t need to be the resident expert. Share this information with other church leaders. Giving some collective thought to purposely thanking volunteers can go a long way.

For more information about the 5 Languages of Appreciation, go to www.appreciationatwork.com.

For more information about recognizing outstanding community service with a Brammeier award, contact Billie Fidlin, Director of Outreach Ministries and member of the Conference Board of Global Ministries, at bfidlin@dscumc.org.

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