By Kristin Schultz
Christmas is a time for gift giving. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spend an average of $997.72 on gifts and holiday items. Giving presents to our friends, families and loved ones is one of the greatest joys of the season.
As Christians, we get to not only give and receive but also be reminded and remind others of the many gifts God has given us, including the greatest gift—his son Jesus.
Christmas is an opportunity for churchworkers to express gratitude to those who serve alongside us and to provide meaningful reinforcement of God’s love for us in the baby Jesus to those we serve.
We know that we could not effectively minister without the help of volunteers. Many volunteers put in hours each week organizing, teaching, and working behind the scenes to make sure the Gospel is shared. God has blessed these volunteers with skills and abilities that, many times, we ourselves do not possess.
Showing volunteers the appreciation they deserve should be an ongoing, regular part of our ministry to them. Whether it’s an appreciation dinner at the end of the year or monthly thank-you notes, people who serve want to know that their efforts are noticed and that we are grateful for their time and contributions.
Christmas gives us a special opportunity to show volunteers that we see the hard work that they do and are grateful that they are using their gifts to bless our ministries. Consider hosting a Christmas party or luncheon for volunteers at which you enjoy a time of fellowship and relaxation. Send each volunteer home with a heartfelt gift that expresses your gratitude. Since Christmas is often a very busy time for you, your staff, and your volunteers, consider timing your party or luncheon before December or in early January, after the rush of the Christmas season.
When it comes to choosing gifts for volunteers, the most important elements are heartfelt gratitude and personalization. A handwritten note for each volunteer is a great way to personalize the gift. Call out the specific ways that the person’s gifts and abilities contribute to spreading the Gospel message of Jesus.
Personalizing a gift means knowing your volunteers and giving them something that shows you know and care about them as a person, not just the tasks they perform at church. Volunteers should be seen for who they are, not just what they do. For example, a children’s ministry volunteer may love to work with children, but he or she may also love gardening. In this case, consider giving a plant or a gift certificate to a local garden center, not a book about children’s ministry.
If you’re still not sure what kind of gift to give, now is a great time to start noticing and noting specifics about your volunteers. For example, does one of the musicians always seem to have a tumbler of coffee or tea? Is a youth volunteer usually dressed in fan gear for a local sports team? Does a women’s Bible study leader carry around a tote bag with yarn and knitting needles? Getting to know your volunteers gives you the opportunity to give them a gift they will appreciate.
Guests and Members
Giving gifts to guests and church members is different than giving gifts to volunteers. Obviously, there is a greater number of guests and members, and it is much more difficult and cost prohibitive to give personalized gifts. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t give a heartfelt, meaningful gift.
When choosing gifts to give to large groups, there is no need to choose individual gifts for each person; it would be impractical anyway. That doesn’t mean, though, that the gift can’t be meaningful and a blessing at Christmas. Small gifts, like ornaments, can be bought in bulk and then personalized with a gift tag that includes the name of your church and a message.
You can also consider devotion books for smaller groups of members like adult Bible-study attendees. Again, you can write a short note or message, and then print copies and affix the message to the inside of the devotional.
While showing sincere appreciation is the goal of giving gifts to volunteers, congregational gifts should aim to reinforce the message of Christmas and serve as a show of hospitality and generosity to members and guests.
The Gift of Opportunity
No matter how you choose to recognize your volunteers or welcome guests and members this Christmas season, the key is to give with joy and give gifts that are heartfelt and meaningful. Jesus is our greatest Gift and you have an opportunity to share that Gift with others.
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