I am a huge foodie! I LOVE TO EAT! In fact, I’m reasonably certain that they missed a sixth love language: food. Food is my love language! I love to be fed and to feed others. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one out there. I have found that volunteers tend to show up more often and are definitely motivated by food. I am a strong believer that there should be good food at all meetings, parties, events, services, small groups or any other time you get people together. With that being said, here are some different ways I use food/drinks to motivate volunteers and show them I appreciate their hard work.
1. Breakfast (when they serve)
It’s hard getting volunteers to show up on Sunday mornings, especially if they have kids or are attending/serving in multiple services. It’s even harder remembering to grab something to eat in the chaos of trying to get everyone out the door. That’s why I believe in offering breakfast for our volunteers and their kids. It doesn’t have to be a huge pancake breakfast every Sunday. We switch things up by offering different options each week. We might buy donuts or bagels at a nice place once a month. The other weeks breakfast is low key. You can offer pop tarts, granola bars, protein bars, cereal bars and on occasion fruit. Think easy, cheap, and won’t go bad in one week. It doesn’t have to break the bank, and it will take one more thing off your volunteers’ plates on Sunday mornings.
2. Meeting Food
Meetings are well…meetings. They can be boring at times and people will try to avoid coming. I believe meetings should have the best food you can afford. I try to avoid the over-used option of pizza if at all possible. Sometimes, I can afford to spring for something a little more expensive and I purchase catering from a local restaurant or a chain restaurant. Look into the restaurants around your church/home and you will be surprised that the catering menu is affordable at some of them. If I can’t afford to buy the food, I make it or find someone who will.
3. Cook it/Bake it
I actually love cooking and baking so this is an easy option for me. I have made pastas, soups, chilis, nacho bars and other cheap options for food and people loved it. I have found that people really like homemade desserts. I almost always make homemade cookies or other desserts for meetings and other volunteer events. I even make tubs of Christmas cookies for my volunteers most years and they ask for them every year. If you aren’t a cook or baker, find the people in your church who are and ask them to help! Chances are you will find someone who loves it and will be more than willing to help you out.
4. Allergy-friendly Options
In today’s world, everyone seems to be allergic to something. It’s a real bummer when it comes to food, but it doesn’t mean you can’t offer it. We have several people on our volunteer team with allergies. I make an effort to always have something available that they can eat. It really means a lot to them when you think of them and provide something so they can still be a part.
We know that kids’ ministry has a lot of events! We need a lot of volunteers to staff those events to make them successful. At events, I try to offer free dinner/breakfast for volunteers. If the food is really kid-friendly and not something adults would enjoy, I buy food just for them. If it is an over-night event, I’ll make a coffee run for all my volunteers. Sometimes it comes out of my pocket because it’s not in the budget and I’m OK with that. I love blessing my volunteers.
6. Take them out
Make a point of taking at least a couple volunteers to coffee each month. You could even invite them and their whole family over for a meal at your house. Take time to invest individually in your volunteers and you will see them even more committed to serving in your ministry.
7. Gift Cards
Who doesn’t love an unexpected gift card? It doesn’t have to be a lot either. Find out what your volunteers love to eat/drink and purchase a $5 or $10 gift card for them. I like to give a gift card to a volunteer when they serve more than usual or really take ownership of a piece of the ministry or event. You can probably work a couple small gift cards into your budget each month, and it will mean a lot to your volunteers when they receive one.
We will never be able to fully repay our volunteers for the time, love and energy they put into serving our kids, but a little food will go a long way in showing them we care.
What am I missing? Is there a food option or other incentive you provide for your volunteers that they have loved?
This article originally appeared here.