St. Luke Lutheran Church in Portland, Ore.
Each year in April ELCA congregations, organizations and communities celebrate "National Volunteer Appreciation Week" and commend those hard-working individuals who give their time, talents and efforts to help make our world a better place.
For 25 years, the ELCA has been a church that rolls up its sleeves and gets to work. We do God's work in the world, restoring and reconciling communities not because God needs us to do so, but because our neighbors do. This year, the ELCA will come together Sept. 8 as 4 million members to celebrate the important work we do in our communities every day.
Known as "God's work. Our hands." Sunday, congregations across the country are invited to to plan a service activity that produces a positive impact among their neighbors and in their communities, as well as enabling congregations to participate in God's work to which they see themselves called. We will go into our communities to serve meals, clean up neighborhoods, make quilts for the homeless, collect supplies for those displaced by conflict and disasters, or visit our homebound neighbors.
Here are some ideas to help celebrate the volunteers that make your ministries possible:
Volunteer for your volunteers! -- Give back to those who give so freely of their time by giving them your time. Give them a break by volunteering to cook them dinner, mow their lawn or babysit for an evening. Or make "coupons" to redeem these kinds of special gifts of time whenever is most convenient for them.
Celebrate together -- Does your congregation have a steady group of faithful volunteers? Consider celebrating them all at once with a special breakfast, potluck or even a special dessert after worship. Make it an opportunity to both provide a public expression of gratitude for their service as well as a chance for individuals to say a more personal "thank you."
Give them a "thank you" that matters -- Everyone loves a gift card for a free coffee or a special, handmade thank-you note, but if your volunteers are spending their time working for causes they care about, what better way to thank them than to help those causes? Is there a volunteer who continually shows up to help serve a community meal? Consider giving a gift to ELCA World Hunger in their name. Or is there a member who never misses a chance to tutor kids after school? Purchase school supplies in their name from ELCA Good Gifts.
Get your volunteers some recognition -- There are a number of awards for which you could nominate your rock-star volunteers -- like the President's Volunteer Service award or service recognition at their alma mater. You could make your own certificates to hand out to those dedicated helpers. Or submit their story here at LivingLutheran.com or on the ELCA's Facebook page to give them a little publicity!
Ask for their input! -- As you make plans in your congregation for both the future of your ministries and your day of service for "God's work. Our hands." Sunday, be sure to consult those volunteers who work so hard to make your mission plan happen. Ask them what they think about the way things work, listen to their suggestions and ask for their input as you plan your congregation's dedicated day of service in September!
Serving others with our own hands
The effect of many hands