Church Involvement

Creating a Culture of Involvement in Every Church

Month: March 2018

Hesitation’s Root

When it comes to change, church leadership moves slowly. Sometimes this is good; no one wishes to move quickly and make a huge mistake. However, there are times when change is obvious. And, even then, change comes either slowly or not at all. In many cases where change is obvious, we see indecision.
There are two choices: (1) we either keep things the way they are because of FEAR, or (2) we move ahead in FAITH and make the necessary changes. There is little middle ground. The bottom line is this: Is this God’s Will and will we obey Him out of faith?
Consider some of the fears we have:
FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN – this is a natural tendency. We prefer to stay in our comfort zone and not try anything new or different. Not changing is safe (or at least we think so). But then again, the unfamiliar and the unknown create excitement and more importantly, express faith. We walk by faith and not by sight.
FEAR OF CRITICISM AND REJECTION– this is the “BIGGIE” among church leaders. We are afraid of what the brethren will think or do. We are afraid that we will be criticized and we are afraid that “our idea” will be rejected. We are even more afraid that members will ‘vote’ with their feet and money. Why not be more concerned about pleasing the Lord versus pleasing the brethren. A faithful steward does not seek to please men.
FEAR OF FAILURE– we are afraid that we will fail. What does failure look like? More importantly, what is failure? Sometimes failure is not doing what the Lord wants us to do. We fail to act in faith. We fail to do His will. We fail to try. We fail to ask His blessings. Fear of failure is not a good excuse or reason to not do the right things.
FEAR OF THE RISKS & THE COSTS– many leaders fear the risks and the costs (money, time, effort, etc.) will be too high. I would simply ask, “Is this God’s Will?” If it is God’s Will, He will supply what we need. And, if it is God’s Will, it is worth all the money, effort, time and energy. Somewhere along the way, we have lost the principle of sacrifice for the cause of Christ. We want a comfortable Christianity. Such is not found in the Bible.
God did NOT give us a spirit of fear (cf. 2 Tim.1:7); I submit that ungodly fear is from Satan. Our fear paralyzes us and displeases the Lord. He DID, however give us a spirit of power, love and discipline. We simply need to allow such a spirit to drive us in making decisions and executing God’s Will in our congregations.

98 Ways to Say “Thank You” to Volunteers


98 Ways to Say “Thank You!” to Your Volunteers
Gracias! Dankeschon! Merci! In any language, these ideas will help you say thank you and express your gratitude to volunteers’ hearts.
“Thanks” is such a simple word, and it comes in many forms—some quick and easy, others more time-consuming and crazy. You’ll never run out of thank yous with almost 100 ways to say it.
1. Send a postcard made of foam with a special Scripture verse of encouragement.
2. Provide a place and time for prayer with volunteers before the hectic morning begins.
3. Plan a team retreat for encouragement and spiritual renewal.
4. Give small copies of encouraging stories or phrases from such authors as Max Lucado, Florence Littauer, or Oswald Chambers.
5. Have your pastor and governing board commission new volunteers with prayer.
6. Create a laminated Bible bookmark with a Scripture verse.
7. Find a prayer partner for each volunteer. Send this card: “Pray-er’s name is praying just for you and Jesus’ kids!”
8. On parchment paper, personalize a “Letter from Jesus.”
9. Create a personalized Scripture card for each person with a positive verse that reminds you of him or her.
10. Pray for a different volunteer each day. Send a card telling the volunteer you prayed for him or her that day.
11. Print a poem, cartoon, or encouraging quote on colorful paper for each volunteer.
Words of Affirmation
12. Write three to five quick thank you notes each week.
13. Send volunteers an “E-mail Greeting Card!”
14. Make random phone calls just to say thanks.
15. Write a note in bright colors on a blank puzzle, break it apart, and send the pieces.
16. Use paint pens to write on heart key chains: “We Love YOU!”
17. Have children complete “You’re special to me because…” slips. Then present the slips to teachers.
18. Hang vinyl banners that say, “Thanks, children’s ministry volunteers!”
19. In a children’s ministry celebration service, invite the congregation to show appreciation for volunteers.
20. Include children’s positive comments about volunteers in your church newsletter.
21. Send a thank you letter to volunteers’ spouses.
22. Give your teachers the summer off with a big “Thanks, see you next fall!”
23. Make a “Certificate of Appreciation” for each volunteer.
Personalized Gifts
24. Personalize Christmas tree ornaments with names and a meaningful Scripture reference.
25. Use paint pens to inscribe each volunteer’s name on a tea cup.
26. Take class pictures. Frame them and have kids sign each frame.
27. Have each child decorate a quilt square. Then have the squares sewn together for the children’s teacher.
Ministry-Related Gifts
28. Make button pins for all your volunteers: “KIDS LOVE ME!”
29. Copy your children’s ministry mission statement on computer mouse pads.
30. Place classroom supplies such as stickers, stamps, and stamp pads inside a basket and wrap it in colorful cellophane.
31. Print your children’s ministry’s logo on coffee mugs. To each one, attach this note: “You add an extra measure of flavor!”
32. Give T-shirts with your ministry logo.
33. Have an advertising agency put your logo and theme verse on water bottles. Attach this note: “Thanks for running with our kids’ programs.”
34. Give canvas tote bags imprinted with your logo, church name, and a special Bible verse.
Gifts Everyone Will Enjoy
35. Give inexpensive salt shakers with Matthew 5:13a printed on them.
36. Give a small bouquet of flowers.
37. Volunteer to take leftover “gift with purchase merchandise” off a department store’s hands to use as thank you gifts.
38. Design a perpetual calendar with 365 of your favorite verses and phrases.
39. Give a video rental coupon and a bag of microwave popcorn.
40. Surprise a volunteer with a balloon bouquet.
41. Plant a spring bulb in a clay pot. Use raffia to tie on this card: “Praise God that you’re blooming where He planted you!”
42. Give a bottle of blowing bubbles with this: “Jesus’ love bubbles over in you!”
43. Give “World’s Greatest Sunday School Teacher” pens or pencils-to everyone.
44. On a paddle ball racket, write: “Have fun after a great class.”
45. Give holiday pens or pencils on a Sunday morning near a holiday.
46. Place a pretty bow on a pack of recipe cards, including one of your favorite recipes. Attach this note: “You have the ingredients of a great teacher!”
47. Give a four-pack of light bulbs with this note: “You’re the light of the world!”
48. Decorate a plastic light switch plate with Micah 7:9.
49. Give a gift certificate for dinner out.
50. Use the Internet to send a bouquet of flowers.
51. Give a small rubber ball with this note: “Our kids are having a ball with you!”
52. Have a “Root Beer Float Party” with kids as the hosts.
53. Hand out mixed bags of Hershey’s Hugs® and Kisses®.
54. Give a 100 Grand® candy bar with this note: “You’re worth 100 Grand to us!”
55. Give a banana with this message: “Thanks bunches! We go bananas for your help!”
56. At Christmas, give a festive mug with a candy cane and a packet of cocoa inside.
57. Give a long-stemmed chocolate rose.
58. Send a “cookie gram”-a giant cookie with “thanks” iced on it.
59. Leave a plate of homemade cookies in each classroom.
60. Fill plastic red apple containers with jelly bellies or sugarless candies. Give with this note: “You’re the apple of God’s eye!”
61. Leave gold-wrapped chocolate coins or Hershey’s Kisses® with this note: “Your work with children is more precious than gold. Thanks!”
62. Give each volunteer a gift certificate for a treat from Baskin-Robbins or TCBY.
63. Give a package of M&M’s® with this note: “Thanks for sharing God’s Majesty & Might with our children!”
64. Hold a “Cookie Exchange” where each parent bakes two dozen goodies. Gift wrap plates of varied goodies and have parents deliver the treats to volunteers’ homes.
65. Give a pack of gum with this note: “Thanks for sticking with us!”
Appreciation Parties
66. Thank all volunteers with an children-hosted “After-Holidays Open House.” Serve appetizers and festive punch or hot apple cider.
67. Allow children to plan a party for volunteers on a Sunday morning.
68. Celebrate with a royal “Ambassador’s Dinner” since volunteers are ambassadors for Christ.
69. Host a volunteers’ barbecue with special music and great steaks.
70. Have a Volunteers’ Hallelujah Hop with kids singing Christian versions of ’50s music, Hula Hoop contests, and great desserts.
71. Have a Volunteer Hallelujah Luau with an island-themed video of kids celebrating volunteers.
Training and Meetings
72. Put a birthday hat, party blower, and streamer at each chair for a meeting. Serve birthday cake and celebrate everyone’s un-birthday.
73. At your next meeting, surprise volunteers with party decorations. Then celebrate!
74. Pay for volunteers to attend workshops that benefit their ministry.
75. Include your volunteers’ top interests for speakers, meetings, or educational needs in training meetings.
76. Get a massage therapist or nurse to give back rubs at a meeting.
77. Use gold fabric puff paint to put each person’s name on a funny hat. Have volunteers wear their hats during an entire training meeting.
78. Give great door prizes at meetings and celebrations.
Classroom Help
79. Check each classroom for basics such as crayons, felt markers, paper, Bibles, stapler, and scissors.
80. Have parents decorate classroom doors.
81. Enlist support teams to help teachers with baking, crafts, or music.
82. Surprise each volunteer with a gift subscription to Children’s Ministry Magazine.
83. Give a new book of holiday crafts, inspirational stories, picture books, or activity books.
84. Develop a “Homeroom Parent” program to help teachers with tasks such as attendance, follow-up, encouragement, and snack preparation.
85. Create a shadow box area in a visible area. Put up a volunteer’s picture and a short write-up. Tie a Mylar balloon of “Thanks” beside the box.
86. Have all your volunteers stand in a church service as someone sings a special song such as “Thank You!” by Ray Boltz or “Who Is Gonna Tell The Child?” by Acapella.
87. Feature a teacher each month in your church bulletin, newsletter, or worship folder.
88. Take slide pictures and/or make videos during the year for a Volunteer Appreciation Sunday.
89. Reserve a special parking spot for the “Teacher of the Week.”
90. Feature a different children’s ministry program on a bulletin board in the adult education area.
91. Send out a “Volunteer Gram” each week with news and announcements. Include a big thank you to individual volunteers in each issue.
Other Ways to Say Thanks
92. Set up a Sunday Siesta Section in a quiet room, stocked with flavored coffees and teas, bagels or muffins, and inspirational music.
93. Design “coupon books” for volunteers, personalized with things you’ll do for them, such as “two hours of child care.”
94. Make “Warm Fuzzies”-small, colorful pom-pom balls with wiggle eyes and paper feet. Place a “Warm Fuzzy” on each attendance folder.
95. Use bright colored paper and tablet adhesive to make a computer-generated notepad for each volunteer.
96. Give lapel pins that say thanks-a cross, a “Jesus” fish, an angel, or a “#1 Teacher” pin.
97. Organize a car wash for volunteers’ cars. Have kids do all the work for free.
98. Make a mural with candid shots of teachers and children.
Mary Van Aalsburg is a children’s minister in Fresno, California.
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Expediting the “I Serve U” Inventories (It’s Not as Difficult as It May Seem)

It can be a little overwhelming when churches learn of I Serve U. When church leaders learn all that is involved (no pun intended), they are a little overwhelmed and do not know where to start.
I want to alleviate any such concerns and simplify the process.
Determine How You Wish to Proceed
Different churches use different methods of getting members to do the inventories. One church has a Wednesday evening class that runs for four weeks and covers each issue (e.g. gifts, personality, passions, etc.) one week at a time. A supper is prepared for them so they can come directly to the church after work and start the process. This is a rotating class where folks can come in the middle of the process and not fall behind or wait for another class. This church has 5000 members and each new member is required to be in this class. This particular class has two leaders.
I am not familiar with how they originally did the class when everyone in the church had to take it. I would suggest doing so alphabetically or by sign up with a limited number in each class. This may take several months, but the end result is worth all the effort and organizing.
Another congregation uses small groups. Small groups are ideal for getting to know new members and allow the time needed to do the inventories well. Small groups would allow the entire church to be inventoried quickly. However, each small group will need a leader (or leaders) to make it work well.   If you are a smaller church and you need twelve leaders for twelve groups, you may have an issue—at least temporarily.
Here in Athens we tried several approaches and all of them working together brought about great results. We had “Discovery Place” where folks could go anytime they wished and fill out the inventories on line and instantly get a print out. They would then come to my office where I would ‘coach’ them for about 30 minutes. We provided childcare one evening a month for young couples with children. We also provided a special day for retirees. The youth minister used a week of time and the youth to do a thorough cleaning of the church building. While there, each young person would do the inventories and receive some coaching.
Each church must do what works best for all involved. With creativity, church leadership will come up with a practical means of getting all their members to do the inventories and get them involved in ministry.
Data Basing the Information
As people do the inventories, this (new) invaluable information is given to the church secretary (or an assigned person) to be put into a database. One of these good data bases is “Servant Keeper.”
Having done so, a copy of the information is given to the appropriate deacon or ministry leader so he/she can put the person who has just filled out the inventories to work.
Deacons and ministry leaders MUST NOT become bottle necks in this process.
They must take the information given to them and immediately put these new volunteers to work. Otherwise, the volunteers become discouraged and are never used. Wise and organized deacons and ministry leaders will have prepared well and have serving opportunities. Deacons and ministry leaders will do well to delegate the work assigned them and they best do so by giving assignments to people who have volunteered.
Don’t allow this term to scare you. Coaching is simply spending some time with an individual (who has filled out the inventories) and asking questions that lead the volunteer in discovering his or her place in the body of Christ. Yes, the coach needs to define and illustrate how gifts, personalities and passions determine how a volunteer is designed to serve, but ultimately the coach leads the volunteer in discovering how wonderfully they are created for good works.
You may have several coaches, especially as you start inventorying every member and then you would only need a few once this is accomplished.
Campaigns & Congregational Focuses
A campaign is a special event that lasts up to one year. It is a time of special emphasis in preaching, teaching and ministry where members are encouraged to use their gifts in some special way. We’ve had two major campaigns: “Getting Connected” and “Down on the Farm” (an emphasis upon bearing fruit for Jesus).
We also recently had a congregation focus that we called “Be a River.” We have also added “Love Athens” wherein we do special projects around town to bless people and non-profits.    We also have “Ministry Fairs” and “Missions Fairs.”
Such things require time and creativity but they pay big benefits in teaching the brethren to serve. Smaller children also learn service in their young age.
Changing Your Congregation’s DNA
What you are doing is changing the DNA of your church. You are transforming, in some cases, many pew warmers into servants. Some change is good and, in this case, is necessary. Once your church’s DNA has changed, it becomes a part of the church that will never change back to the old way. The church will progress to be more like Christ.
If this material still doesn’t help, please let me know. I’ll be glad to guide through the process.
If you would like to host an I Serve U event, please contact me. Trav
Travis Irwin, IM
Athens Church of Christ
Athens, TN
423 920 3060

“Resolved to Involve” (RtI) Events

Positive & Negative Responses to

Resolved to Involve” Retreats & Seminars

RtI has only been around about three years. It was during the second year that I was treated for nasal cancer so I was unable to do much.
Following are some (not all) of individual evaluations of RtI. RtI is designed to assist church leadership in creating a means to get all of their church members involved in ministry. RtI is usually done on a weekend and it has been done in a shorter version. Of course, I recommend a full-blown retreat because it allows more time for sharing materials, for those present to discuss their findings and for leadership to evaluate. I also strongly suggest having all the elders, deacons and ministry leaders AND their spouses. The ladies add much good to the events.
There are 7 questions that I asked participants to answer in my evaluation. I was pleasantly surprised by the answers. The most negative thing that was shared was time related. Some participants would have liked to have had the Power Point materials. I am still thinking about that one. A lot of material is made available for their use before, during and after the presentations.
Following are the 7 questions and some of the answers that came from dozens of participants:
(1) Was this weekend what you expected? If not, what did you expect?   Here are some of the answers:
It was great. It was better. Yes, better. The inter-active workshop was very good. Many simply answered, “Yes.”  Another answered:No, it was so much better than what I expected…It was very insightful. I was pleasantly surprised by the presentation style…The handouts are great and allow/develop great insight.
(2) Was there material or information that you would have found helpful that was not presented? If so, what information would you have included?
I did a three-hour presentation which really limited me and also limited much needed discussion; following are some of the responses from that event: Needed break out sessions, role playing. I can’t think of anything. Need more information about implementation.
My weekend retreats received completely different responses: many said, “No,” there wasn’t anything else you could have presented. One added that time constraints would not have allowed any other materials. One person answered “Yes” but did not suggest anything to be added.
(3) Were the presentations too brief or too long?
For the three-hour event, 9 of the participants felt that the timing was just right. One person thought things went too fast (and so did I). Other answers ranged from “Perfect” to “Good” to “Just right.” Several felt we had enough breaks and that the break-out sessions were helpful and very engaging. One wanted more time and one said that the sessions showed great time management.
(4) Were the presentations too deep or too shallow?
The most used answer was “Just right.” Two folks said, “neither.” And, it is not surprising that one said, “Things went too fast.” Some other responses were, “well balanced,” “good depth,” “fine,” “good,” “very good,” and “perfect.” One participant felt the material was a little shallow for those present, but it would work for a congregational presentation.
(5) If you could list two ways to improve this retreat, what would they be?
Many left this question blank; I assumed that they didn’t have any suggestions to improve the event. Several felt the need for more time. One said, “Not sure” how to improve it.  One added, “Great job!” One said, “it was a great approach….” Some felt they needed more time for discussion. There were also some who felt the seating wasn’t adequate and one thought the lighting for the projector wasn’t good. And, then one, stated that more of the church leaders needed to be present.
(6) What did you like most about the presentations?
Very well presented. Concise, clear, good interaction. It was both fun and informative. Made me think. Seeing how personalities interact. Practical, applicable, materials ready to use and informative. Many liked talking about personality traits. The material was presented in such a way that made it interesting. Everything! Personal accounts and humor. It put it on the front of my mind as to a person’s gifts and passions. I enjoyed the group discussions. It was done in a way that all can understand. The spiritual gift test, personality, greatest passions test. The focus on understanding our differences and the strength that can be developed because of it.
Realizing your personalities, passions and interests and using them to edify the church, coming up with creative ways to utilize these. It was relatable. Your fun spirit and the practicality of the subject. Breakdown of the personalities of different people. Was challenging and visionary. Great introduction practice “unknown facts.” “Kept moving.” It helps to understand why as well as how. Thought provoking and simplistic. What it showed about myself. Practical, easy to understand and good visuals. Survey to determine your spiritual gifts.
(7) What do you think you, as a church leadership, should do having spent this time and learned what was presented this weekend?
I will not list every answer here. However, I will say that almost 100% of the respondents thought they should move forward with assisting members in discovering how God had created them for good works and get all members involved in ministry. To this day, I have not had one negative response under this question.

It may be appear that I am bragging here.  I assure you that I am not.  However, I want every church leadership to be challenged to assist those under their care to discover how God has designed them for ministry and to involve every member in your congregation.   I have been blessed to compile very helpful materials and I would love the opportunity to share them with you at your convenience.

Contact me at

Travis Irwin

423 920 3060

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