As we approach Thanksgiving, this is a great time to think about how to say "thank you" to these wonderful servant-leaders. What are some ways to show them your gratitude in a way even remotely proportionate to the size of the job? Here are a few ideas:
-- An appreciation banquet.
Many churches hold banquets in the spring, when the "Spring Fever" has caused some folks to start thinking about quitting. But the fall -- especially tied in with a Thanksgiving theme of appreciation -- is also a good time. Potlucks are always popular, but this a great time to have a catered meal so the Sunday School leaders don't have to lift a finger ... it's all about them, after all! Enlist a motivational speaker, or just enlist folks to give testimonies about how God is working through their classes. And be sure to have the pastor there to offer his thanks.
-- A useful or memorable gift.
It has been my personal experience that Sunday School leaders respond with great appreciation to a gift, especially if it is one they can use in their ministry. One of the most popular and well-received I've given is "That's Easy for You to Say," a book on pronouncing Bible names. Serendipity Bible for Groups is a great gift for adult and student teachers. Inspirational books, Bible handbooks and atlases would all be appropriate, especially for teachers.
-- Appreciation Sunday with bulletin insert.
During my time on church staff, we did this twice each year. In the fall, on "Sunday School Appreciation Day," we printed the names of all the new directors and teachers by age group and department. In parenthesis beside the names of preschool, children and student leaders was the name of their adult department.
In the spring, on "Members in Service Day," we printed only the names of preschool, children and student leaders, but listed them by adult department followed in parenthesis by the name of the department in which they were serving. This also helped develop a culture where "associate members" were cared for by their adult classes, which may be the best way to honor these key leaders.
-- Walk around on Sunday and say "thank you."
This may be the most overlooked, yet most significant way to honor Sunday School workers. If you are a staff member, a Sunday School director or division director, make time frequently to stick your head in the room. At first, it may seem awkward and you'll need to be sensitive to what the class is doing. After a while, your nod, your smile, wink, wave, and your "thumbs-up" will become your nonverbal way of communicating, "Way to go! I appreciate you; you're not forgotten; keep up the good work."
-- Personal reenlistment.
It is a wonderful way to honor your leaders when you personally ask them to serve with you again. Don't be tempted to send out an e-mail or letter with a reply card. Ask them. Call them or meet with them face-to-face and simply say: "I have so appreciated your service. Can I count on you again next year in the same role or would you like to talk about a different role?"
Don't ever think that this method takes too much time. Your retention rate skyrockets and you'll avoid much of the time-consuming work of enlisting new leaders.
We would love to hear your ideas of how to show appreciation to your Sunday School leaders. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
David Francis is director of Sunday School at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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