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5 Gifts Your Volunteers Don’t Want

Okay, to be fair, I  don’t know YOUR volunteers, but I have BEEN a volunteer for the last twenty years. And, I have taken my fair share of church-branded merch to the thrift store (who also doesn’t want it). That’s why, this year, I’d love to share five gifts your volunteers don’t want AND a few things you can give them instead. . .


1. A coffee mug. If your house is like mine, opening a certain cabinet means risking injury from an avalanche of unused and unwanted merch mugs. A cool mug every once in a while is awesome, but if you’ve done one in the last five years, there’s a good chance your volunteers don’t want another one. What if, instead of a promo mug, this year you gave each volunteer some ethically sourced coffee, a group barista class, or a gift card to a local coffee shop?


2. A water bottle. It’s no secret that certain water bottles reign supreme each year. 2023 was the year of the Stanley. 2022 was all about the Hydroflask. The problem is that with the rise in popularity, most folks choose their own water bottles based on specific needs -like water intake goals and the size of the cup holder in their car. Not to mention, they can be a bit pricey. Maybe this year,, you keep your crew fueled with some encouragement by writing them a thank you note, giving them a short devotional (like this one), parent encouragement cards for the parents who are volunteers, or small group icebreaker cards to fuel better conversations.


3. Church-branded t-shirts. Okay, this one is controversial. I can’t pretend like I don’t love a good t-shirt, but after a four-year commitment to serving in our high school ministry, I found myself with ministry swag taking up 50% (yes, seriously. HALF) of my dresser drawers! The reality is a t-shirt with a logo is great for a short time but quickly becomes a less-than-favorite. There are a few exceptions, though, right? The t-shirts that we wear for years to come, the ones we cherish season after season, are often the ones associated with specific messages that are meaningful. That’s why we’re so excited about the See You Tomorrow T-Shirt that reminds every volunteer to keep faith alive tomorrow (and all the tomorrows after that). If you do make your own ministry shirts, consider designing them around core and inspiring messages from your ministry instead of leveraging logos and the branding of your ministry.


4. A notebook. Blank journals are amazing, but sometimes it can be tempting to let them sit on the shelf until we have something important to write in there. Am I the only one with a shelf full of empty journals? That’s why I love a gift that tells me what to do. Maybe this year, give your leaders the gift of growth with a copy of Lead Small (or the Art of Group Talk) to go with that notebook and ask them to note their thoughts and ideas along the way.

5. Candy Canes and hot cocoa. We get it. Candy canes are delicious, and hot cocoa packets often feel like the BEST option for a gift on a budget. These days, when all of our budgets are a little tighter than they used to be, it can be tough to find gifts that don’t feel…well…cliché. 


As someone who has led a small group of 33 girls, I know it’s hard to find gifts that don’t break the bank. Here are a few options in case your volunteers are a little candy-caned out this time of year.

1. Plan a fun night out. Give families a map with the best Christmas light displays marked for a fun outing.


2. Send them some ear candy. Make a Spotify playlist of GREAT Christmas music and share it with a QR code.


3. Make it personal. Ask students or their parents to write notes of encouragement to your leaders and place all of those notes (in tiny font) into a DIY- Christmas ornament for the leader.


4. Give them a break. Create a “no-guilt day-off coupon” where they can take a week off from your program to rest (as long as they tell you in advance!)


5. Help them win with parents. Give your volunteers gifts for the families in their group so they don’t have to pay out of pocket. Here are some great options:


My personal favorite is to give every leader a glass Christmas ornament from the dollar store with a personal note from me rolled up inside. When holiday stress gets to them, they are to smash the ornament and enjoy the note of encouragement as well as the sheer bliss of shattering something for fun. It’s like a mini-rage room but on a budget. 

And if none of these ideas sound quite right, use the code HOLIDAY23 at Orange Store for 20% off our best resources for volunteers and parents! Happy gifting!

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