How do you thank your music volunteers? The gifts they give are quite precious. Not even considering their varying talents, the hours alone they give are almost innumerable. Some churches honor their volunteer musicians with a special event at the end of the choir season. Perhaps you write special holiday cards or acknowledge individual birthdays.
I’ve been thinking about times I did or did not feel appreciated as a volunteer. I currently volunteer for a non-musical, secular nonprofit organization. Here are a few ways I feel valued as a volunteer:
- Expectations and guidelines are clearly defined
- I am given the resources I need to do my work
- I am provided free training on a continuing basis
- The organization communicates regularly, and explicitly says thank you each time
- They ask for my feedback
- I am offered support and community with other volunteers
These are easily adapted to my own work as a church musician. I ask myself:
- Do my volunteers know what I expect from them at each rehearsal? Have I let them know what they can expect from me? Starting and ending on time and giving performance dates well in advance is a start.
- Do my musicians have what they need to succeed? For example, is there a reasonably clean rehearsal room, and is their music organized?
- How can I give them opportunities to grow? Can I schedule a special retreat, invite a clinician to work with them, or offer a music reading class?
- How do I stay in touch between rehearsals? Am I saying thank you enough, or do I take their presence for granted?
- When was the last time I asked for their feedback?
- Am I building community with my ensembles, or is it “all business”?
People join a musical ensemble for all kinds of reasons, but ultimately, we all join to do the same holy work. I am reminded that it is joyful work. If rehearsals leading up to a big concert have been drudgery, saying “thank you” to a choir following the applause is meaningless. Relying on volunteers is not always easy, but living daily with gratitude goes a long way toward building meaningful relationships with them. I have a handbell choir member who, at the end of every rehearsal, says, “Thank you. That was fun.” Those five words make me feel good. Surely, I can do the same for others.