3 Ways to Treat VBS Volunteers Like VIPs


As summer approaches, is VBS on your mind? Perhaps you’re asking yourself a question nearly as old as ministry itself: “How do I hang onto good volunteers?” You certainly aren’t alone in asking that question. Answers are as nuanced as individual churches. But a solid basis is to nourish your VBS volunteers in body, heart and soul, and mind.

Try these ideas for a dedicated VBS volunteer space—a VIP room, where your VBS doers can refuel. This holistic approach to volunteer appreciation communicates your valuation of volunteers, cultivates culture, and celebrates contributions. Give it a try and you may just spark a volunteer retention revolution!

You can also download a print-friendly version of this guide down below.

3 Ways to Treat VBS Volunteers Like VIPs

Body Refuel

You’ve likely heard the common list of questions that help get to the root cause of behavior struggles in young kids. “Are you hungry?” is at the top of that list! Turns out, adults get crabby when they’re hungry, too! Feeding volunteers is a fundamental way to show people they’re cared for like family.

If your VBS begins in the morning, or volunteers will arrive in the morning, consider setting the pace for each day with a fun play on “VBS”—Volunteer Breakfast Snacks. Because you Value your volunteers’ time, want to give them the energy Boost they need for the day, and you See their effort.

Each day, you could provide a different breakfast base. Things like yogurt, waffles, or oatmeal. Then provide topping options such as fresh washed fruit, granolas, syrup flavors, and sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Set up a self-serve “café” with coffee, creamer options, teas, and some individual orange juice bottles. Offer dairy-free and gluten-free options, and steer clear of peanuts if anyone registered for VBS has an allergy.

Set up your snack station like your favorite local frozen yogurt or ice cream shop. In fact, you could take a frozen treat field trip for inspiration. There’s your reason for a froyo business expense! While you enjoy a favorite treat, observe what makes the space welcoming, exciting, and engaging. The smells, the colors, the organization and cleanliness of the food displays? How could you create a similar experience for your volunteer VIP room?

Bonus Ideas

  • Dream on Theme: For kids and adults, a huge part of the wonder and fun of VBS is the theme! Leverage the fun of your current theme by offering snacks that tie in. For example, if your VBS theme is “under the sea,” you can offer snacks such as fish-shaped crackers, gummy sharks (or any other sea creature shapes you can find), and vanilla wafers as “sand dollars.”
  • Grab-n-Go: Supplement your snack spread with some individually packaged items such as granola bars, fruit bars, mini donuts, and Pop-Tarts. These easy-to-grab options may appeal more to some volunteers and they’re quicker options for anyone who’s short on time.

Heart Refuel

Volunteers fed. Check. Next, nourishing hearts. Consider what makes you feel valued and seen. Where are the places in your life where you feel welcomed, valued, anchored in a sense of belonging? Is it at a gym where individual milestones are celebrated and recognized in social media spaces? Is it a local coffee shop where the staff know your name and favorite latte? Your church? What is it about these places and the people there that make you internally say, “These are my people.”

For many, the places people regard as homes away from home are where they experience authenticity. Authentic welcome and appreciation for their time, efforts, and simply for who they are. So, alongside the food in your VBS volunteer VIP room, set aside some space to celebrate individuals and their contributions.

A great way to do this is with a simple photo booth area. Use some of the on-theme decorations from your VBS. This could be as simple as taping a large poster or thematic tablecloth to a wall for a photo backdrop. Gather a few simple photo props, too. Then, create simple paper photo booth signs for photos of your volunteers standing in front of your photo booth.

Fun phrases for your photo booth signs could include:

  • I helped a kid get to know Jesus today!
  • #VBS VIP
  • Living the VBS life!

With consent, post the photos on your ministry’s social media pages, your church website, or print them and make a fun bulletin board. Or do all three! The point is to publicly “shout out” and thank each of your volunteers. Want more “thank-you” ideas? Here are 98!

Mind Refuel

To nourish mindsets, take a cue from the typical rhythm of the VBS program. Kids are likely learning age-appropriate Bible truths formatted in easy-to-remember, repeatable phrases. These help cement learning and focus thoughts as Philippians 4:8 encourages us to do. You can do the same with daily affirming messages of gratitude rooted in God’s love.

Use these printable tabletop signs, available in the download below or customize your own with mindful messages for your volunteers. Print and place a few copies of one message per day around your food serving containers.

Make a point of starting each day at VBS in your volunteer VIP room. Pray for your team, take photos in the photo booth, encourage a hearty breakfast, and speak the daily messages of gratitude. All the attention and intention will not go unnoticed. You’ll cultivate a strong culture with your volunteers that will have them saying, “Yeah, these are my people!”

If you’d like to take your volunteer strategy to even greater heights, consider The L.I.F.E. Strategy for Recruiting and Equipping Volunteers Group U course. You’ll discover how to connect passion and purpose and—in the process—find and retain volunteers who are a joy to lead!

What About Your Fuel?

Whether you’re directing VBS or someone else is, chances are pulling off this volunteer VIP room sounds wonderful but maybe also daunting. You might be wondering how you’ll squeeze this in with other to-dos. If you’re in that boat, consider recruiting a Culture Keeper: a person gifted in encouragement who enjoys getting to know people. Someone who remembers names, and thrives in planning events that celebrate others. Invite this person to own the volunteer appreciation of your VBS. It’s an aspect of volunteer retention worthy of such time and focus.

If you fit in those Culture Keeper shoes, are there other responsibilities you can share with someone else to free up your time? Whichever route you go, shaping your volunteer appreciation to serve people’s spiritual, mental, and physical well-being will make a difference—for your volunteers and for you!

You can also download a print-friendly version of this guide down below.

Want more tips for all things volunteer management? Check out this collection of our  top 28 articles for leading volunteers

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