Labor Day was celebrated first time nationwide in our country in 1894. And here we are in 2022, the US workforce feels as unpredictable as ever. I don’t know if you’ve tried to hire anyone lately, but there may not be another time in my lifetime when I’ve been more thankful for hard and dedicated workers. People with grit and loyalty and commitment seem to be a dying breed. So each year as a country, we pause in early September, and celebrate the American worker from farmers to scientists to business leaders to military personnel to those in the service industries and non-profits.

And since we’re pausing anyway to celebrate our workers, I think it’s the perfect time for church leaders to thank our faithful volunteers. A volunteer workforce who doesn’t benefit from lobbying organizations or labor unions. Heck, they don’t even get a paycheck! So, we should probably celebrate them even more than everyone else. I’m convinced there is a BEST way to thank them. One that will go a long way toward encouraging them, building rapport between you and them, and maybe even extending the tenure of their service. Ready for the magic bullet of thank yous? …

Tell them an encouraging story about the impact their volunteering has had on others.

That’s it! Sound simple? It’s not. It will involve some creative thinking. Putting just the right words to the impact they’ve had. It may even require some investigative work. A couple of emails or phone calls to people who have been on the receiving end of their service. But all the work sure goes a long way.

Let me add two guiding principles as it comes to this kind of encouragement.

  1. Make it Sincere.

Don’t just make something up. People can see right through insincere words and if they sense it’s just flattery, it will backfire. Proverbs 26:28 warns, “a flattering mouth works ruin.” The original word for “ruin” comes from a word meaning “to push or drive away.” If we’re not careful, insincere words can have the opposite effect we intend. Insincere words of flattery can push people away instead of building them up.

  1. Make it Specific

If you want your words of thanks to have more punch, then be specific with your encouragement. Take note of the specifics of things a volunteer does well, what admirable character qualities always come through in their work, and what impact have those things had on specific peoples’ lives. Vague praise is nice and feels good for a moment, but specific encouragement can stimulate more great work in the future.

I can’t think of a better day than Labor Day to celebrate the laborers of God’s kingdom who are graciously volunteering their time and talents to make an eternal difference.