You already know that your volunteers are a crucial piece of your healthy ministry. That’s why you spend so much time identifying, training, and developing awesome volunteer leaders.

But what are you doing to make sure your volunteers are really cared for?

Remember, your volunteers are susceptible to stress and burnout, just like you are. They also have important relationships with students, just like you do. That means that if a volunteer leaves your ministry, they’ll leave behind some saddened kids, and now you’ll have to start finding and developing a new person to fill that spot.

But, if you exercise good care over your volunteers, there’s an excellent chance they’ll be there for the long haul. That’s what you want.

Here are four (fairly) easy ways to make sure you take better care of your awesome volunteers:

1. Regularly send notes of encouragement.
Did a volunteer do something exceptional? Tell him. Is it her birthday or anniversary? Celebrate with her. Did you spontaneously remember the Cheez Whiz incident from last fall’s retreat? Send a note to your volunteer so you can laugh about it together.

It’s not exactly groundbreaking, but sometimes the easiest way to tell someone you appreciate them is to actually tell them.

2. Create volunteer teams that are larger than they need to be.
Your leaders shouldn’t feel anxiety if they have to miss youth group because they’re going to an out-of-town wedding. But if you are always tight on volunteers, then that’s exactly what will happen.

You want your leaders to be missed when they’re gone, but they also need the freedom to take a session off without guilt.

3. Pray for and with your volunteers.
This seems like a no-brainer, but when a volunteer reveals a problem, stressor, or struggle, they are asking you for your prayers. Yes, add them to your prayer list.

But as a leader (administratively and spiritually), be willing to place your hands on another person and to lift them up in prayer. It won’t take long until you become comfortable with this, and you won’t believe the impact your prayers and presence can have on your volunteers.

4. Say ‘no’ for your volunteers.
There are always a few volunteers who will say ‘yes’ to everything. I love those volunteers. So do you.

But be careful about overdoing it. Your volunteers need to have healthy home lives and careers in addition to helping with ministry. Don’t impose your own program so much that it starts to affect everything else.

Just because someone has the inability to say no doesn’t make it right for us to take advantage of that.

What else do you do to make sure that your volunteers are well-cared for? I’d love for you to share your input.

Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes Smarter Youth Ministry to help youth workers with their biggest frustrations – like leading volunteers. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.

As we’ve already discussed, summer is a chance to change up your student program; why not let it be a chance to change up how you care for your leaders as well. This summer we’re trying some new things, and bringing back some time-tested classic ways to encourage and care for our leaders. Here are a few of both!

Kick it off with a BBQ.
Nothing says “You’re important to me” like a double cheeseburger fresh off the grill….unless  you have ribs, too. By now your summer is in full swing, so take an evening to relax, eat some tasty food, and love on your volunteer team. They’ll need the encouragement to make it through the rest of the summer schedule!

Think about a ball game.
A while back we did a big tailgate party with our leaders and bought them tickets to a baseball game. Pick a great night (with fireworks) and if you’ve got the chance, spring for tickets for their whole family as well. Everyone makes sacrifices when a parent serves in youth group—give them all a ballpark dog and a seat in the upper deck to say thanks.

Host a coffee drop-in.
As you care for leaders in the summer, consider this one: Drive-By Coffee. You bring your MacBook and work from Starbucks for the bulk of the afternoon and let all your leaders know if they drop by you’ll buy them a drink. In our experience most will stay for maybe 10-15 minutes, so you can get in a ton of relational time as well as crank on a few emails in between. Of course, you need to be prepared for the awkward leader who decides to hang around for the majority of the afternoon!

Have some end of summer beach/pool fun.
Summer has been incredible, so why not pull everyone together for a little fun poolside? Maybe break out the grill again or just do s’mores at the firepit. Forget any formal program; just circle everyone up at the end of the night to share highlights, favorite moments, and stories that are destined to become legendary in your ministry for years to come.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.