Volunteer Appreciation Behind the Scenes – Part 2


My last post talked about the Disney musical spoof our staff did for our Volunteer Appreciation Dinner this past weekend. (Take a look at the video!) But the program had many more elements to make this an international extravaganza.
Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how it came together.


The theme verse was 2 Corinthians 5:20: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”
The idea was an international journey, that our volunteers from all nations reflect Christ wherever they are.


I wanted to make a logo that looked like the logo you see on a passport, but integrating the Saddleback logo so it would look like an official “stamp.”
Using Adobe Illustrator, I used pieces of clip art and did some drawing to try out different ideas, using anything from airplanes to stars to crosses.
Most of them looked too busy so in the end I went for a more simple version. It couldn’t be too simple because most seals are complicated, but I felt this one had a good balance.
ambassadors logo final

Then I made a passport version in Illustrator.

logo_SB irvine centered

I found a photo and tried to make it look like the passport was lying on a table. That meant making a few fake pages to add to the photo and adjusting perspective and adding shadows to help it look more realistic.


This is the look we went with for all the promotion, but it changed once the event started and we launched the intro video.


Caroline Cervantes did an amazing job with our decor. She only had a very small budget but it’s amazing how creative she is that she found good deals and dove into our storage room for things to use! We kept it simple to save money and also because we didn’t really have a large decorating crew. A few people came to help the day of, but our team was away earlier this week so there was no time to decorate the stage.
I was running around too much (18,000+ steps that day, equivalent to 6 miles!) and did not have time to take pictures of everything. 🙁 But here is how the worship center looked. It was festive and amazing!


The food tables were decorated too.


Passport Game

When people first arrived, they had chips and salsa in the lobby and played a game. I designed little passports that people could carry around and find the people who had visited different countries. Here were the rules:

logo_SB irvine centered

The person with the most countries won the prize, a wonderful gift basket (that I wish I had taken a picture of!).

I created the passport in Illustrator and Indesign. It is fun how you can help something feel like the real thing just by a simple light image in the back… in this case, drawing little zigzags so it felt like a passport page.


Our office team printed the passports on the color copier and assembled them in-house. It looked so cute!!! (Thank you Young and Sheena!)


The passport size is a quarter sheet. Here’s a pen to show scale.


Here’s the inside.


I was pretty impressed at some of the people who found so many countries. The winner, Diane Kievet, one of our usher leaders, found 41 people who had visited 41 different countries! Daniel checked them all and each one was different! The second runner up visited 40 different countries.


The food had an international theme. Our food coordinator, Delia Chin, did an amazing job finding us a great Asian buffet that provided delicious Asian food (or so I heard, as I didn’t really get to eat it!).



Photo by Young Chang

The first part of the evening, people had chips and salsa (Mexican) in the lobby.  Then they came in and could get poke (thanks to Delia’s connection), Asian food (Chinese), and a dessert of chocolate cake (American), cream puff (European) or a cookie (American). The volunteers did a great job fitting all the cake on the tables in an artistic manner.


To be honest, I am terrible at doing food and find it the most stressful part of every event. Delia did an awesome job putting it together, getting good deals, ordering things, recruiting people to wash tablecloths, etc. The night of the event there were some snafus and she was not able to arrive at the event until after the event began! This is where we go with the flow and just do what needs to be done to get the event to happen. So I ended up coordinating and it was very stressful. We were short people for serving so I was going up to people standing around saying, “Are you attending or are you helping?” “Uh…. I guess I can help?” “Great! Can you stand at the dessert table?” Another reason why I love my church — people are willing to just jump in! They are the best!
Fortunately, there was plenty of food for everyone, Delia arrived with a huge replenishment of poke bowls, and we even had leftovers!

Ice Breaker

People sat down and ate and while they ate, they talked and got to know one another.


We put a slide on the screen for discussion for anyone who wanted ideas.



Mariachi Band

While people ate, a mariachi band performed. These guys were good. I found them on GigMasters by searching for “Orange County Mariachi Band.” They were really high quality and got good reviews. I found out the middle instrument is called a guitarron. It’s kind of like a bass. So glad they could join us and set the tone for the evening.


Geography Game

Another one of the activities we did was a “Who’s a World Traveler?” game.

We put up photos on the screen, one at a time. Jeri did a great job moderating and giving each table time to guess the landmark name, country, and city. The landmark and country were the mandatory spots, with the city being a tiebreaker. If any teams had a tie, the one that named the most cities correctly would win.


The winning table got 11 right. Each person at the table won a prize.


At the end of the evening, in keeping with the international travel theme, everyone got a genuine leather luggage tag with the Saddleback logo on it. I was pretty happy with how these turned out.


I actually wanted blue or brown but they were out of stock so we got black. They were super reasonably priced though!

Seeing as one of my latest trips someone took my luggage home by mistake, I will really appreciate having a tag like this! I hope our volunteers will get good use of them too!


The Videos That Didn’t Happen

There was actually another surprise that no one other than the staff knew about. Thanks to our security lead, Mark Monin, who is a pilot, he hooked us up with someone with an airplane and we had planned to shoot a video there. But a few days before the shoot, we found out we got shut down by the airport. That was really a bummer. I looked everyone for a plane to shoot in but they were all too expensive ($1,000 a day!). Ah well, it was a good idea but not meant to be.

We also lined up a testimony video but the day of shooting one of the people did not feel well so that got canned as well. However, we had three of our key volunteers get interviewed by Pastor Kevin so we got to hear their stories.


During the event, we also took time to honor different ministries and have everyone stand. At a church with  64 different ministries, there is always the danger of leaving out ministries so we try to group them in large categories. I still forgot one group, and rectified that at the end of the event. I was glad that people could get acknowledged.

It’s really hard to run a volunteer appreciation event because a church is run by volunteers and we want them to sit and enjoy the evening. As a result, the staff were all running around trying to do lots of things. Typically, we as staff empower other people to do the many tasks. But for this event, since we wanted to surprise everyone, we ended up doing a lot of things behind the scenes. However, we really could not have pulled off this event without volunteers, as the task was too big.

I am so grateful because even though the event was for them, we had some very dedicated volunteers that stepped in to help. We could not have done it without them. God is so good… truly all of this is a reflection of His graciousness, creativity, and goodness to us!

Angela Yee is author of The Christian Conference and Event Planner, a comprehensive guide that covers the nuts-and-bolts of designing, leading, coordinating and executing an effective event. This 376-page resource has step-by-step instructions and and sample forms and documents of events of all shapes and sizes. Learn how to take stress out of planning an event of any size for your church or organization.

Leave your comment