When you were growing up, did you ever see the following Public Service Announcement come across your television screen: “It’s 10 p.m. – do you know where your child is?” Before my children were born (now teenagers, by the way) that question would go right over my head. It’s not until you have adolescent kids of your own that a PSA like that becomes relevant. You can probably think of several things like this PSA that begin to take on meaning over time.
Showing appreciation in our culture today is a lost skill. It’s often viewed as an irrelevant Public Service Announcement rather than an amazing opportunity to model Christ-likeness. Building a culture of appreciation requires focus and intentionality. It demands self-awareness as well as an awareness of others and sensitivity to the needs of those who are serving alongside us.
Pastors, do you recognize and enjoy the good qualities of the people around you? Do you take time to truly understand their contribution to the team? Do you have your finger on the pulse of how they perceive your leadership and whether or not you appreciate their contribution?
Most pastors I know come from humble beginnings. Most came right out of school and into ministry. They bypassed the marketplace scene in pursuit of their calling. I remember my first position as a pastor. I was all of the twenty-one years of age. The church had two secretaries who came into my office to see what I needed them to do for me. I had no clue what to say. I remember saying to them, “Well what did you do yesterday? Keep doing that.” Years later I would reflect back on those early days of ministry and realize the importance of recognizing the team that is already around me.
Moses knew how to express that kind of appreciation. When his brother-in-law Hobab wanted to part ways with the Israelites and go back to his own land, Moses said, “Please do not leave us. You know where we should camp in the desert, and you can be our eyes” (Numbers 10:31).
Moses complimented Hobab’s wilderness skills and let him know that he was needed. In the same way, the people who are serving with you need to be told of your appreciation of them. They need to know that their contribution makes a difference. If you desire to build lasting relationships and help your staff feel valued, build a culture of appreciation. Start with making a list of the people who helped you out this month. Once you’ve got your list in order, there are a number of simple things you can do to show your appreciation to the people on it. Here are a few examples:
Give them a handwritten note from you (not your assistant).
Text them acknowledging how much their service meant to you.
Record a quick “Appreciation Video” on your phone and send it to them as a text.
Take them out for a coffee or lunch (don’t forget to pay this time).
Tweet them a shout out and create a larger than life funny but true hashtag like #ServingTogetherMakesMyDay.
Catch them in the act of serving and post a picture on Instagram (make sure to tag them).
Mention them inside of your sermon as an example of service.
If you are truly ready to see this principle of appreciation multiplied in the life of your congregation, the next step is to make an all-out effort to Celebrate Appreciation. There are lots of ways to do this. Here are a few suggestions that I’ve seen successfully implemented in other churches:
VIP Awards Dinner: A once-a-year celebration to highlight service within the church. Make it fun and themed. You will want to make sure that your volunteers understand the importance of service.
Newsletter highlight: Once a month feature a different volunteer who is really making a difference. Highlight their ministry and show your appreciation for their dedication and sacrifice.
Use T-shirts to help build the team and create a fun way of reinforcing unity. Attach a high level of achievement and appreciation to the process and timing of “earning” this swag. Perhaps the T-shirt can be given out as an expression of appreciation for each individual’s service.
Create a “show and tell” video that features a particular teammate serving within the church. The video can also function to showcase his or her particular ministry.
Name an Award after a person in the church who exemplifies Christ-like servanthood. Then give out that award every month. Have others inside your congregation nominate servants for this award. This gets everyone involved in the culture of appreciation.
Once you get a culture of appreciation moving inside the walls of your church you’ll find that serving becomes more relevant. The bottom line is that people want to be appreciated for their service. As a leader it is your role to help celebrate their service and call them up to even greater things.