How to Appreciate Your Leaders

By Matt Rucker

Last month (October) was Pastor Appreciation Month, and just as we should be appreciating our pastors every month, we also need to appreciate our lay pastors, teachers and ministers of the Gospel. They are our nursery workers, third-grade small-group leaders, class outreach coordinators, ushers, media team and parking crew. All of them are making an eternal difference, and our weekends and midweeks would not be possible without them.

As staff, we cannot forget the sacrifice our lay leaders make for their churches. They willingly teach our little ones how to praise God, when they could be getting an extra hour of sleep. They help teens get connected to a table group at the cost of getting an early start to Sunday brunch. They serve others before they think of themselves.

We truly are grateful for them, so how can we intentionally express our thanks and shower them with the praise that they deserve? Here are 16 specific options for you to try.

 

  1. Know their name. It may sound like a no-brainer, but failure to remember their name is failure to appreciate and retain your leaders. God cares about names, and so should we. The Bible is chock-full of names. Look at all the genealogies, and don’t forget about all the names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Plain and simple, we cannot afford to forget our leader’s names.
  2. Commit to pray for them. Our leaders ask us for prayer all the time, and though we have good intentions, we often forget. A good rule of thumb is to pray for them immediately after the request has been given, then bring up what you prayed for the next time you see them. On the wall in front of my desk are all my leaders’ names. At any moment throughout the day, I can stop what I am doing and start praying for them. When you see them, comfort them by letting them know that they are prayed for. Text them that you are thinking about them and praying for them. When you have recruited a bunch of leaders for VBS, camp, a D-now or a lock-in, print a list of all your leaders’ names and pray for them before and throughout the event. Go to God on behalf of your leaders and saturate them in prayer.
  3. Write them a thank-you note. A personal and handwritten note goes a long way. Every Monday I make it a point to write all my subs a thank-you note. Make it easy by keeping a stack of thank-you cards on your desk. In our KIDZ Ministry at Prestonwood Baptist Church, we have hundreds of leaders, but we work hard to ensure that every leader gets a birthday card, and we have our whole team sign it. You cannot remember all your leaders’ birthdays, so put their birthdays on your calendar. Your leaders know you are busy, so when you go out of your way to serve them in a sentimental way, it pays dividends.
  4. Get to know them. They are teaching your kids and students. Spend money on them. Take them out for breakfast, lunch or coffee. They are the lifeblood and backbone of your church. The work in the office will always be there the next day, but the work outside of the office may not. Be with your people and minister to them face-to-face.
  5. Learn from them. Think about all your leaders, who are they and what they do. Do you realize that the beauty of ministry is not just in the ministry we do as pastors, but that we are ministered to by the ones we shepherd? I make it a point to learn from my leaders. I would be crazy not to learn about biblical stewardship from a sixth-grade table leader who also happens to be the CFO at his company. Why wouldn’t I ask a stay-at-home mom how she disciples her kids? Ask them what they are reading and learning from God’s Word. What podcasts are they listening to? Be transparent with them. Use discretion, but share with them how they can pray for you, your family and the ministry God has entrusted you with.
  6. Show interest in them. As ministers, we have to get over ourselves and learn to care about things we honestly don’t care about. One of my leaders loves commercial planes. I, on the other hand, know nothing about them except that they get me from point A to point B. Regardless, I ask him about his model plane collection. I ask him to show me the cool pictures he takes of planes. This may sound ridiculous, but if you are an Aggie, talk to your Longhorn small-group leader about last week’s game. Put your differences aside and think of the bigger picture. The end goal is not to become a certified pilot or a UT fan, but that these surface-level conversations would be steppingstones to your leader’s heart.
  7. Love their family well. If your leaders’ kids like you, then your leaders will love you. Know their kids’ names. If you are able to, get parental consent and bring Chick-fil-A to their school for lunch. Get to know your leaders and their spouse, share date ideas with them and have your families hang out together. If your leaders invite you to a wedding, do your best to attend. Visit their loved ones in the hospital and be a ministry of presence at funerals. Get involved in the messiness of their life and humbly point them to Jesus in times of suffering.
  8. Validate their gifts. Consider the last time you talked, called, or texted one of your leaders. Were you asking him or her another favor, or were you building up that person? Slow down enough in your leadership to really see your leaders in action. What kind of personality do they have? If they are a life-of-the-party type, then let them greet. Better yet, let them lead your greeter ministry. What are their spiritual gifts? If teaching, give them opportunities to teach. If administration, have them alphabetize your registration forms or give you accurate head counts. I have learned the hard way to stop doing tasks that are not in my wheelhouse and delegate them to my leaders who are more gifted in those areas.
  9. Create community with other leaders. Pray together. Before each service, make it a priority to pray as a team. Prayer is the best way your leaders can build unity and befriend one another. Eat together. When was the last time you had a good old-fashioned potluck? Have fun together. Rent out a roller-skating rink and skate the night away.
  10. Set them up to win. There are many ways to do this. Provide your curriculum ahead of time so they can adequately prepare for their small-group discussions and plan their lessons. Have quarterly trainings to equip them on the “why,” “what” and “how” of their ministry responsibilities. Inform them of upcoming ministry events so they can mark their calendars, be prepared, and attend if it works with their schedule.
  11. Communicate often and in various ways. As a church, we attempt to communicate to our leaders in every platform through our “three points of contact” philosophy. Call them and leave a message. Text them. Use your office phone if you have one or even Facebook Messenger. If you are unable to contact them, then maybe you are not utilizing their communication of preference. Use a carrier pigeon if you have to. All joking aside, do whatever you need to reach out to them.
  12. Give them a “shout-out.” Look for ways to regularly sing their praises. In all my leadership trainings, I give a shout-out and personally name my leaders who are going above and beyond. “So and so” shows up early. “So and so” hops in the gaga ball pit and plays with the kids. “So and so” attends their small group’s games and concerts. Call them out by name and show them off to your families and other leaders.
  13. Invite them to share their story. If your leaders are exceeding expectations and living out the ministry vision you have cast for them, have them voice their heart to your other leaders. One of my leaders loves teaching adults. He has a seminary degree and loves teaching in depth. Although this is a wonderful desire, he continues to lead his preteen guys, knowing that a consistent adult leader means that kids are less likely to walk away from God after they graduate high school. Because of this, each year he chooses to move up a grade level with his small group. What an incredible story that will speak more volumes than anything I could ever say.
  14. Let them serve in their “sweet spot.” Don’t be stingy and hoard your leaders. Share the wealth and giftedness of your team with your whole church. Children’s, Students and Adults may be separate departments, but we are all one ministry, all serving as one church. If one of your leaders loves to hold babies and is a bona fide “baby whisperer,” then keep her in the nursery. If your leaders want to leave your ministry to teach adults or move up to different grade level, let them. See these reassignments as gains for the body of Christ, not losses.
  15. Fight for them. Do you have your leaders’ backs? When upset parents complain about your leaders, do you give your leaders the benefit of the doubt? When your leaders are having disciplinary issues with a student, do you call the student’s parents, so your leaders don’t have to? It means the world to our leaders when we play “bad cop” for them. When you hear that one of your leaders is struggling with depression or on the verge of divorce, do you go to bat for him or her and find needed help? If you don’t fight for you leaders, then who will?
  16. Call them to more. Remind them of how important they are and how much they matter. Tell them that they are more than just volunteers. They are not just a pulse in the room or filling a slot for you, they are making a kingdom-altering investment in those they serve. They are disciple makers and future world changers. Voice to them that God wants to use them to populate heaven and that their work for the Lord really is a matter of life and death.

 

Which of these 16 are you doing, and which of them do you want to start implementing into your ministry? Pick a few, develop a game plan on how you will execute them, then practice them until these options becomes natural. Realize that you can’t do them all, but you can regularly cultivate a ministry whereby you are appreciating all your leaders. How do you appreciate your leaders? What other ways would you add to say thank you to them?

Matt Rucker serves as the Preteen Minister (ages 9–12) at Prestonwood Baptist Church.

Matt also serves as a member of our Network Coaching Team. Read more about Matt and this team at prestonwoodnetwork.org/prestonwood-network-coaching-team/.

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