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Seize the Moment in Showing Appreciation: Ideas from successful leaders

They are your teachers, leaders, and colleagues. They are also volunteers. To do their ministry properly requires time, hard work, and effort–often at the expense of something else they would like to do.

No doubt you will brag on them and look for every opportunity to tell others what a wonderful and dedicated group of workers you have.

But have you told them?

It is easy to take people for granted. We are sure they know they are appreciated, but the wise administrator makes certain they hear it–often. All people function better when they know they are recognized for what they do. Mark Twain said he could live two months on one good compliment. We can learn from him, but let us give more than one compliment every two months.

As you do your annual planning, mark the calendar with dates for demonstrating appreciation to your staff. If you do not schedule appreciation as an essential event, you may overlook it.

You can plan to show appreciation monthly, quarterly, annually, and on occasions that arise. Here are some ideas from successful administrators.

Monthly:

A small token effort serves the purpose very well. One teacher placed a can of Sprite™ soft drink at each person’s workstation. He attached a note that was a takeoff on Sprite’s advertising campaign. It read, "I love the Spirit in you! Thanks for a job well done." Another time he used a PayDay™ candy bar. The note read, "Your real payday is coming." Seasons, holidays, and special events are opportunities to be creative.

One administrator who had let his appreciation efforts slide a little attached a chocolate-covered mint to a note that read " I ‘mint’ to do this earlier…."

What you do is not as important as just doing something. Even the person who does not appear to need any affirmation will respond in a good way.

Quarterly:

The quarterly event needs to be a little bigger. You can have a quarterly meal. It does not need to be a big thing–maybe someone can bring a grill and make hamburgers for everyone. In one church, the Sunday School staff members come to a quarterly meeting and a member of the congregation makes a big pot of stew and the church provides the trimmings.

You can take the group to a local entertainment, a sight-seeing trip in the church van, or perhaps a tour of the fall leaves. Just be creative and make the event special. Cover as much of the expense as your budget will allow. You are doing this for those who give something money cannot buy.

Annually:

Most leaders opt for the annual appreciation banquet that comes in a variety of styles and formats.

As you plan, keep in mind the event is to honor the staff. Do not ask them to prepare food, move the tables, or help with the decorations. Meals can be catered, prepared by another group in the church, or you can go to a restaurant that offers a private room. Provide free child-care.

An appreciation banquet should be a special dinner, not a preaching service. If you have a speaker, make sure she or he is a good banquet speaker who can be entertaining as well as inspirational.

Recognize staff members in some special way. You might have a small gift for each. You could prepare individualized awards, each relating to something that happened during the year.

Instead of an evening meal, one pastor arranged with a local restaurant to provide a breakfast on Teacher Appreciation Day. Substitute teachers gave the regular staff persons the day off. They all met at the restaurant for a great time of fellowship and food. They then went to church for a special recognition service in their honor. They marched in to a special seating area. They were honored before the church, testimonies of their effectiveness were presented, and each was presented with a corsage or boutonniere.

Occasionally:

Look for special occasions such as holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries to show your appreciation.

One leader keeps a supply of cards that say, "Thanks," "I noticed," "Job well done," or "Congratulations." A staff member who received a civic award, got a card from him. When anyone does something extra, the appropriate card and a few words are in the mail. If a worker is experiencing a personal trial, this leader sends a card of encouragement.

Look for moments to encourage or inspire your workers. For example, if you meet a worker who is having a tough time, say something to let him or her know you care. A well-timed phone call accomplishes the same thing.

Make it a habit to seize the moment.

Larry Thomas is executive pastor at Abundant Life Assembly, Grapevine, Texas.