by Lynn H. Pryor
I have a son who loves to cook. That works out great because my wife and I love to eat. He enjoys watching the cooking shows and countless YouTube videos, then trying things out in the kitchen. As much as he enjoys the art of cooking, I still need to thank him for the meal he prepares. I’m sure he does it for his own pleasure, but it’s nice for him to hear that I also took great pleasure from the meal.
Most people who lead Bible study groups do so because they love teaching, they love the people they lead, they feel called, or all the above. Because facilitating a Bible study group fits within their spiritual gifting, they take pleasure in serving God in this way. But we can add to that pleasure by celebrating what they do.
We know that, when we serve and lead in a way that pleases and honors God, we will one day hear from our Lord and King, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt. 25:21). Until that day, it’s a great encouragement to also hear those words now. Even the most faithful and dedicated among us need encouragement. Here are five ways you can honor, celebrate, and encourage your leaders.
- Leader Appreciation Service. During a worship service, invite all those who lead groups to come to the front. Let them be seen and applauded. Publicly thank them for the ministry they do week in and week out. Pray over them. If it’s the beginning of a new year or semester, commission these leaders to the work of teaching and discipleship that is before them.
Worship is to be focused on Christ, and a service in which you applaud leaders should still be focused on Christ. Emphasize how through these leaders Christ is proclaimed, His Word is taught, and people deepen their walk with Christ. Recruit one or two individuals to tell how a leader was used by God to help them grow in Christ.
- Appreciation Dinner. My own church just held a special dinner for all leaders. Group leaders were honored with a great meal and words of affirmation. Everyone who was a part of the evening did so to honor those who lead, teach, and disciple.
- Gift Cards. Surprise leaders with a thank you note in the mail that includes a gift card. I’ve received $50 gift cards to a local steakhouse and $5 Sonic gift cards, and I honestly valued them all. Whether it’s a card to a coffee shop, the theater, or a generic gift card that can be used anywhere, this is an investment that expresses thanks for the ministry investment of your leaders.
- Card or Phone Call. Call me old-school but I’ve discovered a card in the mail goes a long way. Why a card rather than an email? A hand-written brief note is far more personal than a typed email. For all the leader knows, you wrote one email and sent it to everyone in less than a minute. A card, though, takes time, and that time invested speaks to a greater level of appreciation.
You should also make phone calls. Why a phone call rather than a text? Yeah, yeah, I know. Many people prefer getting a text because it doesn’t feel as invasive. They can respond without actually engaging in a conversation. But that’s the very reason a phone call carries more weight. We were built for relationships, and as a body of believers, we should be connecting and conversing with one another. A phone call does that far better than a text. A phone call doesn’t have to be long. I call people to thank them for something specific, and I’m usually off the phone in less than two minutes. It’s the “invasive” personal nature of a phone call that makes it valuable. Let them hear you say thanks.
- Recruit Others to Express Thanks. Talk to those in a group and encourage them to express thanks to their group leader. If you can talk to the group without the leader’s knowledge, all the better. Give them ideas, even as I’ve shared with you: cards, calls, gift cards, or a special group dinner prepared to thank the leader. Any actions by the group members—the very ones the leader seeks to disciple—will help the leader see he or she is being used by God to make a difference.
I serve Christ out of a desire to please Him, but it is added fuel for my ministry when people take the time to thank me. We all need that.
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).
Lynn Pryor is a team leader for ongoing curriculum at Lifeway. His passion for group Bible study has fueled his ministry at LifeWay for the past 27 years. He regularly preaches and teaches in other churches while staying active at a church in Shelbyville, Tennessee. He and his wife have survived raising two sons to adulthood.