The word “team” means different things to different people, and the size of your church will largely determine the group of people that come to mind when you hear the word. If you are leading a small church, your team may be a few leaders that you hold close or maybe your elder board. Your team could be your other ministry leaders such as your worship pastor, youth minister, or children’s director. In larger churches with more layers of leadership, teams will be more function-specific. Regardless of how large your team is and what it’s functional role is, they all have one thing in common, the necessity of appreciating the members.
Let them do what they love
No, not golf or gardening. Do your best to get the right people in the right place so they can spend most of their time working inside of their gifting and strengths. Nowhere does our divine design shine brighter than in our individual ministries that God created us for. If your student ministry associate really should be in bookkeeping, then try to get them into bookkeeping. An elbow where a knee should be won’t have the strength to carry the load. After a while, it will tire and fail. Bring clarity to all your ministries with job descriptions and work to organize the team to its maximum potential.
Grow your team
An over-worked team will not feel appreciated over a long time. Growing your team to fill gaps and relieve pressure from people demonstrates your appreciation for the work they do. Of course, there will be times that people have to carry and extra load, but those times should be temporary. Be sure to acknowledge that sacrifice and do your best to relieve that pressure as soon as possible.
Thank them for something specific you saw or heard about
This one requires a leadership style of being aware and involved in the work of your team. Keep your ear to the ground and listen for those extra-special acts that should not go unmentioned. It doesn’t have to be something big, but if it made a difference, let them know it was appreciated. A lunch, a coffee, a candy bar, it doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you took the time to say “thanks for going the extra mile”. *BONUS – a handwritten note is a lost art that will really demonstrate that you took the time to think of them.
Create a culture of open communication with your leadership
Obviously, this is not a one-time-event thank you, but more of a long-term, environmental structure. The team culture and feeling of appreciation will always be higher when members feel like they can be heard. This may come from two different angles. First, people want to be heard when there are issues that need to be addressed. If your team environment is one where people feel like they cannot speak up when things could be improved, then they will certainly not feel appreciated as team members. Second, allowing team members to speak into ideas and planning shows that you appreciate their gifts, talents, and experience (see #1 above) and that their contributions to the team are valuable.
Host a volunteer appreciation night
It was a big year for the ministry, so have a big night to say, “Thank You!” It will take some planning and budget, but they’re worth it, aren’t they? (*Pro Tip – provide childcare so parents can have a great time without trying to figure out and pay for a baby sitter.) Don’t make it a pot-luck, the idea is to honor your team, not make them work to feed each other. Plan for catering and decorations and let them just enjoy the evening.
There are lots of ways to thank the team that makes your ministry work, so I encourage you to be creative and personal in how you communicate your appreciation.
From all of us here at TMG, thank you for you being out there in the ministry trenches day in and day out. You’re making a Kingdom difference and pointing people to Jesus, our Lord and Savior – the giver of all good gifts!
A.J. Mathieu is the President of the Malphurs Group. He is passionate about helping churches thrive and travels internationally to teach and train pastors to lead healthy disciple-making churches. A.J. lives in the Ft. Worth, Texas area, enjoys the outdoors, and loves spending time with his wife and two sons. Click here to email A.J.