Several years ago a friend of mine share with me about a discussion he had with a well-known Senator that I humbly believe has some relevance to the life of the church. The story goes that he was given the pretty cool assignment of escorting a Senator around the air show that the military base was hosting. As my friend recalls, they walked up the ramp of a C-5 plane where several enlisted men were standing. The Senator looked at my friend and made some off-handed comment about how the enlisted men were the ones who did all of the work. My friend told me he was (1) embarrassed by such an inappropriate statement and (2) taken back by the ignorance because the Senator obviously had no idea about the commitment exemplified by both the enlisted and officers in a particular squadron and everything they do on a daily basis to make sure the mission gets taken care of.
Why share that story? No, it’s not meant to cast a shadow on a person’s character. The reason I share that story is to highlight the reality that many times those who are church leaders can be guilty of having the same mentality that this Senator exemplified – that the “real work” is done by one group in the church, to the neglect of many others who labor diligently.
In one sense, it is true that one particular aspect of servants in the church get more recognition simply due to the visibility of what they do, whether that’s pastors, elders or deacons. However, there are multitudes of examples of work that is done throughout the week (in particular when your local church meets) by individuals who don’t have the title of pastor, elder or deacon. You have those who tirelessly and enthusiastically work with kids, those who greet familiar faces and new faces each morning, those who arrive early to practice the music-set to lead us in worship through song, those who practice hospitality by opening up their homes, those who teach Sunday school or facilitate a small group, those who pray for the service, the message, the hearers, etc. – the list could go on and on… and it does! So how do you foster a team-spirit and sense of value and appreciation among all of the servants in your place of leadership? Here are several thoughts:
- Understand that the church is described in the Scriptures as a body and every part of the body is important. Yes, some parts are more up-front or prominent, but make no mistake, every part is important.
- Similar to the previous point, repeatedly educate the church where you serve that “church” happens because of the steadfastness of many individuals, not just one. In addition, share often that their service is valued. Just as the enlisted individuals are the backbone of the military, so too are the men and women who serve in the trenches week-in-and-week-out and do so without being recognized as an official church leader.
- Regularly let those who volunteer know you’re thankful for their service. You can do this from the pulpit or in a side-bar conversation, with a handwritten note, a simple phone call or a lunch or dinner honoring them for their commitment. Bottom-line: don’t let weeks or months go by without telling someone you’re thankful for their work of service in the church.