Some questions I like to ask a church when I begin are, “How long has it been since you’ve had an Elders Appreciation Party? How do you show gratitude to your shepherds?”. I have received some interesting answers. “We don’t do things like that around here.” “We haven’t had one because we don’t appreciate our elders.”
I believe it is healthy, helpful, and biblical to show gratitude to our leaders.
And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13, NKJV).
Three reasons to show gratitude to our shepherds individually and as a group.
1. I want to express appreciation for others because I need encouragement myself. I have tried preaching with and without encouragement and I have found it easier with than without. I need to treat others the way I want to be treated. I will reap what I sow.
2. I want our young people to love and value our shepherds and aspire to serve when they are older. If all they hear is criticism and how inept our leaders are, why would they want to be in a position like that? When they see honor given to leaders, they see Christians being obedient to scripture and good leaders being treated with the respect they deserve.
3. I want to express appreciation for the good job they do because I want to question and challenge them when I disagree with them. If all I do is criticize or take them for granted, another criticism will probably be ineffective. See the last blog post: 4 Ways to Get Rid of a Bad Elder .
I remember some good occasions at my last full-time work, Berry’s Chapel Church of Christ in Franklin, Tennessee. After our new elders had served a year, we had a party. There was red carpet for the shepherds and their wives to enter the fellowship area. The wives were each given a dozen red roses. Baskets were placed beside each couple where members could place written expressions of appreciation as they passed by, talked with them, and thanked them for their work.
A few years later, some deacons took up private donations and each bishop and his wife were given a weekend at the Opryland Hotel to show our gratitude for their work.
After ten years of service, we presented each shepherd a plaque to remind him that he was loved and appreciated.
Why would a church not show appreciation? It may be that the shepherds do not express appreciation to each other. In one church, when an elder was retiring after decades of service, I asked, “What kind of party will we have? Will you buy a plaque and present it to him?”. The answer, “No. We’re not going to do anything like that. You start doing that and all the elders will resign.” That was the same church where some members said, “We don’t have elder appreciation parties because we don’t appreciate our elders.” Was there a connection?
Gail and I invited the retiring elder and his wife to our house for a delicious meal. We gave them a book with a written record of our appreciation for their service and dedication.
A good shepherd told me, “I’ve been serving as an elder thirty years and no one has ever said to me, ‘Thank you.'” That should not happen. We need to select and ordain good shepherds and express our gratitude often, “esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.” The next statement may be connected, “Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thessalonians 5:13).
I appreciate each man who is serving and has served as a shepherd of God’s sheep and your family who has encouraged you and supported you. Thank you for your time, care, courage, teaching, and example. May God continue to bless you for your devotion to Him and His people.
What are some ways you have seen appreciation expressed to the shepherds of a congregation?
What do you plan to do soon to honor one or more of your shepherds?