I’m fortunate enough to see things from both sides of the microphone—behind and in front of the mic. I’m learning more and more that the body of Christ has many parts; but not all of them are equally recognized. Those involved in making Sunday mornings happen don’t all get the same amount of attention.

It’s sort of like our real bodies. We’re hyper aware of things like our heart, lungs, brains, and hands. We acknowledge their function almost daily. But you probably don’t think much about your appendix—let alone thank it for doing all of its amazing appendix-y things.

I’ve noticed that every organization has a group of people that tend to hog all of the glory. In a hospital, it’s doctors. In a University setting, it’s faculty. And in the local church, it’s high-profile positions that garner the most glory based on their presence in front of the most people.

On any given Sunday, the people in your church come in contact with a lot of people:

  • the parking team
  • the person holding the door
  • the kids ministry worker that you hand your child to
  • the volunteer who poured you a cup of coffee in the cafe

But the people that they really remember coming face to face with are the two, maybe three primary people involved in the service: the worship leader and the pastor/communicator(s).

And when something goes really really right, it’s the worship leader/pastor who gets thanked. But what about all of the people behind the scenes and not on the stage that contributed to make it all happen? How might we, as leaders, acknowledge the hard work and sacrifice of so many that go unseen and cultivate a culture of gratitude?

Here are six things that we can start doing now that will help us pass the praise.

1. Know and value that the sacrifice and service of many is directly tied into your mission/vision. One of the most gratifying gestures I’ve ever seen is when our senior pastor and others on our executive team shake the hands and personally thank the teams behind the scenes. It fuels them up! Thanking people for the thankless work they do is crucial, because it raises the bar and sets the tone. It reinforces your vision.

Thanking people for the thankless work they do is crucial, because it raises the bar and sets the tone.

2. Recognize that gratitude is everyone’s job. It would be easy to point the finger up the chain of leadership—thinking gratitude is their responsibility. But the reality is that gratitude is everyone’s job at every level. Start now and lead from where you are.

3. Realize that gratitude is contagious. Studies show that people who hear “thank you” are more likely to pay it forward. Imagine going through your job for weeks and months and years, without anyone ever saying: “Thank you for what you do. It matters so much, and I’m thankful that you are part of the team.” (If that’s you, call me and I’ll personally tell you how much it matters.)

4. Be specific. By being specific, you’re communicating that you care about the person or team and what they are contributing to the mission and vision. A simple “thank you” is good. But this is better:

“Thank you, Steve, for leading your team in such a way that helps create an inviting environment that’s distraction free. You need to know that by doing that, you are opening the door for someone to experience God in a new way.” That sort of compliment will resonate forever.

5. Make it a priority. People are our purpose, not a resource. So many times we can get this backwards. I know I have. Technology has made it easy to see people as a button pusher or a warm body. But when we lead this way, we marginalize our ability to build a culture that values gratitude . People are smarter than we often give them credit for. They can sense when they’re just a cog in the wheel and not a driving/contributing force.

People are our purpose, not a resource.

6. Go public! It’s important to pat backs and shake hands before and after service. But imagine a shout out from the stage, thanking a volunteer or team specifically for their great work. Remember to single out the behind-the-scenes workers who don’t normally get this sort of attention.

Praise your people. They need it.

Praise your people. They need it. And praise the things you want them to repeat. When you give someone a reputation to live up to, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how often they rise to the occasion.