All of us have leaders in church. We have our cell group leaders, ministry leaders, mentors — people who have spiritual authority over us.
While we might not often think about who these people are in our lives, it is important that we notice and remember them because we are called to honour them.
Indeed, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 tells us: “Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.”
These are people who are consistently investing and pouring into our lives their time, resources and faith. And most of them do so willingly and freely without the hope of receiving anything in return. They invest their lives in us simply because they believe in discipleship, and they desire to see us grow and mature in God.
As they pour out their lives for us week in and week out, have we ever considered if we actually appreciate them enough?
Do we have a tendency to take them for granted because we think that they are obliged to love us and lead us?
It’s time to honour our leaders. So let me suggest a few ways that we can at least get started!
1. Affirm and appreciate
As cool and natural as our leaders may seem, they might not always feel the most confident about what they do.
When I first became a mentor, I would always reach the meeting place at least 15 minutes early so that I could calm my nerves and prepare myself mentally before I met my mentees.
I also often freaked out internally when I ran out of things to talk about during mentoring sessions.
When it came to leading cell groups, I used to panic internally once there was an awkward silence, or when I did not know how to respond to certain remarks or questions.
The point is, regardless of how long your leaders have been leading, they are all still growing — some words of encouragement wouldn’t do them any harm.
Your affirmations are meaningful because they show your leaders that you don’t take them for granted, and you appreciate how they pour into your life.
So, drop your cell group leader a thank you message after cell meetings; thank your mentor for caring for you and let them know specifically how they have impacted your life; thank your leaders for teaching God’s Word and share with them how that challenged you — all these small gestures go a long way!
Who knows, your message might be a timely encouragement for your leaders.
2. Be a friend
My ex-cell group leader used to say this very often, “I feel loved when people see me as a human”.
Seeing our leaders perform their roles regularly, it can become easy to focus on their roles and ministry responsibilities and forgetting that they are people too.
We sometimes forget that our leaders are also humans.
They also need to manage their work and studies. They also go through struggles in life. They also need friends in life. Our leaders are also a part of our community.
Here, I’ll share a couple of questions that often help me clarify whether I’ve been caring for the leaders in my life:
- Do you know what your leaders are going through in their lives?
- Do you text them about anything other than ministry?
- When was the last time you asked them about how they are doing?
- Have you ever blessed your leaders before?
- Do you remember their birthdays?
While our leaders are often the ones giving, it is also on us to care for them and make our community a safe space where they can also receive.
Each of us can start doing this by extending the blessing of personal friendship to them, by caring about their needs and loving them through our words and actions.
3. Carry their burdens
More than one-off encouragements and affirmations, we can also appreciate and honour our leaders by supporting them in their week-to-week roles.
When I served as a cell group leader, it always warmed my heart whenever my cell group members asked me how they could support me and how they could contribute in the cell group.
I was touched simply because I saw that there were people who are taking ownership of this spiritual community with me, and that I wasn’t building the group alone.
A community is not found but built. And it is more than just the leader’s responsibility to see a godly community being built.
So, if you are willing to build your spiritual community alongside your leaders (and you should be!) why not take the initiative to reach out to your leaders rather than wait for them to ask?
Nothing encourages a leader more than when their members come alongside them to serve God and serve His Church together.
“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” (Hebrews 13:17)
Ministry isn’t easy. And being a leader of God’s people certainly isn’t an easy calling.
As much as our leaders consider it a privilege and joy to do so, recognising what God has done in their lives, it doesn’t negate the fact that serving in ministry requires blood, sweat and tears.
And as the flock, we are called to honour their hard work and to make their work a joy.
Our leaders are imperfect and they will make mistakes.
Nevertheless, the Bible tells us to have confidence in them and submit to them because we recognise that their authority comes from God and that they are accountable to Him.
Instead of criticising how our leaders have fallen short and how they can do better, perhaps we can ask ourselves this: how can I be a better member and a better support for my leader?
Just as our leaders persevered and continued investing in us despite our flaws and imperfections, may we also have the same humility to offer grace and honour them even when they make mistakes.
Let’s learn to give honour when honour is due, because God’s workers deserve their wages (1 Timothy 5:18)!
- What is one thing you can affirm or appreciate your leaders for?
- How can you be a better friend to your leaders?
- How can you support your leaders in owning and building the community together?