How to Encourage your Ministry Team in the Bleak Midwinter

This is a guest post by Dr. Paul White, business consultant, psychologist, and coauthor of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman

Now that we are fully into the New Year and venturing into the dreary days of January and February filled with cold weather and few days off from work, ministry leaders need to take a hard look at how we are going to support and encourage our team members.  This is the time of year (especially for those who like sunlight) for people to just drag themselves through the day.

As a psychologist who trains leaders and colleagues how to effectively communicate appreciation in the workplace, let me offer some suggestions.

Understand the nature of discouragement and burnout

Discouragement and burnout, over the long haul, come from a combination of weariness and lack of hope.  We have just emerged from the holiday season with many extra activities, and now we face the daily grind of doing our normal work.  A lot of people are emotionally tired.  Add to this a potential lack of vision (“Remind me again, why are we doing this?”) and a lack of hope (“My contribution really isn’t going to make a difference…”) and you have the perfect recipe for team members either going through the motions or giving up completely.

Give your team what they need:  vision, hope, appreciation and encouragement

This is where leaders can make a tremendous difference with their team members – by providing vision (where you are going and how doing x, y, and z fits into the overall plan), communicating hope (helping them see how what they are doing does matter), and communicating appreciation and encouragement along the way.

Communicate your appreciation in ways that work

One challenge in effectively encouraging your team members is that not everyone’s “language of appreciation” is the same.  Therefore, some attempts at appreciation may not really impact them.  Most people think of appreciation as being verbal—saying “thanks” or writing a note —but in reality, studies show at least 40% of people really don’t  value words in terms of feeling affirmed and appreciated.  For another 25%, a gift card to the local Christian bookstore will not convey the intended appreciation.  Some people feel appreciated when you spend personal time with them; others just want help getting tasks done.

In our research for appreciation in work and ministry contexts, Dr. Gary Chapman and I have found that for people to truly feel valued, four conditions need to be present.  Appreciation needs to be communicated:

a)  individually (rather than a blanket thank-you to all involved),

b) in the language that the individual values (see our online inventory to identify each person’s preferred appreciation language),

c) regularly (not just at their annual review or at the end of a big project); and

d) in a manner that the individual perceives as being genuine (versus forced or contrived).

To be honest, it takes some time and effort to communicate appreciation effectively. But it is worth it when you “hit the mark” with a team member, and you watch as they start to glow (or become teary-eyed) and their commitment to you and the ministry deepens dramatically. And you will be able to help them endure the long, dark days of winter – they may even smile occasionally and report enjoying their work!


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Author Bio: Dr. Paul White is a business consultant and psychologist, and is the coauthor of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman. For more information, go to .

About the Book: The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace applies the “love language” concept of New York Times bestseller, The 5 Love Languages, to the workplace. This book helps supervisors and managers effectively communicate appreciation and encouragement to their employees, resulting in higher levels of job satisfaction, healthier relationships between managers and employees, and decreased cases of burnout. Ideal for both the profit and non-profit sectors, the principles presented in this book have a proven history of success in businesses, schools, medical offices, churches, and industry. Each book contains an access code for the reader to take a comprehensive online MBA Inventory (Motivating By Appreciation) – a $20 value.


  • jMailoSkyqdx

    I’m actually about to do this step. This post got me thinking whether i can do it. Again. But thank you very much!