A Culture of Appreciation

A Culture of Appreciation

Did you know that Pastor Appreciation Day is the 2nd Sunday of October and Administrative Professionals Day is April 21? Thanks Google! Oops, we may have missed that this year. Often referred to as Hallmark Holidays — artificial declarations that (hopefully) spur us to spend money on gifts — these appreciation days sometimes prompt us to do what we should do regardless. I’m sure our pastors and church administrators weren’t waiting for gifts on those specific days but knowing these days are on at least some calendars invites the question, “How well do we show appreciation as a faith community?”

I recently retired my counselling practice. Prior to COVID-19, I did a lot of couples therapy. Much of my work was based on Dr. John Gottman’s work. A key Gottman tool is The Four Horsemen. He claims he can predict whether a relationship will end based on the presence of these four communication styles — criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. When I used this tool, I offered a bit of hope by saying  “Each of these has an antidote.”

The antidote for contempt is Build a Culture of Appreciation. I often said to my clients that in all of my couples training, that is my favourite phrase. If we build a culture of appreciation, we won’t disparage our partners. We won’t hurt them. We will strive to help each other become better partners, better people. I occasionally had couples practice this in my presence. And I just watched. The change in one who was receiving appreciation was remarkable.

Knowing that these Four Horsemen exist in our congregations, how do we build a culture of appreciation? We build a culture in small bits, not quickly, but deliberately. A word here, a word there, an email, a smile and a thank-you. We don’t build this culture by saying that everything is awesome when perhaps it’s not. But naturally and in a timely manner, we can show appreciation for energy expended, work done, or a vision articulated.

We build a culture of appreciation by noticing what happens around us. Work done by worship committees, worship leaders, song leaders, children’s story tellers, decorating committees, health and safety committees, deacons. Work done by our paid leadership and by our lay leadership. A kind word that says “I see you” goes far in giving people the energy to continue. Most will do much if there is acknowledgement, respect, and appreciation.

We Mennonite tend to be pragmatic. We get work done. Many of us have internalized phrases such as “That’s your job.” “Just do it.” “Do it well.” “Don’t expect praise.” and “Praise just goes to your head.”

And yet, we too get weary. These past two years have been hard. Our pastors are tired. Our committee members are tired. COVID has drained us. We are struggling to find what is life-giving.

Words of appreciation are a gift anyone can give. Let us be generous with those gifts, not just on October 10 or April 21 but throughout the year. Let’s Build a Culture of Appreciation in our congregations, our families, and in every community we find ourselves in.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. Thessalonians 5:11