May is Teacher Appreciation Month

The Bible says to honor those who work hard among you. (1 Thessalonians 5.6) Strictly speaking, this verse is talking about how we treat our pastors, but I believe the principle applies to all. We are commanded to honor everyone who works hard among us.

Why is it important that we do this? I can think of a few reasons:

It is important that we honor our teachers because the world can be discouraging. Life is hard. Had you noticed? It is hard for me. It is hard for you. It is hard for your teachers. They get discouraged. The work is sometimes hard. 1 Thessalonians 5.11 commands us to encourage one another. Hebrews 3.13 commands that we do it daily. Life is hard. We all need a little encouragement.

It is important to honor our teachers because a little can mean a lot. You don't have to hire them a marching band. You don't have to put their picture on the jumbo-tron in Times Square. A little can mean a lot. A little gift. A word. A little bit of recognition. A dinner. A piece of paper in the form of a certificate or card. Do all you can. Don't try to be cheap. Don't think about how little you can do. But, if you can't do a lot of fanfare, that is OK. Do something. A little means a lot.

It is important to honor our teachers because the workers are few. It is true in big churches and small, the workers are few. Every church I am in could use some more workers. Here is one key to having enough workers: hang on to the ones you've got! There are three keys to doing this: encourage them, encourage them, encourage them.

But how to encourage them? Here are a few ideas:

  • Feed them food. Have a teacher appreciation dinner
  • Give them gifts. I especially like the idea of giving them gifts that pour into their lives spiritually. Give them a Lifeway gift certificate. Give them a Double Your Class, Disciplemaking Teachers, 10 Marks of Incredible Teachers or One Magnificent Obsession book. You can buy them online at
  • Pay attention to them. It is hard to do encouragement wrong. The only wrong way to do it is not to do it all. Almost anything you do encourages them because almost anything you do is an expression of paying attention to them.
  • Say thank you. Say the words. "I really appreciate all you do. Thank you."
  • Honor them publically. Get them on the stage. Have people clap for them. Have people share testimonies of what their teachers mean to them.

All that is pretty obvious and if you will spend fifteen minutes brainstorming with your staff you can likely come up with some even better ideas. Let me explore something with you that may not be totally obvious.

1 Timothy 5.17 says that elders are to receive double honor. Again, the direct application of this has to do with honoring our pastors/ elders. I'd like to think of this in a slightly different way. The implication of this double honor principle is that it is appropriate to give some people more honor than others. We ought to honor everyone, but REALLY honor some. The implications of this are huge.

Besides the elders, who else might we give double honor to? The answer is obvious to me, though it might not be obvious to you. In fact, you might not even agree with me on this point, but here it is:

We ought to give double honor to anyone who is doing what we think ought to be done.

In short, I would double honor the classes that are growing. I would triple honor the classes that are doubling. This is based on the Greatest Management Principle in the World: Whatever gets rewarded gets done. You get what you reward. Not what you ask for. Not what you teach about. You get more of what you reward.

  • If you reward growth, you get more growth.
  • If you reward giving Friday nights to Jesus, you get people giving Friday nights to Jesus.
  • If you reward people doing visitation, you get more visitation.
  • If you reward people for being on a plateau, you get more of that.

Whatever gets rewarded gets done.

This principle of differentiation and reward was the central tenant of Jack Welch's brilliant leadership of General Electric. Without differentiation there is no motivation. Jack noticed early on that even, across-the-board raises seem fair and nice on the surface, but they deflate the producers and send a message to the half-hearted that half-hearted work is OK.

Now, the implementation of this principle on a church basis is a bit tricky but it might look a little like this. Let's say you have a teacher appreciation dinner. Everyone is invited. Everyone gets a certificate. Everyone gets a Disciplemaking Teachers book. But then, we have some special rewards. Everyone whose class grew at all gets a growth award, maybe a book or a plaque or a certificate. All the ones that participated in Giving Friday Nights to Jesus at least 12 times last year get something. Everyone who invited every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month get something. Everyone who participated in training gets something. Everyone who came to visitation, if you do visitation, gets something. Whatever you want done, reward it.

The Bible teaches that God is a rewarder and we ought to be like God:

  • And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6 [NIV]
  •  "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. Rev. 22:12 [NIV]
  •  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Luke 6:35 [NIV]

Notice, what kind of reward can we expect if we love our enemies? A great reward. This is to distinguish from the average reward. God practices differentiation and reward and so should we.

Ken Blanchard taught us that managers should spend 20% of our time instructing, and 80% of our time catching people doing something right and rewarding them for it. We tend to do the opposite. We tend to spend 80% of our time telling people what to do and only 20% of our time catching them do something right and rewarding them. A new book on this topic is the current business best-seller, The Carrot Principle. Here is a summary of that book: "With independent research from The Jackson Organization and analysis by bestselling leadership experts Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, this breakthrough study of 200,000 people over ten years found dramatically greater business results when managers offered constructive praise and meaningful rewards in ways that powerfully motivated employees to excel."

As it turns out, God's practice of rewarding is proven to be a good idea by the modern business community.

If you want your classes to double, reward the ones that do. One way to do this is to video tape their stories and allow me to put them on my BLOG. Check out Email me and we will work out the details.

May is teacher appreciation month. Appreciate your teaches this month. And teachers, have you said thank you to your pastor and Minister of Education lately?