The Need of Recognition in Ministry

National Association of Christian Ministers Leadership Series

By Michael Mooney, NACM Exec. Elder

Have you ever heard someone (especially at church) say, “don’t compliment them or they might get a big head?”

Somehow there is the notion among many Christians that encouraging someone for their abilities will result in the person becoming prideful. Strangely such a concept that is so prevalent among Christians seems to be unbiblical:

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1Th 5:11 ESV).

“Finally, my brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are right, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, think on these things” (Php 4:8, MKJV).

People Perspective

Fellow recognition is not necessarily a bad thing.  Studies show that “employees who feel appreciated are more positive with their selves and their ability to contribute to the success of the company” (Remarkable Recognition, p. 56).  In fact, one employee recognition program was used as a study to monitor attendance at work.  The results show that the program was associated with a 28% decrease in employee sick leave.  When the recognition stopped, sick leave perpetually increased over the next 3 years (Werner, 1992).

How might we be stifling ministers, laity, and Brothers and Sisters in the faith by withholding the recognition and encouragement that they need?  Even when Jesus addressed the churches in Revelation chapters 2-3, He opened His statements with praise (with the exception of Laodicea).

Leadership Perspective

Contrarily, “one of the most difficult challenges a leader faces is not to pay too much attention to criticism or praise” (Blanchard & Hodges, 2006, p.157). Ordained ministers, pastors, leaders etc. need to think hard about their needs to be praised and appreciated.  The need for recognition is probably more apparent to followers than the leaders that need it.  Such can quickly result in blind spots that hinder the influence of leadership and ministry.  From a servant minister’s perspective, James says “God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble” (Jas 4:6, MKJV).  Any leadership that is being resisted by God is headed for failure.

Bottom Line

1) Any person who seeks to encourage others and strengthen them with praise is ministering to fundamental human needs. Such a person will gain influence with these people that will not quickly be shaken; thereby positioning them as a leader in the lives of others.

2) Ordained ministers and leaders should regularly evaluate their own needs for recognition so that they are not blinded in their decisions to lead effectively.

Reflective Questions:

1) What steps can you take to be sure that you are giving people enough praise?

2) What steps can you take to keep a check on your own need for recognition?

3) On a scale of 1-10, what do you rate your level of need recognition?

4) How do you feel when you do not get your needed level of praise?


Blanchard, Ken, & Hodges, Phil. (2006). Lead like Jesus: Lessons from the greatest leadership role model of all time. United States: W. Publishing Group.

Remarkable Recognition (2008). Professional Safety, 53(8), 56. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

Werner, G. (1992). Employee Recognition: A Procedure to Reinforce Work Attendance. Behavioral Residential Treatment, 7(3), 199-204. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.