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Are you a participant in a Sunday school class, Bible study, or other type of small group? Have you ever really thought about all the work and responsibility involved in leading a group? Karen Yates, over on her blog Finding Rest, has a worthwhile post called: Church Small Groups: The Difference Between Leading and Participating. Here is a brief excerpt on the responsibility of leading:

Leaders…cannot cancel last minute, skip out because they don’t feel like it, not do their homework, show up 15 minutes late, or leave 15 minutes early.  In order to lead (and lead well) they have to set the tone of being committed.

Leaders feel the weight of group dynamics and shepherding of the group’s spiritual growth….A participant might leave the group thinking, “I can’t believe Sheri is going though all that!  That’s horrible.”  A leader might leave the group thinking, “I need to remember to check in with Sheri mid week, point her to a resource to help her, and add her to my prayer list.  She’s in a rough place, I need to keep my eye on her.”

When I was on the participant side of groups for years, I would always give the leader a small gift and a personal note of encouragement for leading. I’d thank them for their behind-the-scenes time and commitment in preparing to lead. I also assumed that others in the group were doing something similar as well. I must say this was learned from my childhood, as I can remember my mom sending me to Sunday school with gifts of appreciation for my teachers.

Then I became a leader… and lead for several years. I never got a note of thanks or other expression of appreciation. I don’t want that observation to come across the wrong way – as though I am a demanding person that expects gratitude! That’s not it. But I was just surprised that is all! And looking back, I was awfully glad I had showed thanks to my leaders, as I may have been the only person who did so.

Leading is a big responsibility, and it seems that expressing thanks should be a given. Have you ever expressed appreciation to the person who leads your group?

And I mean more than a quick, passing “oh, yeah, thanks…” but something more official or tangible such as a card with a thoughtful, handwritten note and perhaps a small gift along with it?

If not, don’t feel bad. But consider this a new beginning! From now on out, don’t forget to thank your leaders. And it is never too late to say thanks. Maybe you were in a group years ago that really helped you and you’ve never forgotten it. It is not too late to contact the person who lead the group and let them know how appreciative you were of their leadership. Do it…today!

[While the focus in this post is on lay leadership, please express appreciation to your official church leaders as well.]