Reengage Your Volunteer Teams by Acknowledging Team Gifts

Lee Cockerell, retired Senior Vice President of Operations for Walt Disney World Resorts, brings over four decades of experience on the front lines of some of the world’s best run companies to his writing and speaking. Lee responded to the question above with this simple, yet profound thought:

Leaders ARE their teams.

He went on to say that leaders should never underestimate the emotional impact they have on their team members by employing an ARE method.

Appreciation, Recognition, Encouragement: ARE. Together they make up a cost-free, fully sustainable fuel, one that builds self-confidence and self-esteem, boosts individual and team performance, and keeps an organization running cleanly and smoothly. ARE is more powerful than the fuels that make engines roar and space shuttles soar, because it propels human energy and motivation. And unlike costly, nonrenewable fuels like oil and gas, its supply is inexhaustible. You can give out ARE all day long, at home and at work, and wake up the next morning with a full tank. In fact, the more we use, the more there is, because every time people receive some ARE they discover more of their own internal supply and start giving away the overflow.

– Lee Cockerell, Creating Magic

Unfortunately, even though we all need a little ARE, the speed of ministry and Sunday’s coming mindset prevent many leaders from employing this simple, yet profound practice:

Reengage your volunteer teams by acknowledging team gifts.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Power of Acknowledgement, by Judith Umlas

The Age of Enlightenment changed the way mankind thought about life, culture, and human relationships. In her evocative new book, The Power of Acknowledgment, Judith W. Umlas unleashes the concept of an Age of Acknowledgment we can all help bring about.

In a time of celebrity worship and self-absorption, Judith’s well-reasoned and heart-felt appeal is so counterculture as to be revolutionary. Imagine, as does the author, people acknowledging each other’s humanity, accomplishments, talents, and wisdom on a continuous basis. It might just catch on. And wouldn’t that be something. This 45-minute read will change your life and the life of everyone around you.


There is a small but very significant action you can take every day – for no cost and little effort – that will change your world.

This action, if used regularly, can transform your team relationships, making the atmosphere vibrant, productive, and alive.

All this is possible, yet most people – even leaders – don’t recognize this incredible tool or understand its power. What all of us possess, but most of us don’t use often enough, is the power of acknowledgement.

Principle #4: Acknowledging good work leads to high energy, great feelings, high-quality performance, and terrific results. Not acknowledging good work causes lethargy, resentment, sorrow, and withdrawal.

Recognize and appreciate (acknowledge) good work, wherever you find it. It’s not true that people only work hard if they worry whether you value them. Quite the opposite!

Can you imagine this scene, which takes place every day all over the world? You have just completed a difficult and challenging job. Perhaps you’ve worked alone on a project that needed three people to complete it, and got it done before the scheduled timeline and under budget.

Customers and potential customers are already telling you hoe much easier it makes their jobs, how excited they are, and how this new product really fills a need. You report all this to your boss and all you get is a weak and distracted, “Oh, okay.”

You already know what you’re left with: resentment, lack of energy, and most of all (but not usually identified) sorrow. Why did you bother to put in all of the extra hours, why did you feel the deep commitment to getting the job done even with insufficient resources? “Who cares anyway?” you ask yourself.

Judith W. Umlas, The Power of Acknowledgement


To help you begin practicing and enhancing your acknowledgement skills, create a list of people in your daily life to consider speaking words of encouragement that show you have noticed them serving in their giftedness. Here are a few categories and suggestions for each:

People to acknowledge in my daily life and what I could say to acknowledge the usage of their gifts:

  • Barista ____________________________________________________
  • Check out cashier ____________________________________________________
  • Doctor ____________________________________________________
  • Dentist ____________________________________________________
  • Regular delivery person ____________________________________________________
  • Other ____________________________________________________
  • Other ____________________________________________________

People in my family and what I could say to acknowledge their giftedness:

Spouse                                                ____________________________________________________

Child(ren)                                          ____________________________________________________

Mother                                               ____________________________________________________

Father                                                 ____________________________________________________

Brother/Sister                                   ____________________________________________________

Grandparents                                                ____________________________________________________

In-laws                                               ____________________________________________________

People at work and what I could say to acknowledge their gifts:

Boss                                                    ____________________________________________________

Co-worker                                          ____________________________________________________

Co-worker                                          ____________________________________________________

Co-worker                                          ____________________________________________________

Subordinate                                       ____________________________________________________

Subordinate                                       ­____________________________________________________

Subordinate                                       ____________________________________________________

Assistant                                             ____________________________________________________

Assistant                                             ____________________________________________________

Security                                              ____________________________________________________

Custodial                                            ____________________________________________________

Once you have filled these out, start finding opportunities to deliver them. They can be acknowledgments that you write, or verbally present, or they can be something quite different. As long as the acknowledgments are true and real for you, acknowledge away.

Once you start this practice, which requires paying attention to the good qualities of the people around you, you will find yourself becoming awed by their accomplishments, talents, and wisdom.

Excerpted from SUMS Remix Issue 54-1, released November 2016

This is part of a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

Subscribe to SUMS Remix <<

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Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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