Cultivating a Heart of Gratitude within Your Ministry

Could your women’s ministry use an infusion of warmth this fall season? We’re not talking about the kind of coziness that comes with autumn candles and seasonal decor, but a ministry environment marked by genuine, gracious, and grateful women. 

Julie Clum, Julie White, and Elena Thomas are three Revive Our Hearts Ambassadors who model those traits and who have learned how to cultivate gratitude within a variety of ministry settings. I asked them what they believed could happen if a ministry not only embraced and embodied a spirit of gratitude, but if a leader intentionally cultivated this quality in her own heart: 

Gratitude changes relationships. Yes, relationships with each other but more importantly our relationship with God. This results in a power in the ministry that is rarely seen these days. —Julie C.

Embracing gratitude will help a leader to “not grow weary in doing good” (2 Thess. 3:13). —Julie W.

I think embracing and embodying gratitude is exactly what Jesus desires for His Church: a Church that loves Him and each other, hearts of gratitude spurring others on and building up the body of Christ. And in turn, the body of Christ impacting a world that so desperately needs Him. —Elena 

Growing a Heart That Models Gratitude 

Julie Clum has a reputation for modeling gratitude well, but she is quick to admit this is an area where she is still growing. There’s a difference, she has learned, between being optimistic and being truly thankful. This became especially clear in the wake of a family tragedy. 

Q: Have you always been a grateful person? What has the Lord used to grow this trait in your life? 

Julie C: Smiles have always come easily for me, but God is still teaching me that having a positive attitude is not the same as having a grateful heart. While positivity is about an outlook, gratitude is about a person. 

God has taught me so much just through those He has brought into my life. One of the biggest influences has been my husband, Dan. Early in our marriage, he set aside Saturdays for us to pray thanksgiving prayers to God. There have been times I’ve forgotten and slipped in a request, but he is always quick to remind me: “This is our thankful day.” It is a discipline that has changed the way I think about my interactions with God. 

Most instrumental of all in helping me grow has been God’s Word. Reading, studying, and praying through Scripture has increased my faith and confidence in the Lord. As I’ve come to trust Him more, I’ve become increasingly sure that all things He allows into my life—big and small—are for my good and His glory. 

First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This is a command. When I put my faith in who God is and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that His will is best and good, I can truly be grateful from my heart. Faith results in gratitude.

This is something I had to work through when our first grandson passed away. God taught me about His deep love for us and the true beauty of surrendering to His plan. Gratitude is not thanking God that Jack is no longer here, but it is offering up sincere praise and thanksgiving to God for His wisdom to fulfill His purposes in our lives through Jack’s death.

Q: What biblical truths have shaped your perspective on gratitude? 

Julie C:

  1. Gratitude comes from being filled with the Spirit.
    We must surrender daily—moment by moment—and ask God to fill us (Eph. 5:18–21).
  2. Not only is thankfulness linked to the Spirit’s filling, but it’s also connected to submission to one another.
    Being able to lead others and work well with individuals involves both submission and gratitude. Gratitude is easier when we submit. 
  3. Gratitude is a sign of humility.
    I love the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17. The one leper knew he did not deserve healing. He understood he was being shown grace. That kind of humility brings joy and rejoicing—and it brings gratitude. Gratitude in turn develops humility and grace. 
  4. Neglecting gratitude is the first step away from God (Romans 1:21). 
  5. Giving thanks to God prepares our hearts for coming into His presence in prayer (Psalm 100:4–5).
  6. Thanksgiving brings peace (Philippians 4:6–7).
  7. A person who waits on the Lord demonstrates both faith and gratitude (Psalm 27:13–14).

Q: What are some practical ways a woman (single or married) can encourage and express gratitude toward the male leaders in her ministry context?

Julie W: You can model gratitude by applauding and thanking the pastor in front of a group of women, encourage both women and men to write a note of thanks to the pastor (and his wife), and head up the collection of money or arrange for a gift to be given to the pastor.

As you help other women express gratitude, remind them that the burden of spiritual leadership falls on the male elders and pastors of the church. We, as women, don’t have a clear idea of how heavy that burden is. Many, maybe even most, pastors carry that burden along with the spiritual responsibility for a family. That’s a heavy weight to bear.

Expressing Gratitude When You Disagree

What happens when you disagree with the male leaders you serve with or the pastor of a church? Elena Thomas experienced this in her church and learned what it means to choose gratitude, even when it’s difficult.

Q: It can be challenging to express gratitude and respect for a leader (such as a pastor) when you disagree with them. Can you share about a time when you experienced this?

Elena: Before I share, I want to say that I love my church, and I am so grateful for the men God raised up to lead this church and to shepherd our congregation. I don’t intend to shed any negative light on them or their leadership. 

With that said, about four years ago, there was a decision that was made in our church that I strongly disagreed with based on my understanding of Scripture. My initial reaction was to flee and find a new church. After some time of processing through this with the Lord, however, He made it clear that I was to go back and pray for my church, my pastors, and elders—to trust Him with this area of disagreement, to continue serving and investing in the women, and to remain an active part of the body. 

When I had an opportunity to share my concerns with my senior pastor, I sought to do so in a respectful way. He was very receptive to hear my concerns and responded with such a humble spirit. Over the years, as I have prayed for my church and leadership, I have seen the Lord answer so many prayers. 

The area of disagreement is still there, but I am trusting the Lord and continuing to pray for His will in that. Through this season of praying and waiting on the Lord, He has grown my love and gratitude for my church and those whom He has called to shepherd us.

Shift Your Perspective and Shift the Culture 

How does a leader begin to shift the culture within her ministry? Elena says that you have to intentionally cultivate a heart of gratitude in your life. “First and foremost,” she says, “as we take care of our own walk with the Lord, the Lord will use that to impact the women we are leading.” 

Q: As a leader, how have you maintained a thankful heart?

Elena: What has helped me has been abiding in God’s Word and remembering what Christ has done for me and how much I have been forgiven. That keeps me ever aware of what a gift my salvation is and what a privilege it is to get to serve Him. That He would even choose to use me at all is so humbling. 

Q: What advice would you give a leader who wants to ensure this attitude remains in focus over the long term?

Julie C: Have a focus of gratitude at least once a year. Keep the focus on God’s Word. Try writing in a gratitude journal for a month, having a ladies night that focuses on the theme of gratitude . . . be creative! Allow others to get involved in leading, and this will go a long way in making gratitude their passion as well.

Q: What are some first steps a leader could take toward cultivating a spirit of gratitude in her ministry?

Julie C: Prayer, prayer, and more prayer. It must come from God if it’s going to become part of the heart of the ministry. Do a study on gratitude yourself. Choosing Gratitude is a great place to start. And remember: “Unless the LORD builds a house, its builders labor over it in vain” (Psalm 127:1).

Meet the Leaders 

Elena Thomas serves as an Ambassador for Revive Our Hearts in the great state of Oklahoma. When Elena attended her first True Woman Conference in 2010, she was deeply impacted by the ministry and the message of Revive Our Hearts. The Lord has continued to use ROH teaching powerfully in her life, and she’s grateful to be able to serve with a ministry that “has invested so much in me.” As an Ambassador, she connects with leaders and gets to hold up their arms and cheer them on in prayer; her role is to encourage and equip them as they serve the women in their circle of influence.

Julie White has lived what she calls a “backwards life.” She was single until she was forty, had her son at age forty-one, and has now been married for over twenty years. As a married woman, Julie and her husband David have led couples’ groups in their home. She has led in women’s ministry, taught many women’s events, and currently serves with Revive Our Hearts as an Ambassador. 

Julie Clum has served as an Ambassador for Revive Our Hearts since 2019 and considers it a privilege and a blessing to connect, encourage, and equip leaders to build up the body of Christ. For twenty years, Julie has taught a ladies’ class in her local church, a congregation with a rich history of solid Bible teaching and preaching. Her ladies’ class recently finished going through Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s book Choosing Gratitude and is currently going through the book of Acts. 

Ready to take the first step? Pause now and ask God to grow gratitude in your heart, especially in the areas where it may be particularly challenging. As you trust Him with this and seek to lead in this area, may God multiply thankfulness throughout your ministry. 

About the Author

Katie Laitkep

Katie Laitkep was working as a hospital teacher when God called her to join Revive Our Hearts as a staff writer. She serves remotely from Houston, Texas, where God sustains her through saltwater beaches, Scripture, and her local church. Katie's blog A Patient Process is a record of the Lord's faithfulness in chronic illness, for even in suffering, He is good.