For the Ministry Leader Who Feels Unappreciated

When I lead, teach, and disciple women, I want the glory to go to God. Rather than see me, I want women to see the beauty of Christ and love Him more. I know you do too. But as a ministry leader, I also appreciate being noticed and thanked. Don’t you?

“Give thanks” is a repeated refrain throughout the Bible. God fashioned us to be gratitude-givers primarily because we are the recipients of His astounding generosity and kindness through the cross of Christ. Gratitude-givers first offer vertical thanks to Him and then are compelled to offer horizontal thanks to others from the abundance of blessings we’ve received.

A woman with a grateful heart recognizes she isn’t entitled to praise and admiration—but it surely makes ministry rewarding when people take the time to notice her hard work and express their appreciation. 

The Sting of Unappreciation

Luke 17 records the story of ten lepers who were healed by Jesus. Only one turned back to worship with gratitude. 

But one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. He fell facedown at his feet, thanking him. And he was a Samaritan.

Then Jesus said, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Didn’t any return to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And he told him, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.” (vv. 15–19) 

Isn’t that just like human nature? We pray and in the next moment forget to thank God when He answers. We appreciate ministry workers but then don’t express our gratitude after being served. Without being intentional gratitude-givers, we will wade in puddles of mindless ingratitude instead of plunging into the deep water of generous thanksgiving.

When no one turns back to acknowledge what you’ve done for them, what words echo in your mind? Unnoticed, taken for granted?

We’ve all been there. These are honest feelings stemming from the sting of being unappreciated. What happens next determines your ministry integrity. Will you throw up your hands and give up? Will you complain to anyone with a listening ear? Although Jesus was promptly forgotten by nine lepers, it didn’t deter Him from His mission. And through Jesus, it won’t deter you either. Here’s what God is teaching me about maintaining ministry integrity when feeling unappreciated.

Maintaining Integrity When Feeling Unappreciated

1. Serve for God, not man.

The apostle Paul models a leader who was never motivated by the praise of man. He posed to the Galatians, “For am I now trying to persuade people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).

Paul served for God and God alone. He knew pleasing people would diminish his ability to courageously defend the gospel. Seeking approval from people breeds conflict and compromise in our souls. 

2. Avoid the self-pity trap.

Be wise to the self-pity trap. If we take the bait we quickly veer off mission and waste precious time wallowing. Instead of looking in, look out. See the needs of the people you serve. Like us, they need Jesus. Let His love for them well up in your heart and you’ll think about yourself less. You’ll be filled with compassion for your needy flock like Jesus (Matt. 9:36). He can help us remain steadfast and guard us against developing a bitter spirit when people promptly forget our ministry service. 

3. Embrace delayed reward.

Jesus warned that if we perform good deeds to be recognized and applauded, we will lose eternal rewards in heaven (Matt. 6:1). Delayed rewards will be much sweeter than any honors we can earn on earth. Since God Himself is our great reward (Col. 3:24), pray for your ministry motives to remain pure—the better accolade will come in heaven for the work we’ve done through Jesus.

4. Allow God to refine you. 

Remember God sees you when others don’t. He sees the late nights and the early mornings. He sees your sacrifices. Pour out your heart to Him. God won’t overlook the smallest task you do to demonstrate His unending, unsurpassed love.

For God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you demonstrated for his name by serving the saints—and by continuing to serve them. (Heb. 6:10)

The times when I’ve felt the most criticized and unappreciated in ministry have become God’s gracious invitation to be refined and purged of selfishness, pride, and self-glory. My resentment is a neon sign pointing to wrong ministry motives and my tightly-held idols of comfort and approval. Thankfully, the Lord loves us enough to sanctify us. The Father’s tender pruning shapes us into women who more closely resemble our cross-bearing Savior.

5. Create a gratitude file.

I’m thankful many people do take the time to express generous gratitude for our ministries. When I receive a heartfelt note or email, I save it to a gratitude file. I don’t open the file often except during those seasons when I feel lost, unnoticed, and uncertain if what I’m doing matters.

Ministry Is a Privilege

One seminary president tells his doctoral students, “no vocation on this side of heaven is as privileged or rewarding as Christian ministry.” The privilege of ministry counteracts unappreciation in ministry. When your work seems disregarded, lift your eyes. Divert your focus from the challenges onto the beauty and worthiness of Christ your King. It matters to Him and that is more than enough.

Become Generous Gratitude-Givers

God calls us to a radical gospel response over the usual ranting and complaining our fallen nature tempts from within: return mindless ingratitude with generous gratitude. It may feel impossible, but with the Spirit’s help it’s more than possible. What is hard for us isn’t hard for Jesus to accomplish through us. 

The more people are influenced by a generous gratitude-giver (like you and I can become!), the more likely they are to start recognizing the need to express more gratitude themselves. 

Your work matters. You can rise above your circumstances for three unchanging reasons: God the Son understands when you feel forgotten, God the Holy Spirit empowers your generous gratitude and ministry integrity, and God the Father has great rewards waiting in heaven.

About the Author

Leslie Bennett

Leslie Bennett has led Women’s Ministry in two local churches, and serves on the Revive Our Hearts ministry team. She connects with women’s leaders around the world in the Revive Our Hearts Leader Facebook Group and as host of online training events. A teacher at heart, she is devoted to training and discipling the next generation to treasure Christ above all. Leslie and her husband Mac live in S.C. where she loves spending time with family, and admiring Lowcountry sunsets.