Should Leaders Reward Volunteers?

Dog treat
Recognition is a powerful motivator to reinforce behavior. (iStock photo )

Pavlov gave his dogs a biscuit to reinforce a physical response.

Today we conclude a four-part series on the observable impact of a leader. Effective leadership is visible. Throughout this week, we have reviewed the creation of team unity, leadership direction and message delivery with frequency. Today we add the final key component of visible leadership, which is reinforcement through recognition.

Watch an effective leader and notice the many ways the team is reinforced through visible rewards and recognition. Praise flows freely from a great leader.

There are those who believe that employees are paid to do good work and if workers are rewarded, an expectation of future rewards is established. I need someone to explain to me why it's a bad thing to create a culture in which team members know their work is appreciated and rewarded.

Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

Psychologist and noted management guru, Frederick Herzberg provided insight into this topic in his motivation-hygiene theory. Simply put, Herzberg believed money could not create sustainable motivation. His work cited achievement and recognition as the most powerful and sustainable motivators.

(Don't miss a closer look at the roll of satisfiers, dissatisfiers and delighters next week).

Many ministry leaders struggle with finding the sweet spot to recognize the work of volunteers in the ministry. On one hand, we want people to know they work unto the Lord and will receive the best reward from Him.

"Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are laborers together with God: You are God's vineyard; you are God's building" (1 Cor. 3:8).

On the other hand, leaders understand that we are working with humans who perform at higher levels when recognized. Our people shouldn't NEED to be recognized but leaders should NEED to give words of life.

If we think of recognition in terms of reinforcing adherence to systems, we've probably found a peaceful middle ground.  

Recognition is a motivator to do things, the way we do things here.

Pass the biscuits!


"And whatever you do, do it heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. For you serve the Lord Christ" (Col. 3:23-24).


Dr. Steve Greene is the publisher and executive vice president of the media group at Charisma Media and executive producer of the Charisma Podcast Network. His book, Love Leads: The Spiritual Connection Between Your Relationships and Productivity, is now available.

Leaders, Dr. Greene wants to help you understand the spiritual connection between relationships and productivity. Read his new blog, here.

Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

Dr. Steve Greene is now sharing stories, teachings, and conversations with guests who lead with love on Love Leads, a new podcast. Listen now.

Dr. Mark Rutland's

National Institute of Christian Leadership (NICL)

The NICL is one of the top leadership training programs in the U.S. taught by Dr. Mark Rutland. If you're the type of leader that likes to have total control over every aspect of your ministry and your future success, the NICL is right for you!

FREE NICL MINI-COURSE - Enroll for 3-hours of training from Dr. Rutland's full leadership course. Experience the NICL and decide if this training is right for you and your team.

Do you feel stuck? Do you feel like you’re not growing? Do you need help from an expert in leadership? There is no other leadership training like the NICL. Gain the leadership skills and confidence you need to lead your church, business or ministry. Get ready to accomplish all of your God-given dreams. CLICK HERE for NICL training dates and details.

The NICL Online is an option for any leader with time or schedule constraints. It's also for leaders who want to expedite their training to receive advanced standing for Master Level credit hours. Work through Dr. Rutland's full training from the comfort of your home or ministry at your pace. Learn more about NICL Online. Learn more about NICL Online.

Charisma Leader — Serving and empowering church leaders