That title might sound old-fashioned in today’s world. Yet we know it’s something we want for our churches. And a culture of honor is not out of reach. The word honor means “high respect; great esteem.” What would our churches look like if everyone showed high respect and great esteem for others… regardless of differences in gifts, cultures, abilities, perspectives, etc. What an amazing church that would be! 

We can do that—maybe not getting everyone on board, but getting enough of a toehold in the culture of our church to make a real difference. Here’s the secret: building a culture of honor needs to start with us. Here’s how: 

3 Steps to Creating a Culture of Honor

creating a culture of honor

Affirmed behaviors get repeated. 

We need to intentionally and repeatedly affirm one another. Affirmation doesn’t just mean a general “good job” when nothing was particularly good. It means that—as leaders—we are actively looking for people to do something right. It might take a while. But when you see it, call it out. Here’s how to do that effectively: 

1. Be watchful

Catch people doing something good… or even something closely approximating what you want to see. There are many behaviors that build honor. For example, church members stepping out of their comfort zone and greeting newcomers, people meeting the needs of others—even in a small way, or someone responding to a differing opinion with respect. Being watchful for behaviors that you can build on.

2. Call it as you see it

As you witness honor in those you are leading call it out. Tell them what you saw. People often don’t see growth in themselves. Pointing out when they acted with honor helps them to reflect to see growth and inspires them to continue on that path. Celebrate what God is doing in them. When the circumstances allow and the person appreciates public praise look for opportunities to do so. 

3. Link to the heart of the matter

Small steps in the right direction become great strides when you describe the concrete behavior and then link it to a principle. “When you welcomed that new couple and invited them to sit with you, I saw you reflecting God’s love to them.” Simple affirmations like this will result in repeated behavior. (I enjoyed meeting them…I can do that again!) They will get expanded on. (What else can I do to help people feel God’s love?) And—over time—they will soak into a person’s identity. (I am a welcoming person to be around. I help others connect with God.)  

The power of affirmation

So 1) notice the behavior, 2) describe the behavior, 3) link it to the value or principle it illustrates. 

When you identify a concrete behavior, it not only makes it easier for the person to replicate, but it also affirms in people that this isn’t just false flattery (good job!). Even when things aren’t going perfectly, you can use this same principle: “I noticed what you did here even when you came up against that blockage. You brainstormed and came up with another approach. That really shows the value of perseverance and not quitting. Those qualities will serve you well in life.” 

See how that example illustrates noticing, identifying a behavior, connecting it to a principle, and then making an initial connection to the person’s identity? How much different is this than our usual approach of: do this, don’t do that, improve this area, stop doing that, work on this, etc. 

I don’t think we fully appreciate the power of affirmation. It’s especially important in younger people and in newer leaders. It becomes part of their identity formation. I am like this. I can do this. I’ll do it more. 

Here’s one more example: this time of a church business administrator. I told him, “I really appreciate how you know the rules inside and out—what can be done and what can’t be done—that’s important. But even more so, I love how you are gracious about it. If someone wants to accomplish something, you don’t just tell them know. You help them find a way to get to a similar place or you highlight which rules would need to be changed in order to do that. It gives people such a sense of freedom and partnership rather than considering the financial rules as something that gets in the way of their ministry. That adds really significant value to our team. You’re not a bean-counter, you’re a bean-grower.” 

This kind of affirmation, once modeled, will be imitated. It will spread and bear fruit. It will create a culture of appreciation and honor… not one based on achievement, but one based on character and commitment. 

Here’s a suggested assignment: At the end of your next gathering, whether it’s a staff meeting, a board meeting, a cohort group, a community group, whatever—set aside some time at the end to affirm one another. Move it beyond generalities to specific behaviors and then to the deeper principles affirmed by those behaviors. You’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes.


The Discipleship Difference*- Linear discipleship programs will always fizzle out. Why? Because people don’t start from the same place or grow on schedule. God meets each of us where we are at and it is possible for your discipleship system to do so too. The Discipleship Difference lays out an intentional, holistic, and relational approach to discipleship that is individualized to meet each person wherever they are and help them take their next best step toward God.

Guide for Discipling*- This workbook works like a choose-your-own-adventure bible study. Start by reading the first two chapters, Experiencing God and Spiritual Responsiveness, then chose the area where you feel God wants you to grow, New and seasoned believers alike will be encouraged and spurred toward new growth. Also available for immediate licensed download HERE.

*Amazon Affiliate links

Photo by Eean Chen on Unsplash