Archives For encouragement

I was reminded this week of the power that a father carries in the life of a son. From love to leadership, the father sets the example for manhood. Boys need their fathers. At the same time, there are so many young men that have absent fathers, and they need a strong male to mentor and guide them. We all need someone to love us and guide us. We all need an example of manhood.

In 1992, Derek Redmond was a favorite in the 400 meters at the Barcelona Olympics. About 150 meters into the race, he tore his hamstring. Derek collapsed in the middle of the track. Determined to finish the race, he stumbled forward. His dad broke through security and came to walk alongside his son. They crossed the finish line together. This was a global expression of what it means for a father to love and guide his son.

Sooner or later, everyone suffers a period where they lack encouragement or motivation. It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, there will be times when you feel under-appreciated or depressed. These times could be related to your performance, your relationships with those around you, or just to the crummy weather outside your office window!  No matter what the cause, these periods are difficult to deal with unless you have prepared for them ahead of time.  When I face these times, I turn to Scripture and prayer so that I can be reminded of God’s promises. But that’s not all I do. I also turn to what I call my “happy file.”

When I started in ministry 9 years ago, a received great advice from my first boss. He instructed me to create a “happy file” to hold notes, cards, emails, or gifts that were encouraging to me in my ministry efforts. The tendency is to read these items, fill up on the encouragement, and then toss them away.  

After creating a “happy file”, I realized that encouragement is a non-perishable item.

When I face a discouraging moment or a rough season in ministry, I will always go to my “happy file” to be reminded of the things I’ve seen God do in and through me. It may not immediately or completely remedy the funk, but it ALWAYS helps.

Here are some examples of things to put in your “happy file”:

  • Encouraging cards from others
  • Pictures, cards or gifts from your kids or other children
  • Copies of encouraging emails from your co-workers or boss
  • Pictures of people who have influenced you or made a difference in your career
  • Pictures of people who have been encouraged or influenced by your work
  • Quotations, Scripture verses, or lyrics that have spoken to you in other times of need

What will be the first thing you put in your happy file?

This past weekend, my wife, Dana, and I decided it was time to do some much-needed landscaping at our new house. There are a lot of hobbies that I enjoy, but gardening is just not one of them. The main reason I don’t enjoy it is because I really don’t know what I’m doing. In the past, we’ve paid hundreds of dollars for plants only to watch them die due to my lack of horticulture knowledge. But this time was different because I had a mentor.

My father-in-law loves gardening and he’s extremely good at it. He just happened to be in town this weekend, so he came over to help with the task.  I quickly learned that having a mentor is a powerful advantage that transforms the entire experience.

Here is what I learned from the landscaping project:

You need a mentor to increase your passion
As the day went by, my disgust for gardening faded because of my father-in-law’s contagious passion.  He was teaching me about the process that he really loved, and pretty soon I was hooked. I realized passion exponentially increases when you’re exposed to a mentor who is passionate.

You need a mentor to increase your knowledge
One of the major reasons that I was beginning to enjoy the landscape project was because I felt like I finally understand what I was doing.  I wasn’t simply following instructions that came with the plan. I was watching and learning as he explained the best way to prepare the soil and care for the plant.  My knowledge was increasing because he was showing me how to get it done.

You need a mentor to increase your work
The landscape project only included the small flower bed in front of the house. I was too scared to tackle the larger beds that were on both sides of the house.  I was also too scared to touch the existing plants and shrubs that had become overgrown. So what did we get done? All of it! We pruned the shrubs, pulled out the weeds, and spruced up all three flower beds. And we did it in record time! What seemed daunting and impossible to me became a fairly easy project because I had leadership and encouragement from a mentor. We’re able to get so much more done when we have a mentor that is leading us and cheering for us!

As a ministry leader, you need a mentor. We all have blind spots. We all go through seasons of stagnation. We need a mentor to lead and encourage us to move forward. 

By the way, HUGE shout out of thanks to my father-in-law, Gary, for all the landscape help. We now have a much more beautiful yard thanks to him. More importantly, I feel like I have a lot more horticulture knowledge!

As I was walking through the halls of church this morning putting the finishing touches on Sunday’s setup, I ran into a mom who brightened my day.  It was a very brief encounter, but what she said was full of encouragement. As I walked away with wind in my sails, I thought about the power of encouragement. 

Here are a few ideas for encouraging others:

Catch them in the Act
Everyone likes their work to be noticed.  A toddler will bring you a piece of paper that looks like a crayon box threw up on it, just to say “Look what I did!” It’s in our DNA to be recognized for what we do.  If you want to encourage others, try to catch them in the act of doing something well.

Praise Them in Front of Others
The mom that spoke to me this morning shared how she was also talking with another mom…about me!  That’s not always a good thing, but this time it was.  It really encouraged me that they both thought enough of my actions to have it be a topic of conversation.  If you want to encourage others, hold them up as an example of excellence in front of their peers.  This will breed more excitement and determination in everyone because they see that you value their contribution. 

Encouragement002

Use Brief Comments
I typically think of encouragement as being a card, an email, or a gift.  The reality is that personally delivering a few encouraging words is much more effective. The conversation I had was only 1 to 2 minutes long, but her words have given me energy for the day.  It even prompted this post!  If you want to encourage others, take a moment to speak words of encouragement to them.  Gifts and awards are great, but don’t forget the power of your words.

 Use Their Language
This is a tough one because it requires you to really get to know the person.  Our staff has been learning about the differences in personality and how that affects communication.  What we’ve learned is that each person receives encouragement differently.  For example, if you told me that you were proud of how I kept a smile as I stacked boxes, I would not be very encouraged. I would thank you for your comment, but inside I would be thinking, “I stacked 482 boxes and all you saw was a smile??”  This is because my personality type places a high emphasis on dedication and achievement, not so much on feelings or sensory.  A better word of encouragement for me would be, “Thank you for all your help. I saw how many boxes you stacked, and I just want you to know that it means a lot to me.  You worked very hard, and I appreciate that.”  Those words would be like manna from Heaven for me!  The point is, if you want to encourage others, be observant and find out what really motivates them.  Everyone has a root motivator that leads them to do whatever it is that they do.  If you can find that root and speak specific encouragement to it, then your words will always resonate in the heart of the person.

How can you encourage others today?