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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?

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. 

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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?

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Ever since I came to Fellowship Bible Church to work with preteens, one of the things I’ve focused on is our strategy for letting go of the bike. If you haven’t heard the phrase “letting go of the bike”, I strongly encourage you to head over to FourFiveSix.org and check it out.

We really want to create environments that unleash preteens to explore faith and put it into practice. We are finding ways to provide the “lab” to accompany the “lecture.” As we’ve experimented, we’ve seen preteens taking ownership of their faith and moving into new levels of discipleship and service. So, how do you let go of the bike? Here are a few things that have helped us take that step

Leave Room for Questions
We have really encouraged our small group mentors to leave room for questions. As they communicate the lesson, we want them to encourage push back and questions from the students. We want preteens to know that the best way to know God more is to ask questions. Just ask Nicodemus… 

Always Ask Questions
Not only do we want to hear their questions, but we also want to hear preteen answers. We’ve made it a habit to include surveys with the lessons. The responses from preteens show us what they really learned and what they are still questioning. The surveys are a great way to evaluate whether our methods are supporting our message. If we want preteens to learn how to pray, did we provide opportunities for them to pray? Check out The Method is the Message.

Provide Practice
For me, taking ownership of faith involved growing through service. We want to provide preteens with opportunities to serve others together. We want small groups to be involved in serving the church and the community. We want to unleash them with what they’ve learned to go make a difference in the world. This month, we’ve encouraged preteens to be involved in two ways: feeding orphans through www.RiceBowls.org and serving as a buddy with the Miracle League of Arkansas. Through different opportunities and experiences, preteens learn to see how God has wired them to serve Him.

As a parent, leader, or church, how are you letting go of the bike?

I love my church and I love my job. Here is just another example of why:

Our ministry team spent the morning studying the results from a study we did called Your Unique Design. The study maps out 6 parts to personality and how they interact with each other. Every individual has all 6 parts, but we also have a foundational part that will dominate our behavior.

After understanding our own makeup, it is amazing to learn how to use the knowledge to better communicate with one another.  For example, I found that the majority of our team members, including my boss, were “Harmonizers,” which meant they operate based on emotions/feelings. I do not primarily operate from that foundation, so the study taught me some great tips on how I can better communicate with them based on our differences. The study states how we react under stress, how we receive and dispense information, and it even gives a guide to the particular daily activities that will energize us.

Great leadership is defined by knowing who it is you’re leading.

Sure, you need to have vision and strategy, but that is all hollow if you don’t know how to effectively communicate it with the people you’re leading. This is why it is critical that we understand the personalities that exist under our leadership.

Knowing the people who follow your leadership is important because…

  • it dictates the way you communicate with them.
  • you can better predict how they will react in stressful settings.
  • you will know how to better handle conflict between individuals based on personality
  • you will know how to encourage them based on their foundational personality
  • you will know how to correct them based on their foundational personality
  • you will hire/recruit the right person for the right job
  • you understand who God has wired them to be as part of the Body

Go check out the Servants by Design Inventory to find out how your team can use this valuable resource!
Later this week, I’ll be sharing how this same study can be used to better understand the kids that you’re raising at home or leading in ministry!