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Last week, I entered a time of rest. My family and I rented a cabin in the Ozark Mountains, and we just got away for a few days. It was an awesome time spent with my wife and daughter, but it was also a sweet time of peace for me.

I decided before leaving for the trip that I would not be taking my computer or anything work related. I limited the use of my phone to a few minutes in the morning and a few minutes at night. Our daughter is 1 ½ and needs naps, so we worked naptime into the schedule for everyone each day.  I spent the days resting, connecting with my family, and just having a good time.

I’ve been guilty of stuffing vacations so full of activities that you need a day to recover from the vacation! This time was different. We shared some great family time, but it was much more about taking a moment to catch up and breathe. I’m so thankful that my wife got to have that time, and I feel blessed and refreshed after our trip.

I hope that you can take a moment in this season to get away and rest.

5 Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
   my hope comes from him.
6 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
   he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
7 My salvation and my honor depend on God;
   he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
8 Trust in him at all times, you people;
   pour out your hearts to him,
   for God is our refuge.  

Psalm 62

 

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?

If you ask any size group of preteens if they have experienced or witnessed bullying, the vast majority of them would answer, “Yes!” In fact, research suggests that 97% of middle school students have personally experienced a form of bullying. These students suffer visible and invisible effects from these experiences. Whether it is cyber-bullying, physical bullying, or verbal/emotional bullying, those that work with preteens need to be helping them deal with this tough topic. On any given day, over 160,000 kids will stay home from school because of fear and anxiety caused by bullying. It’s heartbreaking to think of the damages.

October is Bully Prevention Awareness Month

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Today is Blue Shirt Day

Students across the nation will be wearing blue shirts and blue wristbands in support of a movement to end bullying in their schools.  Principals and teachers have worked hard to increase awareness of bullying and to prevent its occurrence in their schools. Those who work with preteens in the church should also be addressing this subject. Preteens need to experience the truth of God’s Word and what it says about our relationships with others.

Here are some great resources for talking with preteens about bullying:

  • Bullying—Taking Down Goliath—Preteenministry.net has great resources for teaching and discipling preteens.  If you’re a ministry leader, check out this four-week series on bullying.