Everyone likes a compliment. The gift of encouragement is one of the most powerful gifts you have to offer as a teacher and small group leader. One of the reasons that purposeful and thoughtful encouragement is so powerful in people’s lives is because so few people are thoughtful and intentional encouragers. I have found that when I plan to be an encouragement to someone, and then follow through with them, the impact is surprising. Most people look surprised, some play it off (while smiling from ear to ear), others simply take a deep breath and say thank you.
Think back to the last person who spoke intentional words of encouragement to you. Who was it? What did they say? How long ago was it? The answers to these questions will reinforce the need for encouragement in people’s lives.
When we identify traits in people’s lives that reflect growth and spiritual maturity, we reinforce the great things that God is doing in their lives. We become affirmers of the Holy Spirit’s fingerprints on people’s hearts.
I recently read an article called, “The Anatomy of Encouragement”. Here is an excerpt that I found helpful on the subject:
Perhaps the key to putting a punch to our praise is looking at the anatomy of effective encouragement. While there is much more to it, here are three simple ingredients to get you started:
Sincere: Before speaking words of encouragement, check your motives and make sure you’re doing it to lift up the other individual, not to gain something for yourself. Solomon warns us in Proverbs 26:28, “A flattering mouth works ruin.” The Hebrew word for “ruin” comes from a root word meaning “to push, drive away or cast down.” If we’re not careful, insincere words can have an opposite effect we desire, pushing people away rather than building them up. I was having lunch with a young man one day who continued to sing my praises throughout the whole hour. While I’m always up for a dose of encouragement, I found it strange because he had never met me. His words were pleasant, yet I found myself pushed away from him rather than drawn to him. Encouragement is always best served with a sprit of sincerity.
Specific: If you want your words of praise to have more punch, then be specific with your encouragement. Notice the specifics of what people do well, and consider how it impacted you personally. Performance is good for a reason, and if we look close enough we can find little nuances that made it special. Many evenings Cindy and I watch The Food Network, and I’m always fascinated at how much detailed feedback the judges give about the look, taste and flavors of each dish. They’re able to praise or critique each chef with great detail because they’ve acquired a sensitive palate that enables them to taste flavors the average person doesn’t notice. In the same way, we must look for and praise the specific detail of an individual’s work. That takes encouragement to a very deep and meaningful level. So instead of saying, “Hey, you did a good job.” You can say, “When you led the small-group discussion tonight, you really asked insightful questions that challenged my thinking in new ways. You have a real gift for making people think. I appreciate you using that gift to add value to my spiritual walk.” Specific encouragement is meaningful encouragement.
Strength Focused: God has gifted each of us in very specific ways. Each day we use and develop those strengths. Over time, as those strengths develop, they become obvious to others. Paul had been around young Timothy so much that he become very familiar with his strengths. And then, in a very crucial time in Timothy’s ministry, Paul told him, “Fan into flame the gifts God has given you.” By giving people encouragement centered on their particular strength, we are in essence helping them fan the flame of their strengths. Giving someone sincere, specific encouragement that is focused on his unique strengths helps him learn something new about himself and deepens his wisdom about using that particular strength. I’ve always said encouragement is one of the most overlooked leadership development tools available to us.
Encouragement is one of those small investments we can make daily that will bring a huge return. Solomon observed, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Prov. 25:11). The right word spoken the right way at the right time can impact lives in ways we may never know. So what are you waiting on? Give an intentional word of encouragement today!
I hope this article…encourages…you to use this powerful gift frequently and intentionally. It is an opportunity that every single one of us can take advantage of in the lives of our people.
Once again, let me share these important announcements with you.
*Remember that we are having a high attendance Sunday on November 4. This is the Sunday immediately following our big Trunk or Treat/Fall Festival Outreach. We will be passing out invitations at that event to SS and worship, but go ahead and be talking it up in your classes.
*The theme will be “Whooo’s looking for you in Sunday School? We are!” I have been passing out 700 owl cut outs for you to use as commitment card decorations. Our attendance goal for the day is….you guessed it…700! Directors will be discussing individual class goals with teachers. If you haven’t gotten your owls yet they are in your box in the SS office.
*Remember as you contact those who haven’t been recently to invite them in the context of, “We miss you and this will be a great day to get reconnected with the group!”, and not “We are having high attendance Sunday and we need you to show up so our number is high.” This is an opportunity to communicate VALUE to people!
*We are doing well with Fall Festival sign ups, but we still need help with certain areas. Encourage participation from everyone! Remember to invite friends and neighbors! We Now have 30 people signed up for the Trunk or Treat. If you are not at a place in life where you have small kids to get ready and walk through the event, this is a GREAT opportunity for you to serve and bless young families who do!
Sunday School is the church Organized to Serve. The Fall Festival is a chance to put our values into action for the Kingdom!
Always feel free to share your thoughts in the comments field below or on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/dwalker96sc