By Cody Collier
God calls us to encourage people! Who are those in the New Year you are encouraging with your presence, actions and spiritual practices to live out their faith and invite others to become disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?
I was recently going through my mail at the Conference office while thinking about all the demands of the day. Between the normal deadlines, expectations, requests, email and goals I have set for the New Year, I wondered how I will get it all done. It’s February. What happened to January? And then I believe that God, understanding what I needed at that moment, answered right on time with a card from Lorraine Sanders who had just retired from the conference office. For eight years she had been a positive voice and affirming witness of God’s goodness who helped me to press on with greater determination. It was a card with a QuickTrip gas card and note that encouraged my soul: “May God continue to bless you to fulfill all that is inspired within you!”
Lorraine is a spirit-filled leader who has awakened the hearts of people all over the conference with the power of her lasting encouragement! As she provided for so many of us the shared prayers and special prayer concerns by email every day, she was a voice of cheer through which we could experience her depth of care and compassion—and reassurance that it’s going to be a good day.
Church leaders today have the unique opportunity to affirm leaders, who by this time of the year may already feel discouraged, devalued, and disillusioned about the church in general because of the lack of encouraging words, and the absence of connectedness and vital resources that enable them to grow and lead as Disciples.
Effective church leaders inspire and motivate each other in order to build momentum in fulfilling wildly Godly important goals; otherwise church leaders lose interest and energy in forming a new generation of leaders.
I remember as a former District Superintendent hearing a new Staff-Parish Relations Committee chair who was trying to deal with some conflict that had occurred: “I wish I had not said yes to this job. I was just given a little book to read and told it’s a committee that only meets to evaluate people at the end of the year.”
And I remember staff members who shared how they left frustrated following a weekly staff meeting because the discussions left people more depressed than encouraged about their ministry together.
I am finding that what hinders momentum, energy, and creativity of leaders in the life of many churches are: the lack of clarity of the mission and vision, the increase of texting rather than building meaningful relationships, poor communication, failure to celebrate where God has been at work, apathy, and burn out. This rather than affirming words and supportive strategies that develop and strengthen the gifts of leaders.
What I have appreciated over the years are encouragers--prayer warriors in the church who have invigorated and enlivened my call with each new day. The Church and world are in desperate need of encouragers who offer courage, honesty, confidence and hope that renew the souls of all who face the many challenges of ministry today.
Great leaders know how to praise others and build them up. They remind leaders of their strengths by affirming what they do well and sharing what they see as their unique gifts for ministry.
Encouragers – exhibit a contagious spirit and positive attitude.
Encouragers – lead with clarity, passion and humor.
Encouragers – pray with and for you in moments of exceeding joy, mistakes, differences and sorrow.
Encouragers – are catalysts for change when you settled for mediocrity.
Encouragers – recognize and affirm the gifts of others. They celebrate others’ victories large and small with a note, a phone call, or meal with the members and team/staff.
Encouragers – inspire and guide you to take responsibility for your own development and well-being rather than fix problems.
Encouragers – are learning leaders who create a learning environment that increases one’s confidence and abilities.
Encouragers - remind us that God is able to do far more than we can think or imagine.
May this be the best year ever for you to experience God’s encouraging Word leading you in all that you do! And may you, in response, become an encourager for all those whose lives you have the opportunity to enrich and transform!