What is encouragement and how can one provide this as leaders in their community? The word itself means: “giving someone confidence and courage to do something.” However, for the believing community, that courage must come from somewhere other than oneself. Proper encouragement, from the biblical perspective, is trusting in God and relying on the Holy Spirit to be bolder in living out their faith in the community, the family, or the workplace. I would like to recommend some useful ideas on how to better encourage your team, coworkers, or community.
On a personal note, I find highly stressful situations potentially encouraging. Typically, leaders tend to thrive in situations where most of the decision-making takes place. This is where effective leadership should feel most encouraged, and not just because of the decision-making process. It is not how many decisions one is capable of making but making the important ones at the right time; “the least effective decision-makers are the ones who constantly make decisions. The effective ones make very few.” We see this played out in Congress all the time; it seems as if they know how to accomplish nothing but decision making – too bad most of those decisions suck for the rest of society.
When the stress or pressure is on, the best leaders are encouraged to produce and this often creates some sort of conflict, which is often discouraging. Conflict, to the follower of Christ, should not be disheartening but reassuring. It is in times of great conflict that my reliance on God is strongest. Ken Sande writes: “Conflict is one of the many tools that God will use to help you develop a more Christ-like character. To begin with, He may use conflict to remind you of your weaknesses and to encourage you to depend more on him (2 Cor. 12:7–10). The more you rely on His grace, wisdom, and power, the more you will be imitating the Lord Jesus (Luke 22:41–44).” This might seem is odd to most secular people who are fearful or find highly stressful situations discouraging but to the illuminated, we find His great strength in our profound weakness.
It is complex but the correct way to view problematic situations as an opportunity to be encouraged by our relationship with Jesus Christ. Our weakness is His strength; “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). We should look upon our weakness as encouragement in Christ, that strengthens us. This should be the model for how we encourage others through difficult times.
It is advisable to invest a large portion of the encouragement process in people during the review and training stages of engagement. Here, it can have the greatest impact on their performance as well as point them in the right direction that is best suited to their spiritual gifts.
First of all, training is vital to encouragement. Leith Anderson writes in response to volunteerism in the Church: “when challenged to be engaged in doing ministry, the laity is responding with enthusiasm and effectiveness if the institutional environment is supportive if the appropriate training experiences are offered, and if that particular challenge matches the passions, the gifts, and the skills of that particular volunteer.” Proper research and development invested in the individual is encouragement unto itself. It shows the person he/she is important and needed. It gives them self-worth and self-esteem. It shows them the organizations value their input.
Secondly, once the training is established, the review process shows the volunteer or staffer his/her potential for improvement. Here is where positive or negative re-enforcement can be encouraging. Even if the review shows a decline, this can be a pivotal point where direction is needed. Knowing that you are heading in the wrong direction and given the ability to turn it around is encouraging, even though the pretense might be negative. Once again, I go back to the power of weakness and how God intended this for our lives. Knowing our weakness is a logistically a strength if wielded properly.
I had to rethink my team-building motivation. In the past, I have built good teams through competition. By building walls between teams/individuals and pitting them against each other, I allowed them to strive and excel. Make no mistake, the fear of competition, or dare I say, termination, has effective production power; it also is extremely corrosive to ethics and morality. This method was fairly successful for me in the private sector; however, this is not the best way to tackle situations from a holistic perspective. It pushes out others and focuses on the few. In some cases, it causes even the leaders to not depend on each other but only those who can perform. In ministerial settings, this lacks compassion and love for all those who participate.
The best method is dependence on God and fellowship; “you encourage your teams to depend on each other. You discourage individuals from becoming territorial. You erase the hard lines that exist between departments.” This promotes unity and togetherness. As we are many parts, we are one Church, one body (1 Corinthians 12).
There is a great need for encouragement in faith-based communities. I postulate that a good and sound theological base for encouragement is necessary for instilling the best motivation for those people that you lead or need to lead others. True encouragement comes from our belief that Christ is needed to live out our lives with success. This should be at the root of our motives. We need to encourage others to seek the Lord in completing the tasks that are set before us.
Anderson, Leith. Leadership That Works: Hope and Direction for Church and Parachurch Leaders in Today’s Complex World. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2000.
Drucker, Peter Ferdinand, and Frances Hesselbein. Managing the Non-Profit Organization: Practices and Principles. New York: Harper, 2010.
Manser, Martin H. Zondervan Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999.
Sande, Ken. The Peacemaker: a Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004.
Stanley, Andy, Reggie Joiner, and Lane Jones. 7 Practices of Effective Ministry. Sisters, Or.: Multnomah Publishers, 2004.
 Martin H. Manser, Zondervan Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (Grand Rapids, MI: ZondervanPublishingHouse, 1999).
 Peter F. Drucker, Managing the Non-Profit Organization: Principles and Practices (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010).
 Ken Sande, The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, Third Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), 37.
 Leith Anderson, Leadership That Works: Hope and Direction for Church and Parachurch Leaders in Today’s Complex World (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1999), 167.