Day-to-day living grinds you down. No matter who you are, no matter what you do, our work is a grind.
You used to daydream about the day when you’d finally be in ministry or on the mission field. In this fantasy, work was different. Now you know just how wrong you were. When you speak to people about your mission or ministry, you express thankfulness that comes from a well of true gratitude, but it takes work to tap the tender regions of your heart where gratefulness dwells. You need help getting there. We all do.
Something we don’t have to work at is being critical and negative. This comes naturally. For this reason, in a recent podcast, Jeff Jackson talked about how necessary it is for people from the home church to reach out to the missionaries they have on the field. While we all get down and need encouragement, here at home we have the church community we’re tapped into that picks us up back up. Missionaries said goodbye to the weekly support system we all are accustomed to and nothing has replaced it. When they first get to the field, they have nobody to pick them up. Developing new healthy, Christian peer-to-peer or mentor-to-peer can take years. The bottom-line is they need to hear from you. They need your help to help them lift their eyes off of their circumstances and onto God.
Be a listener
Encouragers are interactive listeners. Listening is the ingredient often left out of one’s strategy to be an encourager because the encourager thinks he has to do all the talking. The encourager needs to be a listener and a summarizer. Here are five key things the encourager wants to listen for and summarize back to the missionary:
- Accomplishments. The right words revitalize and become a power source for overcoming current and future obstacles.
- Hope. When someone is down, he withdraws from others. This makes the situation even more impossible or depressing. Hope gives what is needed to get back into action around people and the project. This is where hope is found and realized.
- Perspective. As you make yourself available to listen, the missionary, as he hears himself articulate his problems begins to realize – when he hears them out loud – problems are smaller once he gets them out of his head.
- Confidence. Words have power; they can be used to strengthen and build confidence. This is something we take for granted. When encouragement flows from us to others, they’re energized. This is good for everybody.
- Success. Encouragement helps a person push through and complete the task. Nothing builds a person up like being able to cross something off their “DO” list. Nothing feels better than “DONE.”
Encouragement is different than motivation. You can motivate anyone. Often people use extremely negative tactics to get people motivated. Guilt, criticism, abuse are used to motivate people especially if you want something from people. Encouragement means you want something FOR somebody rather than FROM them.
You can only encourage people you actually believe in.
Encouragement requires specificity and a willingness to offer guidance. Encouragement void of guidance isn’t encouragement at all. Here’s how guidance works practically:
- » Praise the actual
- » Acknowledge potential
- » Challenge specifically
This require relationship. To praise, acknowledge potential, challenge with specificity, you have to be in a relationship where you know or are getting to know the person you’re speaking with. You’re interacting through listening and responding.
It feels good
Is it about a pat on the back? The answer is “yes” if that’s the kind of feedback that the situation warrants. The operative word here is “feedback.”
Encouragement takes intentionality. Like playing a musical instrument or competitive sport, excellence takes practice. Some people are naturally better at encouragement than others, but those who are best at it are the ones who practice regularly. They intentionally set time aside to hone this skill.
Encouragement feels good. It feels good for the person giving encouragement and it feels good for the recipient of the encouragement. Doing good makes everyone feel good.
Photo by Daniel Fazio on Unsplash