Essential Practices of the Small Group Leader #7: Be an Encourager

“A pat on the back, though only a few vertebrae removed form a kick in the pants, is miles ahead in results.” – Howard Hendricks.

Have you ever been discouraged? I have. Most likely, you have too. Maybe you were doused by the “cold-water committee,” or received harsh criticism for something you did or did not do. Maybe life just came along and gave you a swift kick in the shins. Now, consider your small group – chances are, that some or all of them have faced something discouraging recently:

– job stress or job loss
– financial worries
– health concerns
– spiritual doubts
– struggles with relationships
– fear of the future
– guilt over poor decisions
insert source of discouragement

As small-group leaders / Sunday School teachers, we need to be encouragers to the people in our groups. Unfortunately, some of those same people fear that they will receive more discouragement by attending church or a small group. Hopefully, that’s a false impression but, as the saying goes, perception is 99% of reality. Our job is cut out for us to overcome that perception and become effective encouragers.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

The Apostle Paul called on the Thessalonian church to be encouragers (and encouraged them for doing so). The Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines encouragement as:to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope :hearten <she was encouraged to continue by her early success> b: to attempt to persuade : urge  <they encouraged him to go back to school>2: to spur on : stimulate <warm weather encourages plant growth>3: to give help or patronage to :foster.”

Did you catch those key words? inspire . . . courage . . . spirit . . . hope . . . persuade . . . urge . . . spur on . . . stimulate . . . give help . . . foster . . . Encouragement involves action on the part of the encourager. Encouragement may come through our words but often it will come through our deeds. It’s not enough to simply say, “I’ll pray for you,” though that is always a good thing to do. Sometimes encouragement comes through the time we spend with a friend, the sweat we break in helping with a task, or the tears we shed grieving with a friend. There is a sense where encouragement involves a divine stubborness – a willingness to stick with a friend when no one else will. That’s part of our job. In fact, it is one of the most important responsibilities of a small-group leader.

There’s a side benefit for the encourager. If you have been feeling discouraged yourself, you will find that encouraging others will lift your own spirit and give you a greater sense of perspective. As you help and encourage others, it takes your focus off of your own concerns.

Our groups give us a great vehicle for encouragement. Hopefully your small group is a place where people feel free to share their burdens and bear one another’s burdens. If people cannot find hope, help and encouragement within the family of faith, then where? As the leader, it is your job to set the tone and example.

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25

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Explore posts in the same categories: Encouragement, Fellowship, Ministry

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