Let’s Learn How to Encourage Each Other—TODAY!

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By Brian Sharpe, Senior Associate Pastor

“But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” – Hebrews 3:13

Why didn’t I have to take a class before becoming a parent—or even a husband? I took classes to be a leader in the Church, but not as many I probably should have. Obviously, I didn’t take a class on being a son or friend—I could probably use schooling on how to be a better friend. As I sit in on trainings, I keep walking away with the thought, “Why didn’t I know this already?”

A lot of times as a leader, parent, friend, and husband, we do what was modeled to us. The problem is that our models all have flaws. My kids have a flawed model whose growth is stunted by my own insecurity, naivety, and pride. At this point, I am okay with the fact that I am a flawed leader, parent, husband, son, and friend. But I do have a desire to be better.

This week I was in Austin, Texas, for a Leadership Pipeline cohort. This was the second of three cohort classes on creating a leadership pipeline within a church. I love this idea. I love the thought of having trained leaders who are accomplishing the ministry God has given us as a church. Yet the thing that stood out to me the most from this class was not the system and tools we were taught, but something the facilitator said.

Let me set the stage. One of the tools we were working on creating was a one-hour training that we could bring back to our churches. The facilitator created a training and had us work on it days before the class. He then modeled what the training looked like, using a couple of our classmates. The training was on “encouraging the soul of a person.”

During the training, the facilitator made a comment that we as parents need to not encourage our kids to perform, but to encourage them in who they are. I am not sure I heard much else after that. It really made me consider how I encourage my kids as a parent. This also can be as a leader, husband, son, and friend. Encouragement needs to be sincere, specific, and strengths-focused. Here are some excerpts from our homework, written by our facilitator, Mac Lake.

Sincerity: 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. In Proverbs 26:28, Solomon warns us, “a flattering mouth works ruin.” The Hebrew word for ruin comes from a root word meaning, “to push, drive away, or cast down.” Encouragement is always best served with a spirit of sincerity.

Specificity: 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 what they did impacted you personally. If you look closely enough, you can find little nuances that made something special. We must look for and praise the specific detail of an individual’s work. That kind of specificity 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.

Strengths-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 and mature, they become obvious to others. The Apostle Paul had been around young Timothy so much that he became very familiar with his apprentice’s 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 centering our encouragement on someone’s strengths, we are, in essence, helping them to fan the flame of their strengths. Giving someone sincere, specific encouragement that’s focused on their unique strengths helps them learn something new about themselves and deepens their wisdom and insights for using that particular strength.

Elim’s community group leaders should be shining stars when it comes to encouraging others. This Saturday evening, therefore, we are going to huddle together and go through the same training module that Mac took us through at the Leadership Pipeline meetings in Texas this week. We encourage every community group leader to attend, 7 p.m. at Larry and Darlene Short’s home. You won’t want to miss it!

Let’s all become expert encouragers, learning how to truly exhort one another “while it is still called ‘today.’”

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Resourcing Community Groups and Group Leaders at Elim

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By Larry Short, Community Ministry Director

This is the third in a series of seven posts on guiding principles for community groups at Elim. To read all seven principles together, please click here.

It probably sounds way “obvious” to make the following observation: those programs that a church (like ours) places a high value upon are those things that church spends its greatest time and energy focusing its resources on.

If you think about it, this becomes quite clear. At Elim, we rightly place a very high priority on what happens in our Sunday morning service—worship, preaching, fellowship, etc.

Can you imagine us saying, “Hey, it’s pretty darned expensive and time-consuming to have professional pastors spend all that time preparing and delivering sermons. So let’s just go without, okay?”

And how about children’s and youth ministry? Elim (obviously) places a high value on the next generation, and rightly so. As a result, we focus a lot of resources and efforts raising up leaders who will help train and care for our children and youth.

Missions? We have a long tradition of faithful support of various critical missions programs. We send out short-term missionaries and have even raised up and helped resource professional missionaries from within our own congregation.

As I’ve thought about community groups here at Elim in light of this reality, I have experienced some conviction that I believe is from the Holy Spirit. In the first part of this seven-part series, I spoke of the value that community groups have in discipling people in this church. In the second post, we discussed how it is God Himself who raises up group leaders and who works in the midst of these groups of believers.

If all this is true, then we should therefore be placing great emphasis on how we resource group leaders and their groups—how we recruit leaders, equip them, and encourage them in the task. This reality forms the commitment behind our third principle for community groups at Elim:

We will prayerfully consider what recruiting, equipping, and encouraging group leaders should look like. But here are some early principles we will seek to live by:

  • “Three Hands” and Leadership Pipeline principles must play a key role in raising up and training new leaders. Group leaders are encouraged to pray about and seek to identify a potential leader or leaders they could mentor. If you would like to become a leader, your first step should be to get connected to an existing group and mentor under its leader.
  • All group leaders should also themselves have identified mentors who can encourage and help equip them. The Community Ministry intends to help connect leaders to mentors.
  • Group leaders also need Barnabases in their lives—other leaders they meet with for encouragement and prayer. This can’t be accomplished without spending time together, which the Community Ministry intends to facilitate. Part of that process will be group leaders sharing their stories, successes, challenges, best practices, and dreams with one another.

If you are unfamiliar with the “Three Hands” model, it basically says that all serious disciples of Jesus need a hand up (to someone who is mentoring them), a hand down (to someone they are mentoring), and a hand across (to co-laborers who can encourage them in the task). You may have also heard this stated as the “Paul, Timothy, and Barnabas” model. The Apostle Paul was a mentor to Timothy and a co-laborer with Barnabas in the task for which God commissioned him.

(Pastor Brian Sharpe has developed a cool “Three Hands” booklet which explains this well, so touch base with him if you’d like to know more.)

Please be praying for our first Community Group leaders’ meeting of 2017, taking place Sunday afternoon, May 7 at our home after worship. If you are a group leader or trainee, a leader mentor, coleader (or other “Barnabas”), you are invited! Hopefully you have already received details by email. (Leaders of men’s and women’s groups here at Elim are also encouraged to attend.)

If you have any questions, please drop me an email. Thank you!

Next in this series: In the most effective community groups, people “live life in proximity.”

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