The Power Of Encouragement

This month, I wanted to focus on volunteers, as they are a crucial part of a successful youth ministry. If you think you can do it on your own then you are limiting the impact that your youth ministry can make.

Let's assume that you have volunteers. You might not call them volunteers. You might call them team, leaders, helpers, assistants, family etc. Whatever you call them, they volunteer their time in the youth ministry. And we need to look after them if we want them around in the long run.

The Bible says to encourage one another and so below are some ideas based on the 5 Love Languages as a framework. If you have never read the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, I recommend it. It will help you in all your relationships.

Sometimes we think that encouragement isn't needed if people were here for the right reason. There is a degree of truth. We shouldn't have to convince people every week to serve. But ministry is draining, and knowing that someone understands your efforts and hard work can make it feel like it was noticed and valuable.

Some people respond to gifts

There are a percentage of people whose primary love language is gifts. They feel most appreciated when people make or buy them something. It doesn't have to be expensive, if it has depth and meaning to them.

At a previous church we had a worship director who was stepping aside from the role. They were staying in the church and on the team, just weren't leading, but they had served in this role for 7 or 8 years. A bunch of flowers and a dinner out seemed cliche and not enough. I remembered a conversation with her about a side project she was working on, staging homes for sale. She had mentioned a conference or expo related to that area. So we did some research. The specific event she mentioned was not around, but we found something related and gifted her access to it. She was greatly appreciative because it spoke to an interest that was unique to her in our church.

So when you find someone who's love language is gifts, find ways to find out their interests and hobbies. Be interested in them beyond their role in youth, and get them meaningful gifts as a way to thank and encourage them that you care.

Some people respond to words of affirmation

These people can feel easier because words can be easy and don't cost money. They should cost us some thought though.

Words are most powerful when they are meaningful. Meaning comes when the encouragement is specific. I remember people thanking me for my role in the youth ministry, knowing that they had no idea how much I had done. If they had said, thank you for the late nights where you planned, prayed and ministered to young people. Or thank you for the miles you have driven to help young people come to youth. Those words would have had more meaning, because they were specific.

Words of affirmation don't have to be spoken face to face. You can find creative ways like a card, or a letter that you actually post in the mail, or an email. They could even be a quick video. Use your imagination.

Some people respond to physical touch

In today's society we have to be cautious. What may be innocent can be misunderstood or misinterpreted. So use wisdom but look for ways where you can encourage your team through physical touch. Be aware and make sure you know your people, because there are some who may feel very uncomfortable with physical touch due to their past.

Some possible ideas:

  • The side hug, where you come up beside and put an arm on the shoulder and maybe give a brief squeeze.
  • The two-handed hand-shake, where you shake their hand and the left hand surrounds the back of the hand
  • A hand on their shoulder
  • A side bump and smile
  • Platonic hug - use with caution

As someone who is less inclined towards physical touch, it not something I am great at, but we can all learn.

Some people respond to quality time

You making time for them, prioritising them, can speak volumes. Again, set some boundaries, but make this a part of your interactions with your team. Whether it is a hang out over coffee, or working on a project together, or a meal, or an activity together. Again, there are many options for this. The key is that if is not your language, not natural to you, put it on your task or priority list and then get it done.

Some people respond to acts of service

Acts of service is doing things for them. An act of service could be a minor as getting them a cup of coffee or a drink of water without them asking, to working on their house with/for them. You could wash their car, you could mow their lawns, you could take a task off them that you know they don't like doing.

There are many ways you can do this, you just need to get to know your people.

 

If you want volunteers and team members who last, then we need to be people who encourage others. Figure out a way this week that you can encourage 1-2 of the leaders around you.