By Sarah Mae Ratliff
I’m often encouraged by the words my minister speaks and by the ministries of the church I attend. I know our ministry leaders take the time to listen to God and share God’s heart with the congregation. God has impressed upon me that if there is good to be said to others, including ministry leaders, I need to take the time to let them know. If I don’t have the time to speak to our leaders directly, I try to contact them by e-mail, Facebook, or a handwritten note to express my gratitude.
Giving Simple Gifts
What can we do to encourage our ministry leaders? In addition to verbal expressions of gratitude, why not surprise your minister with a gift or an act of kindness?
Sometimes it’s hard to know what to give a minister, but we can often discover what our ministers like through their sermons, lessons, illustrations, and in casual conversations. Does your minister enjoy coffee? You could stop by a coffee shop before service and have a cup waiting on his desk when he arrives along with a note thanking him for all he does. Did the children’s director mention that she loves swimming with her family? You could give her and her family tickets to a waterpark.
Another way to encourage your leaders is to be attentive and involved in worship. When you come to church prepared to listen and hear from God, you show your ministry leaders that you appreciate them. When you make sure you go to bed early the night before church, take notes during the sermon, and stay attentive, you show your minister that you value what God has put on his heart to share with the congregation. When you arrive early to volunteer in children’s church, you let the children’s minister know you appreciate him.
Look for opportunities to help. Does one of the ministers normally stay late to lock the building? You might volunteer to lock the building once a month for him so he can get home and rest a few minutes early. Does the youth group leader normally come in early to get the teen room ready? Thank the leader for investing his time in the young people of the church and volunteer to help prepare the room for the teens. Is there a leaky faucet or some other repair need in the building? Volunteer to come in during the week to make the needed repairs.
Respecting Their Time
Ministers are often busy preparing sermons, counseling, leading small groups, preparing facilities, visiting sick church members, and performing ceremonies. If you have a need that isn’t urgent, call ahead to schedule a meeting with him. If you know the minister has a scheduled day off, try your best to honor his time away by waiting to call him during work hours to discuss church-related business.
Has a ministry leader made an impact on your life? Have you noticed the impact he has made on others within the church or your community? Don’t keep your good thoughts to yourself. Share your observations with other ministry leaders and elders in the church.
On the other hand, some things are better kept to yourself. There will be times in your life when you do not agree with the policies that are put in place or the decisions that are made at your church. Instead of complaining to others in the church, go to the leader and ask him to explain the reasons behind the policy or decision. Ask God to help you be submissive to your leaders’ authority. If you still have a concern about the policy, share your concerns with a ministry leader. Such behavior is an encouragement to your ministers.
Encouraging Their Families
Sometimes we forget that ministry leaders and their families are people, too. They have chosen to respond to God’s calling in such a way that their vocation involves ministering to and serving others. One way we can encourage them is to encourage their families. We need to make sure we are getting to know our ministers and their families in order to support them.
Ask about your minister’s hobbies and interests. If your minister has a favorite professional sports team, perhaps you can organize an outing to a game. Just mentioning an article you’ve read recently related to his or her interests shows your ministry leader that you care about him as a person.
Another way to encourage your ministry leaders is by encouraging their mates and children. Take time to discover their interests. Make sure your ministry leader’s spouse is able to attend church events and classes without always having to lead or serve in some official capacity. Don’t expect perfection from your minister’s family, but rather encourage them in their walk with the Lord.
Children need other adults to speak love and truth into their lives. You can be an encouragement to your minister and his family by getting to know his kids. Attend his children’s music recitals or ball games to show the children that they matter to you. Offer to take his children to a miniature golf course or to see a movie. You could act as a grandparent, aunt, or uncle to his children so they know you care about them and the sacrifices they have made as a family.
Catching the Vision
Do you understand the vision and values of your church? If you don’t, make it a priority to do so. Many churches have classes that explain the church’s vision. If such a class is being offered, be sure to sign up for it. If your church doesn’t have a class, then ask to take your minister to lunch so he can share the vision of the church with you.
When you partner with your ministers to achieve the goals of the church, you are encouraging them in their ministries. Pray about how you can use your gifts to serve in the church. Brainstorm with other members of the congregation about ways you can work together to make the vision come to life in your congregation and your community.
If you can think of a ministry your church doesn’t provide that fits the vision of the church, offer to lead the ministry. If you’re aware of a ministry that seems to be struggling, volunteer! Express your personal appreciation to other church members who are using their talents in service and let them know they are making a difference in your church and in God’s kingdom.
Praying for Them
Perhaps the most important way we can encourage our ministry leaders is to pray daily for them. Schedule a specific date and time to pray for each of the ministers in your church. Ask God to show you his heart for your leaders and ask him to bless your leaders and fulfill his purposes both for them and for your church. Pray that God will continue to show you how to encourage your ministers and ministry leaders throughout the year.
There are many practical ways to encourage your ministers and ministry leaders. Express your gratitude to the ministry staff through words and acts of appreciation. Build relationships with the ministry staff and their families in order to show them support. Encourage your leaders by sharing in the vision and values of your church. Pray for the ministry staff on a daily basis. Make the commitment to encourage your ministry leaders throughout the year.
Sarah Mae Ratliff is a freelance writer in Lancaster, Ohio.