By Byron Williams
“I’m really glad you’re here!” As I began a new ministry in Southern Indiana recently, I’ve heard this phrase several times. Like all job changes, ministry changes are fraught with moments of doubt and questioning and I’m as susceptible to this as anyone. But this one phrase, “I’m glad you’re here,” seems to have planted a seed of affirmation in my heart. Perhaps it’s the way it communicates that people are genuinely happy to have me around. Proverbs says, “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up” (12:25). Words of affirmation and acceptance have that effect.
Unfortunately, as a ministry progresses, encouragement can decrease at times when it may be needed most. So what can you do or say to encourage your church staff? As Dr. Gary Chapman has pointed out, love speaks several languages. A few of these may provide a template to follow.
Be Specific When Saying Thanks
As you think through how you might use your words to encourage your ministry staff, let them know how their actions impacted you specifically and personally. Rather than simply saying “Good sermon!” each week, let your preaching minister know why his message was helpful to you. Did it clarify something that was confusing? What new thing did you learn? Did you receive some wisdom you needed for a decision? Were you reminded that you are not alone in your struggles? Whatever the reason, let your preacher know specifically how his words touched your life.
Share the Love
Don’t forget your non-preaching staff. They also need to hear, “I’m glad you’re here.” Not every ministry staff member is visible on Sunday mornings. Many associate roles and support staff work hard each week to plan, organize, and encourage volunteers. Such work does not lend itself to moments of encouragement. But they need it too. A simple “Thank you for organizing this” or “Your patient presence with my kids is paying off” can remind your staff that their work is meaningful. A card, e-mail, or text during the week can often provide a much needed boost.
Another way to encourage your ministry staff is through the love language of gifts. When I first arrived at Ellettsville Christian Church I found a gift basket on my desk filled with items related to the area. Among these were shirts featuring the name of the local high school and gift certificates to local establishments. Not only did this thoughtful gift say, “We’re glad you’re here,” it taught me about the larger “here” of our community. Such gifts do not need to be expensive and they can be more meaningful when they fit the staff’s interests or needs; like the large bottle of hand sanitizer that was included in my gift basket.
Give by Serving
Another form of encouragement we experienced came in the form of service. Teens and adults showed up to unload our moving truck. Twice. Small groups came over to help us get our house ready to move into. This sacrifice of time and effort said, “We’re glad you’re here.”
Fortunately, you don’t have to limit your help to moving furniture. If you have a minister on staff with a young family, why not offer to watch his kids so he and his wife can go on a date night? Is your youth minister away at camp, CIY, or another church related event? Has your senior minister had a full week with multiple funerals followed by a wedding? Perhaps you could mow his lawn.
Whether with words, gifts, or deeds, let your encouragement be specific to the need. Don’t just consider what you would want or need. Think about their situation, pray for insight and creativity, then act with a cheerful heart, because your encouragement will provide just that as you remind them that you’re glad they’re here.
Byron Williams recently became the senior minister of Ellettsville Christian Church in Ellettsville, Indiana.