Encourage Sunday School Leaders or Lose Them!

Tuesday 15th January, 2008

I have said it before, but it bear repeating. It is much easier to keep a good Sunday School teacher or worker than it is to discover and train a new one. Good workers deserve recognition, challenge, affirmation, and lots of encouragement. What are you doing to encourage your teachers and workers? Press the Comments button below and share your plans, ideas, and experiences.

In an article entitled How to Authentically Encourage, Matt Branaugh shared six ways to encourage people around you. His ideas are great suggestions for encouraging your teachers and workers. Branaugh's six ways are listed below in all capitals followed by my commentary:

  • ACTIVE LISTENING. Wow, this is a great suggestion. Give yourself by really listening. That is a great gift. It is always encouraging when someone listens to you. Listening shows you care. Look your teachers and workers in the eyes. Give them your full attention. Ask questions out of interest and to understand what they are saying better. Look for what their body and facial language are saying. Listen to the tone. This may take consistent focus and practice, but it will pay dividends. Stop doing other things while you listen--even when you are on the phone! Encourage by listening!
  • SPECIFIC PRAISE. Catch teachers and workers doing something good and call attention to it. Praise them privately. Praise them publically as may be appropriate. Listen to what classmates and other leaders are saying about them. Write down some of the quotes and share them at an Appreciation Banquet or on your Sunday School blog. Be specific. Point out actions that matter. Point out actions that carry out the church and/or Sunday School mission and vision. Point out lives that were touched. Point out goals that were met or exceeded. Point out leadership. While most do not work for the praise, it helps them to feel their work matters. Encourage with specific praise!
  • PERSONAL THANK-YOUS. Specific praise was more verbal, face-to-face praise. Personal thank-yous is more about the power of print. A handwritten note speaks volumes about the time you took to acknowledge the teacher or worker and his/her work. While any thank-you is better than none, a handwritten note is better than a typed letter. And a typed letter is better when personalized. And a typed letter is better than an e-mail. Again, be specific and personalize your comments. Encourage with personal thank-yous!
  • TALK ABOUT THE BIG PICTURE. Help your teachers and workers to recognize how what they do contributes to the big picture. Help them to understand how their work makes a difference. Share with them how it helps to carry out the mission/vision of the church/Sunday School and helps fulfill the Great Commission. Point out how the time spent on the task changes lives and makes a difference. Help them see how their actions help to accomplish important goals. Encourage them by talking about the big picture!
  • FLEXIBILITY. Our teachers and workers tend to strive for more when the stakes and expectations are high. God and the work of His Kingdom deserves our best efforts. But there are just circumstances in life that call for flexibility, for extending a measure of grace. A key worker misses a series of teachers meetings due to caring for a dying parent. A teacher misses a required training session due to an unexpected work problem. Keep your high expectations, but be flexible. As Branaugh puts it, "Our flexibility in those situations extends a measure of grace that, in my experience anyway, often is returned to me later with a greater magnitude than I gave." Encour age by being flexible!
  • DIG IN. Let me word it another way, "Roll up your sleeves." If at all possible, get involved in doing the same work you are calling others to do. Be a servant. Lead by example. Help clean up. Make that visit. Be faithful in attending meetings and training. Invest yourself in others. Work hard. God deserves it. The work deserves it. Your example means a lot. Encourage by digging in!

Have another suggestion to offer for encouraging Sunday School teachers and workers? Press the Comments button below to share your suggestion. Remember to encourage them, or you may risk losing them! So be an active listener. Offer specific praise. Write personal thank you notes. Talk with them about the big picture. Be flexible. And dig in. Be an encourager! Be revolutionary!

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