3 Ways to Continually Affirm the People You Lead
Written by Rick Warren
We affirm people when we treat them with dignity, knowing that they matter to God. If you want to stand out in your leadership, one secret puts you head and shoulders above everybody else—be an encourager.
Encouragement is very difficult to find today. The Bible says, “Encourage each other and build each other up.”
In America, we live in a very negative culture. Most people get far more jeers than cheers, far more pokes than strokes. We live in a society where the No. 1 form of humor is put-downs. People are put down, criticized, maligned.
God calls us to do the exact opposite. God says, as believers and especially as pastors and church leaders, we are to value everybody. When you look around at people—even people who are insulting you and putting you down—you must realize that God died for them. He sent His Son for them, and they matter greatly to God.
When you appreciate people, you raise their value. Appreciation means “to raise in value.” If you have bought or sold real estate in these last few years, you know the meaning of appreciation. Every time you appreciate somebody, you raise their value.
How can you affirm people?
By noticing them.
By listening to them.
By applauding their contributions.
By being interested in more than just their work and ministry but also their life beyond church.
By including them in events rather than excluding them.
Here are three specific ways to affirm people, right out of the Scriptures:
1. Listen to them. “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2, NLT).
One of the greatest gifts you can give people is an attentive ear. When you listen to someone, it says, “You matter. I value what you have to say. I value who you are. I think what you have to say is important.” Every time you genuinely listen to people, you’re ministering to them. By listening, you show you care. It says by doing this you obey the law of Christ, also called the great commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
2. Use positive words. “[Speak] only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs [not your needs, but theirs] that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph. 4:29, NIV).
God wants us, as believers, to be people-builders not people-users. Most of the world is filled with people-users. God says that when you speak positive words of encouragement to people and you build them up, you’re ministering to them.
Would you like to know how to change somebody who doesn’t want to change? Treat them the way you want them to become as if they have already become it. That’s called speaking in faith. People tend to live up to our expectations of them. The other night I saw Sally Field in an interview. She was talking about how one director in one play said, “That was brilliant!” and it gave her the confidence to become an actress. Just one little compliment can change a life.
You don’t know the power of your words. If people make any effort toward the Lord, commend them on that. If they make any effort to being more mature, more productive, whatever … when you see something good in their life, compliment it, and that area will grow. What you compliment tends to grow.
3. Pray for them. “You are helping us by praying for us” (2 Cor. 1:11, NLT).
Make a prayer list of the people you lead. Now put it in your Bible or keep it handy on your mobile device. Pray for them, and watch what happens in your church. You cannot pray for people and not see them start to change. And I encourage you to tell them you’re praying for them. You can even ask them, “What do you want me to pray about?” Even unbelievers appreciate people praying for them. Every time you do that, you’re building a bridge on which you can minister to people.
Write down a person you can encourage this week. You will affirm them either through positive words or listening to them or praying for them. Write down the names of a few people and encourage them, and then encourage them to encourage others.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America’s largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also the founder of pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.