Life is all about our true identity—Jesus came to rescue us (the people he created us to be) from the destruction of sin and graft us into the family of the Trinity. Meanwhile, Jesus tells us that the Enemy’s goal is to “kill, steal, and destroy”—dismantling our identity by twisting and sometimes pulverizing who we believe ourselves to be. We all live our lives right in the thick of this identity war. We can often see and hear and feel others (and ourselves) wrestling with doubts about their worth. And we can already spot the lies they’ve come to believe about themselves.
Cavett Robert, the founder of the National Speakers Association, once said: “Every night 10 million people on this planet go to bed hungry. But four billion people go to bed hungry for one word of encouragement and recognition.” You and I know exactly what it feels like to crave encouragement. We were created to find our identity outside ourselves—to embrace our reflection in the eyes of God. Trouble is, we’re often surrounded by the kind of mirrors you find in an amusement park’s funhouse—they’re distorted.
Our calling and our mission is to be better mirrors for the people we serve. This may be the greatest gift we ever give them. So here’s a starter-set of practical encouragement ideas to remove some of that distortion from their lives, and mirror for them the truth about who they really are. Use these ideas yourself, but be sure to pass them on to parents in your church so they can infect their homes with encouragement and an “I see you” ecosystem. Tell them to use this sampler as a kickstarter for their own creative ideas…
- Unlocking a Person’s Name—Go to a “meaning of names” website such as www.behindthename.com (or simply Google “meaning of names” to find more sites). Find the meaning behind the name of the person you’d like to encourage, look for something in that meaning that really resonates with how you experience him or her, then send a random (or birthday) note or text that highlights that connection. For example, my daughter’s name is Lucy, and one meaning of her name is “light.” So I share that meaning with her and make the connection that I’m often impacted by her love for the truth—she lives her life in the “light.”
- Fascinating Holidays—Go to a “fascinating holidays” website such as www.holidays.net and honor a person’s birthday by discovering the strange or obscure celebrations that happen on that date. For example, October 21st (the day I’m writing this) is the beginning of Shavuot, the Feast of the Weeks—it’s the Jewish holiday celebrating the harvest season in Israel. Send a random (or birthday) note to a person mentioning this connection, adding that he or she has brought a “harvest” of blessings to so many others, including you. Simply make an honoring connection to a fascinating holiday.
- Blank Bumper Stickers—Get a supply of blank bumper stickers that you can use like dry-erase boards (just Google “Blank Bumper Stickers”), then put them on your car and give them to other leaders in the church. Then, every week or every month create a new bumper sticker honoring or “tweaking” a person in your church—just wipe off the last one and create a new one each time, using a dry-erase marker. You can make the bumper sticker serious or fun or some combination of both.
- Keep a “Caught Ya” File In Your Notes App—When you hear or experience something quietly amazing or impressive or praiseworthy about someone in your church, open your phone and scribble down a note about it—things they do or say that are worthy of honor. Reference the name of the person and a quick description of what happened. At the end of the week send out a text or an email to the people in your Caught Ya file, just describing what you experienced and offering an encouragements.
- Proverbs-o-Rama—Use this idea to tie-in to a person’s birthday or other special occasion, or it can be random (my preference). Use the important date as if it was a scripture reference for the book of Proverbs. For example, let’s pick a random date—November 14. So I translate that into Proverbs 11:14: “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure.” Every day or every week, ask Jesus to surface a different person’s name in your mind, then play Proverbs-o-Rama with him or her. Email or text a note with the Proverb for that day with an additional note of encouragement: “Don’t forget you have friends (like me!) who would love to make your “victory sure”!