A man went outside to retrieve the newspaper normally left at the end of his driveway each morning. He was pleasantly surprised to see that a little dog had already picked up the newspaper and brought it right up on the front porch. The man lavished praised on the little dog and even fed him a treat. When the man opened the door the next morning, the helpful dog was back again. But this time, the dog was proudly waiting to show off the seven newspapers he had gathered from homes all over the neighborhood.
This story reminds us about the tremendous power of encouragement! Church leaders can increase the quality of the teacher’s ministry by giving special attention to its use. Encouragement may also be tied to the work of starting new groups. Many potential teachers may be reluctant to step up and serve because they have too rarely seen existing teachers receive the support and encouragement they deserve. Consistent affirmation may be the push that potential teachers need in order to feel comfortable about accepting a leadership role.
Consider the following ideas to encourage the teachers in your church.
The beginning of the school year often provides opportunities for blanket statements of appreciation for all kinds of teachers. While this is valuable, an individual affirmation is much more effective. Handwritten notes, timely text messages, and hallway conversations are all opportunities to encourage individuals in their ministry. Birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions are easy opportunities for individual encouragement.
All teachers have different strengths, gifts, and natural abilities. Finding ways to encourage something unique about a leader’s ministry will have a great impact. The way the teacher ministered to a particular family, an aspect of their teaching that is excellent, the organization of their group, a profession of faith made by someone in their class, or someone who has been “sent out” from their class to serve are all examples of ministry aspects that are worthy of encouragement.
Pastors should give regularly affirmation and encouragement in public settings. Highlighting the Sunday School ministry in sermons or other public gatherings can go a long way in encouraging existing teachers and calling out those who have leadership potential.
An annual appreciation dinner, after-church lunch, a Sunday School worship service emphasis, leader fellowship, or a training retreat, are all examples of opportunities for formal encouragement. Use these gatherings to enlist class members who can give testimonies to the role that Sunday School has played in their spiritual growth.
All educators are familiar with the concept of positive reinforcement. The value of “catching” a teacher doing something right and then affirming that behavior increases the likelihood that the teacher will repeat that practice in the future. In addition, publicly encouraging teachers for strategically valuable Sunday School practices has the dual benefit of providing subtle training for those who are future teachers.
The power of encouragement will increase the quality of your existing groups and the emergence of new ones!