"Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God"
- Ephesians 5:1-2
Encouraging One Another in the Faith
Faith is always something that flourishes as a part of a community. Faith is a gift given from the outside. One cannot be a Christian by themselves. Therefore, we gather together not only for worship, but to eat together, to study together, and to serve together. It is through the community that God's love is shared. You are welcome to be a part of this community of encouragement.
Jesus Became Human - Jesus is About Relationships
God came down to us in Jesus the Christ. God came to us (in the flesh) as a very real human person with whom people could relate in a very real way. Faith continues to be about a relationship with Christ and a relationship with those through whom Christ communicates today; all the faithful.
Our Faith is About Relationships
The faith is always passed on in very real ways, through words of love and forgiveness, through acts of unconditional love, through mutual support of each other, and through the sharing of our struggles and joys in the faith.
Choose One Young Adult or Family
It is natural to encourage your friends in the faith, to stand by them through struggles and joys, and to share precious faith conversation. In addition to your closest friends, choose one young adult or young family to encourage in the faith. Many young adults and young families have not been brought up in the language of “grace,” “justice,” “forgiveness,” “sacrificial love,” and “service.” Many young families do not know how to pray or read the Bible. You are called to be a mentor to those who need your wisdom. And, do not be surprised if God has given them a gift to help you in your life of faith.
Encouraging Each Other
The following are ways that we encourage each other in the faith. The list is by no means complete.
- Visit when sick
- Show up on special occasions
- Show up for no reason at all
- Work together on a project to help another person
- Eat together
- Laugh together
- Share or discuss the sermon with each other
- Share your favorite Bible verse and why
- Consider another family’s children as your own
- Pray together
- Discuss the questions of faith with each other
- Bring food over
- Knit/Paint/Craft together
- Join a Bible study together
- Be a baby sitter for young couples
- Bring children to church and Sunday School
Encouraging Children in the Faith
Everyone Is A Youth Leader!
Most adults who are currently strong in their faith, had three things going for them while growing up: parent(s) involved in the faith, other family members who cared about their faith (such as grandparents), and at least one person outside of the family who would have died for them and their faith.
How You Can Inspire Faith In The Current Generation?
1. Choose one child who is a family member whom you will die for, and with whom you will share your faith. Share your joys and struggles with faith. Share your passion to love and forgive. Share your favorite Bible story. Simply share your faith.
2. Choose one child who is not a family member, but whom you will die for, and with whom you will share your faith. Share your joys and struggles with faith. Share your passion to love and forgive. Share your favorite Bible story. Simply share your faith.
Catching the Faith
The most effective way to pass the faith on to the next generation is for the faith to be an integral part of the home. Sermons pass into the fog of the past as do catechetical lessons, but the relationship with a faithful person lives on forever.
Most people name a father, mother, or grandparent when asked who was integral to their faith formation as a child. Faith-filled relationships are essential for a child to “catch” the faith. Therefore, the most effective place to catch the faith is at home.
Parents may not be used to the idea of sharing their faith openly in the home with their children. They may be fearful of doing or saying something wrong. But young children do not know the difference, so parents are able to share what they know, trusting that the Holy Spirit will guide them appropriately.
A family might want to start by trying Faith 5!
from Faith Inkubators
As children grow a little older and are able to talk about their days, this nightly ritual from Faith Inkubators is a powerful way to encourage each other in the faith at the end of the day in the home. The faith practice is called the FAITH5, or Faith Acts In The Home.
The FAITH 5 connects church to home, faith to life, and parents to kids in a powerful way. The five steps of the FAITH5 are:
Step One: Share highs and lows. Name something good and bad you experienced today. Can't think of a personal one? Check out the headlines from the news and teach empathy and compassion for the broader world.
Step Two: Read a verse from your Bible. (Allow the children to select a bible story from an age appropriate bible, or simply use the bible texts from the previous Sunday's worship service).
Step Three: Talk about how the verse relates to highs and lows. Unpack the verse a bit. What does it mean in your own words? How might it relate to where you are today in your highs and lows?
Step Four: Pray for one another's highs and lows, for your family, and for the world. Simply talk to God, thank Jesus for the good, and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance in specific problems.
Step Five: Bless one another. Trace the sign of the cross on one another's forehead or palm as a reminder that you belong to God and to one another.
10 Ways to Encourage Teens in Faith
1. Keep preaching the Gospel. The gospel is the only message in history that is for all people, at all times, in all places. Teenagers need to hear Jesus' message of love of the outcast, forgiveness for the sinner, and promise of new life just as much as anyone else. They too need to hear the call to follow in Jesus' footsteps and serve God and neighbor. Yes, teenagers need the Gospel.
2. Stay in touch with them, the way they stay in touch. If we are going to make a connection with young people, we must connect with them through new mediums. If you are not in tune with social media, get out of your comfort zone and get connected with the young people of your church. It is not only a good way to communicate, but your presence may very well be the accountability system they need.
3. Do something special for them on a regular basis. It does not have to be extravagant, but do something nice for a young person. Buy them a small gift. Send them a funny card. Let them know you care, and that you think of them often.
4. Keep them involved in the worship experience of the church. One of the tragic mistakes we make in the modern church is to isolate every group from one another in worship. There is nothing wrong with a church nursery or children’s church; but if we are not careful, we may very well be excluding our children from the presence and movement of God. Keep them involved. Let them sing in the choir, call on them to pray, let them usher. Have them serve in various capacities of the church.
5. Place expectations upon their lives. When young people have no order or expectations, they run wild. Down inside, they want some rules and regulations. They may not appreciate it now, but with consistency and compassion, they will eventually learn that those expectations were in place because of love and grace.
6. Model Christ-likeness before them. It does not matter how many sermons you make them hear, how many rules you give, how much money you throw at them; if they do not see Christ in your life, you will have very little influence upon them. Grow in grace yourself, and allow your growth to spill over into their lives.
7. Volunteer your time for their events. Give your time to their cause. Sponsor a child for summer camp. Serve as a chaperone at the next outing. Become a presence in their activities, not just an “old-person” on a pew.
8. Compliment their efforts. It does not matter who you are, we all enjoy compliments. Young people especially need to know they are accepted. We are generally pretty good at pointing out their flaws; but regularly, accentuate and applaud their positive attributes.
9. Share your own experiences with them. Be real and be honest. Share with them your life, your strengths in faith, your struggles, and your victories. They need hope; hope of growing up and surviving in this difficult world.
10. Lift their names up to the Lord. Above and beyond all other things, prayer is the key to influence. Keep their name on a list. Pray for them frequently, passionately, and specifically.
Helping and Encouraging Others Through Grief
Loss & Grief:
Before we learn how to help and encourage someone through grief, it would be good to understand the grief process.
When speaking of grief, many people automatically think of bereavement (grief over the loss of a loved one). However, people grieve over the loss of many things throughout life. Some are very small, such as the loss of car keys. Some are very large such as the loss of a husband or wife. Others are catastrophic where someone loses not only their house to a fire, but also their wife, children, and all their possessions. Other types of losses are not as obvious, but are as equally powerful. When people retire they often lose their identity (“I used to be the baker, who am I now?”). Many people experience the loss of dreams or the loss of self-perception when confronted with the truth of who they really are.
There are many types of loss, but there is only one way that humans healthily overcome all of these loses: by journeying through grief.
The grief journey is hard. The grief journey is painful and emotionally draining. But, the grief journey is the way God has chosen to lead us to a new way of life. There will be darkness on the path, but in every case, if one looks ahead to the end, they will see the sun shining brightly.
The following is a general description of different steps in the grief process. They do not necessarily go in this order and each step does not necessarily occur only once throughout a person’s journey. Not every person will experience each step either. Most people wander around back and forth through the steps, slowly moving their way to the end of the grief journey. This journey is not a brief walk. The grief journey does not happen in just two weeks or two months. It is not uncommon for a person’s grief journey to last a couple of years depending on the severity of the loss. Obviously, car keys may only take a few hours.
Life Before The Loss
Technically, this is not a step in the grief process. However, it is important to think about life before the loss because it contrasts so greatly with life after a loss. Most people’s days are filled with tasks at work and at home, time relaxing, and time spent building up friendships. Loss changes this greatly.
The loss is what starts a person on one’s grief journey. The following are all examples of loses that can start one on a grief journey: Death of loved one; Money; Divorce; Fertility; Surgery; Freedom; Youth; Lifestyle; Faith; Health; Control; Sexuality; Activity; Values; Normal patterns in life; Reputation; Job; Self-esteem.
Protest And Denial
Protest and Denial is a very confusing, fiery, and unpredictable time in life. It is not uncommon for people to feel a sense of shock and numbness after the loss has occurred. The mind is often confused and simple tasks such as getting water put into the tea kettle is at times baffling. Some people get physically sick at what has happened while others completely deny that anything has occurred and try to live as if nothing had. It is common to become unpredictably angry for no reason at all or fly into a rage, blaming others for what has occurred. It is also common to feel guilty and feel the need to lay the blame on oneself.
“Why did this happen?” When loss confronts us we search for answers that will make sense of our pain. “Why” is a common question asked while searching. But, searching for answers is not the only type of searching we do. Those who have lost a loved one often search for their loved one. It is common for a person to see or hear their loved in the house or on the street. Other people try to search for a way to get back what they have lost by making bargains with God (“If I do this great thing, God, will you please bring back…”).
Despair is a powerful feeling of sadness and hopelessness. This time during the grief process is arguably the hardest part of grief, but it is an important part of the grief process to work through. Agony, anguish, depression, suicidal thoughts, shortness of breath, and slowed thinking and actions all are common elements in despair. It is not uncommon for people’s important bills, homework, and/or tasks to start piling up on the table. Many people cannot make it out of the house and do not desire to see anyone. At the same time, they may bemoan the fact that they seem to have been abandoned by everyone.
Thankfully, despair will slowly give way to hope. A person may notice the beauty of a flower for the first time in ages. A child’s laugh may temporarily break through the anguish.
Reorganization is a confusing time because a person will have moments or even days where they see the light at the end and have great bursts of energy. The person will usually try to invest a little time doing something they love or something new and exciting. Then, as quickly as the burst of energy came, it will leave and once again one finds himself/herself fatigued, detached from others, and simply not caring about anything or anyone.
Though life is not perfect and one still feels the pain of the loss from time to time, God leads people towards the end of the grief process. People will start to invest themselves in both old and new interests. Life will start to take on the feeling of a new way of normal.
A New Way Of Life
The new life that is given by God after the grief journey is not one free of grief. Often, on holidays and anniversaries people will be driven back into despair temporarily. Nor does a person forget what has been lost in their new life. Instead, a person will incorporate the loss as a fact of life and live life to it’s fullest by taking part once again in tasks at work and at home, time relaxing, and time spent building up friendships.
We Can Help People in Their Grief By:
1. Being There
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” -John 1:14
We need to know at heart that we are a child of God; someone worth caring for. This is the foundation on which we build who we are. Simply being present is the non-verbal way of reminding them of this identity. Sometimes we offer this loving reminder verbally when it seems lacking.
2. Listening 98% of the time. Trust God to do the healing.
“When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep.”
Jesus opts not to respond to Mary’s angry allegations. Silence was more than enough at the moment. It is not our job to shape a person into who we would want them to be on the other side of the struggle. How they will be shaped is between God and that person. Therefore, we just allow the space for the person to work it out verbally, figuring through problems, and trying out new ideas.
This happens best when we are silently listening. Feel free to show emotion if it arises within yourself. Cry if you feel like crying. Laugh if you feel like laughing. It makes it O.K. for the other person to show emotion.
Another part of listening is not always answering the questions asked. It is O.K. to not know an answer if asked. Often it is preferable. Just say, “I don’t know either.”
3. Help the person share 2% of the time.
Use open questions (questions that cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no”).
“How are you feeling?”
“Why do you feel this way?”
“What has it been like through this time?”
“Why has it been difficult?”
“How does ____ make you feel?”
“What did you do when that happened?”
“Why did you do that?”
Repeat things you just heard, showing you understand and want to hear more.
“So, you felt bad when ___ happened.”
Listen for repeated themes and ask (even if the themes feel uncomfortable).
“You’ve mentioned your father’s first wife many times. Who was she to you?”
Invite the person to explore possibilities after significant sharing.
“What are you going to do after we are done talking?”
“Where do you think God is leading you?”
Point out the obvious truth, even if it may hurt. Point out incongruities.
“I know you love your son, but he doesn’t know that if you don’t say so.”
“You say you’re fine but there are tears in your eyes. What are the tears about?”
4. Be a living example of how a person can adjust and live life in a new way.
This is about new life after-all. Allow people to see and hope in a life after grief.
Pitfalls of Helping
1. Sharing your own similar experience.
Rarely should we do this unless the person is concerned about whether or not what they are going through is normal. A healer of Christ cannot make the issue about themselves.
2. Expecting the person to struggle in a certain way or within a certain time period.
Everyone works through their struggles differently. It does not matter if you have worked through a similar experience in a shorter period of time. People will take the time they need. People will also tell their story as many times as they need. It is not abnormal to hear the same story well over 10 times.
3. Over-identification with the person’s feelings.
It is not helpful for the healer of Christ to be as overwhelmed as the care receiver. We do not take on a person’s burden. That is Christ’s job. We simply shoulder the burden temporarily until Christ takes it.
4. Becoming impatient, fearing negative feelings, or being judgmental.
The journey may take a while and it may not be pretty. Trust that the Holy Spirit is at work. Be unconditional in your love just as Christ is unconditional in love toward you.