Last Saturday our local YMCA hosted a sprint triathlon, and my pastor encouraged me to sign up for it with him. So, we each spent the last couple of months getting ready, and then we went for it. It started with a swim which went well enough, and the next leg was 17 miles on the bike.
As I started riding, another rider going the opposite direction yelled “you can do it!” to me from across the street. At first, my reaction was defensive. I wondered if I looked entirely overwhelmed, or if I was doing something wrong. About two minutes later, another stranger yelled an encouragement to me from across the street, and I was even more concerned. It took until about the fifth stranger encouraging me until I realized that this was just a thing in this race – total strangers yelling encouragement to everyone they passed.
This kind of stuff isn’t really my style, but by the time I’d turned around for the return leg, I had started doing the same thing. I must have shouted encouragement to 15 people that were riding by me. It felt nice to be a part of the atmosphere of rooting for one-another, it aided in the feel of the race, and I got as much out of it as the people I was encouraging.
All this got me thinking about ministry, and it hit me that this lesson applies in far more than triathlons. It was a reminder that encouragement is contagious. When there’s an atmosphere of mutual support, it tends to envelop the whole room. Before long people who you have supported are seeking out opportunities to do the same for others. This is especially crucial when it comes to a ministry built upon volunteers. Our best method of retention is to pass on encouragement, praise and support to those who bless us with their time.
So, who can you start encouraging today?