As clergy it is often down to us to do the encouragement thing. I have many examples of different ways this might be done.
One clergyman I knew, would distance himself from the congregation - playing the role of 'parson' extremely well, he would exist on a plane above the ladies who did the washing up, provided the cakes and set up the tables and would breeze through a room with all the work being done around him, a bit like Mr Grace in Are you Being Served? His part, as he saw it, was to say 'You're all doing very well!' before breezing out again without picking up either a tea towel or moving a single chair.
Another clergyman gave me some sound advice, at the beginning of ministry 'In the church, you have to remember Karen, that silence equals affirmation.' How true! So often, we do not even find the Mr Grace. A thing done badly is met with criticism, whilst a task done well is met with....er.....silence. Hence much is taken for granted, and people, whose self-worth is already low are still left wondering whether they are ok, and no one tries anything new for fear of being criticised.
Then there are the clergyman (sorry, but they always seem to be men!) who can only do flattery. The only way these clergy can exist is around a group (often small) of people doing lots of things only because they are told they are great doing them. This is every member ministry of a different kind. Usually lots is happening around the vicar, because people think he likes them as he keeps telling them how wonderful they are. Sadly, more often than not cliques develop in these churches, with one group being 'flavour of the month - for this month.' and then everything dissolves if things go wrong or the vicar leaves.
So much of this is about doing rather than being. People being rewarded with praise (or not), if they do something. Yet, the worlds greatest encouragers are those that affirm who we are, and not just what we do. In the gospels it is Andrew, one of the not too prominent disciples, who gives us the best example of encouragement. He just gentle affirms people - like the boy with the loaves and fishers, and draws out the best in them. What a proud moment it must have been for that boy! He spots the potential, is interested in it, raises someone else up and steps back.
Clergy licensings offer great potential for encouragement. Not only the person being licensed, but also the great range of people who attend those services - the churchwardens who have carried the church during a vacancy, the person playing the organ, those who have helped with refreshments, and the many other clergy who turn up. It's a great time for me to catch up with folk, see how things are going and hopefully offer some affirmation. Last evening in Beaconsfield was no exception, in fact I came home feeling affirmed too by my clergy brothers and sisters - thank you.
Being born on the Feast day of John the Baptist, I always come back to his words when I think about what encouraging others really means from a servant leadership point of view: 'He must become greater; I must become less'. Now that's a challenge for all of us...