How to be a people-builder in your ministry

You can be a homebuilder, bodybuilder, reputation-builder, or a retirement-nest-egg-builder. None of those things will last, but there is something that's going to last for eternity, something you can put your efforts into now that will last forever. You can be a people-builder.

The Bible encourages us to do just that in Romans 15:2, where it says, "We should consider the good of our neighbor and build up his character."

How do you build your people? The key is kindness - giving people what they need, not what they deserve. If you consider the way Jesus built people up, He did four things, and you can do these same four things as you encourage members of your congregation.

1. Give Them A Personal Challenge

Ephesians 4:1 - "I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received."

Paul is saying, Don't waste your life – make it count. Be all that God made you to be. Challenge your members to live beyond themselves and to discover their strengths and abilities. God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God's many kinds of blessings.

The way your people will know what God wants them to do with their lives is to look at their unique gifts. One of the hot markets today is Career Planning. Seminars are popping up everywhere, offering things like temperament analysis and competency tests. People are paying lots of money just to have others tell them what they're good at. Why? Because we all need somebody who will help us discover our gifts and who will challenge us to develop, strengthen, and use them.

You can play a critical role in the lives of your members by helping them discover their strengths and abilities, and then challenging them to use them. Tell them, If you do not use your God-given gifts, then the rest of us will miss out on the blessings you could bestow upon us.

2. Give Them Complete Confidence

Romans 15:1 - "We who are strong in the faith ought to help the weak in order to build them up in the faith."

We all need confidence. When you know that someone believes in you, it brings out your best. Jesus did this with Peter. Peter's name – "Petros" – meant pebble. But Jesus said, "Pebble, you're going to be a rock. I'm giving you a new name."

When Jesus said that to Peter, the apostle was anything but a rock. He was Mr. Impulsive, Mr. Foot-in-Mouth. But Jesus didn't tell him what he was - He told him what he could be. He gave him confidence to live up to his potential.

We all need encouragement. Over the years, I've kept an Encouragement File. Every time anybody writes me a note, a card, or a letter, I file it. Even if it's mildly encouraging – like "Better luck next time!" – or – "You tried on that sermon, but good try!" – it still gets filed. Then, on days when I'm discouraged and down and tired, I get out the Encouragement File, and I read through all the letters and cards that I've collected.

I read both of those letters over and over again. It's encouraging to know that at some time in my life my sister and my wife thought I had some kind of value! Ha!

When you give encouragement, it needs to be genuine. So, give from the heart and with sincerity. Encouragement also needs to be regular – don't be stingy with your encouragement.

And encouragement needs to be specific. Don't say, "I enjoyed the meal," rather say, "I can tell you put a lot of effort into this meal and the seasoning you chose was perfect."

Don't say, "You did a good job," rather say, "I noticed you handled that angry member with tact and you maintained your cool under pressure."

3. Give Them Honest Counsel

Proverbs 27:6 (Good News) – "A friend means well even when he hurts you."

Real friends will care enough to confront. Even when it's painful, they'll tell you the truth. They won't let you waste your life in silence.

I have found that correction is powerful – and it can be dangerous. Done the right way, it builds people up, but done the wrong way, it can scar a person for life.

The difference between the right and the wrong way to correct is your attitude. If all you're doing is pointing out faults, then stop.

The purpose has to be to correct, not to condemn. You need to ask, "What's my motive in this? Am I correcting them for my benefit or for their benefit?"

A lot of times we want to correct people just because they're being jerks and they're hassling us. We think, "If they would stop being such a jerk, my life would be easier." That's the wrong motive.

Follow Ephesians 4:15, which says, "Speak the truth in love." Love means giving people what they need rather than what they deserve. So the key to proper correction: Affirm the person; correct the behavior.

4. Give Them Full Credit

I used to have a sign in my office: "God can do great things through the person who doesn't care who gets the credit."

How quickly do you share the credit? It's human nature to want to share the blame while keeping the credit. But God says the mark of maturity is to accept the blame and share the credit.

Now, there's a price tag for being a people-builder. It requires unselfishness.

Why should you do it then? "In response to all God has done for us, let us outdo each other in being helpful and kind to each other." The Romans used to confuse the word "cristos" with "crestos." Cristos means Christ. Crestos, in Latin, means kindness. What a great confusion! Christians ought to be the kindest of people.

I want to give you an objective, and that is to be a people-builder for the rest of your life. Begin by writing down the name of one person you want to help build up, then stop and pray. Ask God to show you that person's strengths. We always build on our strengths, not on our weaknesses.

Write down whatever strengths you've seen in him or her in the past. Then tell him or her, "I've been thinking about you because I really care about you. I wanted to share with you – from my viewpoint – the strengths I see in your life because those strengths determine what God wants us to do in our lives."

Imagine the impact you could have if you would commit yourself to being a people-builder; if you determined to bring out the best in everyone within your congregation. That's one of the purposes of the church: to help people grow and to become what God made them to be.

This article is used by permission from From Rick Warren's Ministry ToolBox, a free weekly e-newsletter for those in ministry. www.pastors.com.