Speaker, author, and leadership guru John Maxwell often refers to his personal life mission and the purpose of his organization as "adding value to people." Jesus was the master at adding value to people. Think about the Samaritan woman at the well who was despised by society; Jesus turned her into the most popular woman in the village one day when he welcomed her company at the well. The woman caught in the act of adultery went from certain death to new life because of a few simple words from Jesus. The 12 disciples were transformed from stinky fishermen, tax collectors, and political activists into world changers whose names are plastered in books, on street signs, on schools, and giant cathedrals today. Jesus did more to promote the value of women than perhaps anyone else in history. He reminded the religious crowd that lepers were real people.
Many times, it's not so much adding value to people as it is recognizing, acknowledging, and appreciating the value God has placed in them and giving them an opportunity to let that value blossom.
Here are a few things to put into practice in your small group as you seek to add value to your group members:
- Pray to see the image of God in people. Sometimes it begins with a simple prayer to see people the way that Jesus sees them. If someone really bugs you, pray for them. Usually, adding value to people results in more radical transformation in us than it does them. I think that Barnabas probably did this regularly. When Paul had a life-changing encounter with Christ, Barnabas was the guy that stepped in to reconcile him with the Church that had grown so fearful of him. When Paul got ticked at John Mark, Barnabas still saw potential in him, took him under wing, and invested in the young man who would eventually write a Gospel account bearing his name.
- Make their day. The book Fish outlines the business practices of the famous Pike Place Market in Seattle. One of the daily challenges they give to their employees is to "make their customers' day." What if we got up every morning with the goal of making someone's day?
- Listen. One of the best ways we can acknowledge that we value people is by simply listening to their tale. Dale Carnegie said "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in you." In the book Outflow, Dave Ping describes the listening expedition he embarked on after Hurricane Katrina. He and his wife Pam decided to go and listen. As they served the victims along the Gulf Coast, they found hundreds of people who simply needed to talk and share their stories. That simple act of hospitality opened the door to offering prayer and sharing the hope of Jesus Christ. Listening became the most valuable spiritual weapon in that situation.
- Ask transformational questions. When we really listen, we have the opportunity to ask questions that help others recognize their value and unleash potential in them. There are two questions that I am asking people right now. "What do you love most about (fill in the blank: your job, your classes, your family, etc)?" And number two, "What is the most challenging thing you are experiencing right now about (fill in the blank … )?" They certainly aren't the most profound questions in the world, but I've discovered that they often open the floodgates in people's lives.
- Approach every person as someone who can teach us something. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I have never met a man who was not my superior in some particular." What can we learn from those around us? How can we let them know the impact they have had on our lives?
- Identify their strengths. Most people just need someone to acknowledge their strengths. If you don't know what they are, ask God to show you. Applaud them when they do something well. Send them a note of encouragement. Hand off a copy of Now, Discover Your Strengths.
- Believe in them. Believing in people usually brings out the best in people. Mark Twain said, "Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great." Find creative ways to communicate that you believe in people.
—Heather Zempel is author of Sacred Roads: Exploring the Historic Paths of Discipleship. This article is reprinted with permission from Heather's blog, Wineskins for Discipleship, copyright 2007.