Late last fall, my daughter tried out to be a cheerleader. What surprised me about it is that she is a senior, she has no experience, and she has always been in sports—the ones being cheered. However, when tryouts were over, she had made the squad! I have been to several games now and, as I watch her, I have sensed my awe turn to admiration as she works hard to get the crowd to cheer, not for her, but for the basketball players behind her. She has a great smile, and it appears genuine. It is a lot of work and, to her admission, "it really is a sport." The players are inundated with advice and demands from their coaches, so they do not need that from the crowd. What they need is more encouragement and belief that they can succeed.
This month, consider forming a cheerleading squad with your small group members. Prayerfully, select a person who is being "coached" but needs extra encouragement (a person who is: incarcerated, going through addiction counseling, addressing an eating disorder, struggling with depression, embracing marriage counseling, working through the stages of grief, etc.). Schedule a "practice" to decide on the best form or forms of encouragement. Consider:
- Notes and prayers of encouragement
- Phone calls
- Invitation to lunch or coffee
- Rides to appointments
- Donations of furniture, food, etc.
- Chores and/or minor home repairs
- Donation of money
Cheer consistently for a "season". Consider planning a victory party when appropriate (meeting a milestone in recovery, treatment, or healing). Discuss plans for "off season" encouragement (the completion of formal care, treatment, or sentence). When appropriate, invite him or her to your small group.
Small group leaders, encourage your group members to:
- Send a copy of an old photo that captures a fond memory to one or more of the people in the photo.
- Give a valentine to your mail carrier, hairdresser, bank teller, etc.
- Pray for a neighbor every day for a month.