Encouraging One Another in the Word: Gathering Around the Word as a Staff
“I’m tired. Just so tired.”
Have you heard these words lately? Are people around you sometimes looking less joyful, more anxious than usual? I recently heard these words from what may seem like an unexpected source-my pastor. These were the words that opened his sermon. You can imagine that he had the attention of everyone in the room and those attending virtually. I would imagine everyone had similar thoughts—”I feel that way too.” and “What spiritual encouragement will he have?”
[Jesus said,] “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
One of the great blessings of serving on a staff, is the support and encouragement we get from one another. It’s such a blessing to have colleagues to go to and excitedly share a highlight of your day. Another blessing is having others to go to when things are not going so well. God gives us others to for support and encouragement. That time hanging out in one another’s room before and after school is a gift.
This year, like so much of life right now, this likely looks different. School looks different. Teaching looks different. Socializing looks different. Even if you are meeting in person, you may feel a heightened sense of isolation. It can be harder to have those personal conversations at a time when we need it the most.
One of the great blessings of our schools and early childhood ministries is a united focus on the mission and ministry. Principals, directors, teachers, and other staff members gather around the Word in a variety of ways. As they look to share the gospel with the children and families they serve, they get together to grow spiritually. I recently reached out to several pastors and teachers to gather some of their ideas on ways that they approach spiritual growth and encouragement together. Following is a list of their ideas.
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.
So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
One of the challenges many face is scheduling. It is critical to consider is how to include everyone. Can you have a flexible schedule that changes so that all are included? Would a small group approach work so that those with similar schedules can meet? While it can be a challenge, it’s vital that all staff has the opportunity to grow together in the Word.
- Read through a section of Scripture. You might use the Scripture readings for the week. Together reflect on the following questions:
- What is the main idea or focus of the chapter or verses?
- What is a key verse? Consider memorizing it.
- Who are the principal characters?
- Is there any example to follow or to avoid?
- What application to you or your ministry did you note?
- What questions do you have?
- S.O.A.P: This is similar to the ones above. Choose a section to read as a group and then reflect on the following:
- S=Scripture: Read the section or selected verses.
- O=Observe: What struck you? What did you learn or reminded of about God?
- A=Application: How does this apply to me? What are specific ways to apply this to my day/week?
- P=Pray: Ask God to help each to learn from this section and to apply it to their day and week in their ministry and in their personal life.
- A=Adoration-Acclaim what God has done in this section.
- C=Confess. As you read this section, what do we need to confess.
- T=Thank God for the blessings you’ve been reminded of in this section.
- S=Supplication (prayer)
- Certainly, there are a number of Bible studies that can be found at Northwestern Publishing House. They don’t have to be specific to the teaching ministry but those can be a blessing for sure. Be clear about the expectations. Do you want them to read a section ahead of time? Do you want some questions considered before you meet? Who will facilitate each time? Depending on the size of your staff, will you meet as a large group or in smaller groups?
- Use the People’s Bible and read through and discuss a section at a time. Ask a member of the group to provide 2-3 questions to consider for discussion purposes. The People’s Bible is available at: Northwestern Publishing House.
- Bible Information Class:
- If you have families who are attending a BIC, could the teacher attend with them? What a wonderful way to encourage families and to learn together around the Word!
- For most on staff, it’s been years since they attended a BIC or confirmation classes. Consider having the pastor lead the staff through a BIC as a group. What a wonderful refresher!
Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
Gathering as a group for prayer is an opportunity to go to God together as brothers and sisters to thank God for the blessings in the ministry and among the staff and to ask for God’s help, comfort, and encouragement.
- Join together briefly in the morning before students arrive. Brief announcements for the day can be shared. Staff is encouraged to share items for which to pray. They could be for a student or family, themselves or those they know, etc. The leader gathers each of these and leads a group prayer. Consider things to be grateful for or celebrate and also things that need God’s help and encouragement.
- As a staff, take list of the families who have children enrolled. Each time the staff meets for prayer, include prayers specific for several families. Keep track of families prayed for and gradually work through the whole list.
- A teacher and her aide met briefly each morning and prayed for a couple of children each day. They often sat in the chairs of the student as they prayed for that student.
- Encourage each staff member to pray for a fellow staff member each day on their own, continually rotating through the list of staff members.
- At staff meetings or morning meetings, go around the group and ask each individual to pray specifically for the person seated next to them. The old “one blessing/one challenge” leads to helpful conversation.
- When the principal/director/pastors meet, include on the weekly agenda specific prayers of thanksgiving for members of the staff.
- A retired teacher once shared that she used the beginning of rest time when teachers are usually sitting near students, rubbing backs, etc. to pray for which ever student she was sitting next to.
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.
Like Bible study, devotions can be a challenge to schedule to include each individual. However, the priority of including all members of the staff, regardless of their role, is critical. Consider including not just the teachers and aides, but the support staff as well.
- Consider the number of devotion books available at Northwestern Publishing House.
- You can find a number of devotions for various settings at: WELS Devotions These include:
- WELS Early Childhood Educator Devotions
- WELS Daily Devotions
- WELS Family Devotions
Many of these would be great to share with your school families as well. You can subscribe to them and they will be sent to your inbox.
- Customize a prewritten devotion. Most devotions follow the format: hook, Bible concept, application. Pre-read the devotion and identify a way to personalize the hook for your setting. Instead of reading the devotion, share the modified hook, read the scripture, and make an extemporary application specific to your group.
- Consider a hymn stanza or two on which to focus.(Perhaps the Hymn of the Day/Sermon hymn) Read through the words as a group and spend time discussing the text and how to apply this to each individual, classroom, or the school as a whole. Close by singing the hymn.
- Time of Grace Ministries has a variety of resources and devotions that may work for your setting. Go to: Time of Grace
- 364 Days of Thanksgiving: Pastor Andrew Schroer has a daily blog and also a book that focus on thankfulness in each day.
- WELS Women’s Ministry has Bible studies, devotions and a number of varied resources that focus on spiritual encouragement for women.
- Holy Hen House focusing on women encouraging women spiritually. They too, have a wide variety of resources available.
- Book Studies as a group can also be an enriching activity for a staff. For the following and others go to: Northwestern Publishing House Some books that could be considered are:
- The Narrow Lutheran Middle by Daniel Deutschlander
- The Theology of the Cross by Daniel Deutschlander
- Grace Abounds by Daniel Deutschlander
- Sanctification: Christ in Action by Harold Senkbeil
- Gospel Motivation: More than “Jesus Died for My Sins” by Robert J. Koester
- Encourage staff members to take the time to leave an encouraging verse of short prayer on the desk of a fellow staff member.
- Be intentional about checking in with each other. Especially with the challenges this year, be intentional about not just asking “How are you?” but be specific and ready to listen. Rejoice together and support each other.
- Key to the spiritual growth of the faculty is a pastor stopping by 1x/month or so after school for the informal “How are you doing?”. If you are in a school where this doesn’t happen, encourage your principal/director/pastor to work together to make it happen.
- Simply asking each other from time to time, “How can I pray for you?”
- Be careful and attentive that each member of the staff is included.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Our prayer is that this list can provide encouragement to you and those with whom you serve. The blessings and privilege of meeting together as a group around the Word to encourage each other is one of God’s great gifts to us. As we grow in faith, our relationship with each other also grows. We grow in our understanding of each other as uniquely gifted by God as a part of the ministry. We grow in our understanding of God, his grace and forgiveness for each of us and each other.
May the Lord bless each of you as you consider ways to grow in the Word and to encourage each other in faith. May he bless each day of your ministry with a reminder that God is faithful in keeping his promise to be with us in all things.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
2 Peter 3:18
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