World champion tennis coach John Newcombe was once asked about the most important thing he does for young tennis players he mentors. He said that it is giving encouragement. While they needed skill and motivation, he said, without encouragement they would give up.
The word encouragement itself gives a clue to its meaning, En-courage: it means put courage in, inspire confidence. It can mean supporting, assisting, consoling, comforting, urging on and increasing hope. Can you think of a time you needed courage and someone helped you find it? Lifecoach Alan Brayshaw's mentoring organisation based in Tauranga focuses on offering encouragement to men. He notes the challenging situations faced by twenty-first century men can cause deep discouragement. Coaching can help by identifying successes and providing support, courage, confidence and hope. Of course, women too can get disheartened and find they need a coach or mentor to support and encourage. The Bible word for encourage is parakaleo, which comes for the same root as paraklete, the word in John’s gospel for the Holy Spirit, the comforter, the advocate, the teacher, the sponsor, the encourager. That means that when we encourage, we share in the ministry of the Holy Spirit and act as channels of grace. One of my favourite verses is from Hebrews 10 where it says "Let us stir up one another to love and good works, and encourage one another." We are also urged in Philippians 2:1,2 to pass on to others any encouragement we have received from being united with Christ. There are heaps of “One Another” references in the Bible that round out the meaning of this ministry: we are to love one another, restore one another, forgive one another, pray for one another and build up one another. The Message says to “Keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes.” (Heb 3: 13) These are all aspects of encouraging and they remind us that the Christian faith is not individualistic; it is centred on community and interdependence. Some years ago at the Pacific Games in Fiji, the marathon ended at an uncovered stadium in Suva. Thousands of people waited for the runners to appear. The first was doing well and had all the energy needed to finish the race. But when runner number two came into view they saw he was running weakly and couldn't keep straight. People in the crowd shouted "Go on, you can make it!" he fell down but spectators ran down to the side of the track and urged him on. "The end is in sight", they urged, "you can do it" as he summoned the strength he needed and crawled over the line. People were probably tempted to pick him up and carry him over the line, but if they had, he would have been disqualified. He had to run his own race, but he could be cheered on from the side-lines to keep the goal in sight him and reach the finish line. That is encouragement; that is mentoring. Industrialist Charles Schwab said "I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism." Quote of the Week: Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu said "We all blossom in the presence of one who sees the good in us and who can coax the best out of us." What best needs to be coached out of you this week? What best can you help draw out of someone else? This article is from Godshaped Mentoring, the blog where Rev Viv records material shared from Mentor Training events held in a partnership between two Baptist Churches in Auckland New Zealand in 2012/13. The blog has been set up to ensure people who missed some aspect of the training can catch up on the themes covered and skills taught, and so we can add insights and feedback as the programme takes shape.