A recent New Year’s trend involves choosing one word as a theme or focus for the next 12 months. For parents, a great word to choose—and remember regularly—is “encourage.”  
At times, it seems as if the parental job description involves being children’s #1 fan, but true encouragement goes much deeper than cheerleading. Genuine messages of love and support nurture a child’s sense of safety and well-being. Godly affirmations also build self-worth—one based not on individual merit but on the fact that our heavenly Father created and loves us. 
Being an encourager also comes with fantastic “perks.” When you lift up others, you too will be uplifted.

“He who waters will himself be watered.”

Proverbs 11:25 NASB

Encouragers follow Jesus’ example of service, humility, and generosity. Like Barnabas—a member of the early Christian community whose name means “son of encouragement” (see Acts 4:36)—you can serve God by selflessly encouraging others. 
Parents need as much support and encouragement as they can get, too. Seek out other Christian parents so you can give and receive assistance, share insights and ideas, and pray for one another.   
Read on to learn how to practice encouragement in your family.  

Fill’er Up!
Decorate a glass jar and place it in a special spot in your home. Cut patterned papers into strips, giving family members their own pattern. Starting this January, fill the jar with love notes, Bible verses, quotes, and affirmations for each person. On Valentine’s Day, read the notes as a family. Carry on the tradition at regular intervals all year long to keep everyone’s “encouragement tanks” topped off. 

“Acts” of Encouragement
Beforehand, brainstorm situations where kids and adults might need encouragement (for example, taking a test, feeling sick, being new to a class or job). Write each one on a slip of paper. Then play Encouragement Charades. The person who picks a slip acts out that situation. The first person to guess it then acts out a way to offer encouragement. (Speaking is allowed for that part!) 

Be a Barnabas
Form pairs. Give each pair a book. Have one partner walk across a room and back with a book balanced on their head. Have the other partner walk along and offer encouragement. Then change roles. Afterward, ask: “How did it feel to have someone there all the time encouraging you?” Read aloud Acts 11:22-24. Ask: “What types of encouragement did Barnabas offer? What made him such a good encourager? What types of encouragement do you need most? In what ways can you encourage other people?” 

God Uses You!
Encourage family members by reminding them that God chooses and works through them. Say: “In the Bible, God chooses ordinary people for special tasks. David, a shepherd boy, defeated the giant Goliath and later became king. Mary, a teenage girl, became baby Jesus’ mother. Let’s see how God makes these choices.” Read aloud 1 Samuel 16:7. Ask: “What do you think God cares about? Why do you think God works through average, ordinary people? How does that encourage you to listen to and serve God?” 

That’s Encouraging!
Say: “Family members are special encouragers to one another, as we see in the Bible. When Mary hears she’s going to have baby Jesus, she visits her cousin Elizabeth.” Read aloud Luke 1:39-45. Ask: “How might Elizabeth have made Mary feel? What is it like when someone encourages you? What kinds of encouragement can we give each other?” Pray, asking God for help to encourage one another—especially family members. 

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About the Author: stephanie holmberg

Stephanie is a wife, mother, pastor, and friend who is passionate about seeing people live authentic, purpose-filled lives. When not working alongside her amazing kidmin team, you will find her at home spending time with her family, snuggling her furry friend Milo, or out exploring all the amazing places Edmonton has to offer.