The Power of Praise in Awakening Missional Identity

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I serve a congregation that averages 60-70 in worship and have been there five years. As preparation for a visioning process, I began meeting with small groups. I decided to use positive questions since it is so easy to focus on problems. I asked: “What are those things we do really well? What are the best things about our church?” The energy from these conversations helped me see how important it is for a leader to lift up good things and to praise the congregation for those things they do well as encouragement for growth.

I sent out am email to the congregation saying: “I am so proud to be the pastor of this extremely generous church!” And even more donations arrived. Praising the congregation really does work!

I realized that I brag about the congregation to others a lot, but I don’t praise them enough face-to-face. Soon I had an opportunity to change that. A family in our community lost everything in a fire. A church member and neighbor told about the loss during prayer concerns in worship. Someone else stood up and said that he thought we should do something for them. Since people agreed, he got an offering plate and passed it around. Attendance was low that Sunday, but the 28 people present gave $236.00. The feeling within the congregation was awesome. People were excited about doing something.

After worship, before going home, I sent out a mass email to the congregation saying at the top: “I am so proud to be the pastor of this extremely generous church!” I also put a note saying the same thing on the church’s Facebook page and my own Facebook page. Even more donations arrived. Praising the congregation really does work!

This one offering became a source of new life and energy for the church. Since then we have set up a “Mission Corner” in the narthex. People look for local needs that we list as the “Current Local Mission.” People donate to these as they feel led. We have one mission at a time for at least two or three weeks. Future mission projects include a “Backpack Project” to provide backpacks full of school supplies for students in need and shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. Through these mission projects, our congregation is becoming increasingly involved in the community. All the pushing I did in the past to get them involved did not work. Now a serving ministry is evolving organically out of the church’s own understanding of their gifts.

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About Author

Michaela St. Marie is an elder in the United Methodist Church and pastor to Guilford UMC and Oxford UMC in Oneonta, New York Conference.


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