When I’m asked to recommend resources on developing others, my first response often surprises people. My go-to book has been around a long time! It’s the Bible’s 1 Thessalonians. Written by the Apostle Paul around AD 52, this short letter powerfully illustrates Paul’s heart and practice in developing people. It’s simple, practical and profound.
Here are six keys from 1 Thessalonians that will guide, challenge and encourage you in developing others:
- Key #1 – Love People
Paul loved these people. He cared for them. He shared the gospel with them. He shared his life with them. As Paul writes, “Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (2:7-8).
It might seem pretty basic, but sometimes we can miss this one. It’s fairly easy to get so focused on the mission or so task driven that we neglect to deeply love the people God has put right in front of us. Are you expressing love like a mother’s care and significant time with those you are developing?
- Key #2 – Pray Regularly
Paul prayed for those he was developing. He recognized that real deep change is grounded in God’s work and fostered by intense prayer. Paul’s clearest words on prayer are, “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers” (1:2). Notice the words “always,” “all of you” and “continually.”
Sometimes we can be so focused on working through a program or moving the plan forward that we neglect to pray for the people around us. Do the words “always” or “all” or “continually” reflect the intensity of your prayers for those you are developing?
- Key #3 – Be An Example
Paul challenged the people he was developing to follow his example. He knew that people would evaluate his words by his actions. He also knew that more is often caught than taught. Recognizing that his own life example had a profound impact, Paul writes, “You are witnesses and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed” (2:10).
This is a tough one! What are others picking up through our example? Does your life and actions stir others to growth? Is there anything about your example that you don’t want others to catch?
- Key #4 – Provide Perspective
Perspective is a key ingredient to growth. Without perspective we can become trapped in the past, discouraged by the present and overwhelmed by the future. In 2:4-10 Paul addressed the past, present and future for the Thessalonians by reminding them of God’s character, God’s work and God’s promises.
A good developer helps others see God in the midst of their circumstances and challenges. Where, or better yet to whom, do you point people in need of perspective?
- Key #5 – Encourage Lavishly
Paul knew that encouragement is a key ingredient for growth. Almost everyone is working from an encouragement deficit. That’s why Paul encouraged lavishly. He writes, “For you know how we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (2:11-12).
It’s easy to overestimate how much encouragement we are actually expressing and to also underestimate the amount of encouragement people actually need. Do those you are developing see you as one of their greatest earthly encouragers?
These first five practices provide the foundation for number six…
- Key #6 – Teacher
Building on a foundation of love, prayer, example, perspective and encouragement, the rest of Paul’s letter is filled with teaching on practical issues and answering specific questions in the hearts and minds of the Thessalonians. Are you teaching from this kind of foundation?
As you look back over this list, you will notice that you don’t need a Ph.D. to do these things! The encouraging news is that developing others doesn’t need to be complicated. It does, however, need to be intentional.
Which one of these six keys should you more intentionally focus on today?
Cheering you on in life and leadership,