For you know that 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 call you into his kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12)

In this passage, Paul shows us that spiritual leaders are to relate to the people they lead as parents relate to their children. Actually, these verses tells us as much about good parenting as they do about spiritual leadership. If you are a parent, or a leader, or both, this is how Paul says we should treat those we lead:

1. Encouragement. When a job isn’t done the way it should be done, every parent (or boss) has the choice of saying something that will either encourage that person to do better next time, or discourage them from ever trying again. Personally, I can tell when I cross the line. And, I would guess, so can you.

More often it has to do with the tone of my voice than the words I use. “You can do better” can be spoken with disapproval or approval. Disapproval implies, “This isn’t good enough and you’re a disappointment.” Approval says, “This is a great start. You’re headed in the right direction.” Don’t withhold encouragement from others.

2. Comfort. Our children, our employees and those we interact with all need to know that they can come to us when they fail, or when they hurt. Few phrases in the world have as much impact as “I love you anyway.”

3. Urging toward holiness. Paul said he urged the Thessalonicans to “live lives worthy of God.” A mistake too often made by leaders and parents is forgetting to emphasize the importance of a dynamic spiritual life. We focus on whether or not their room is cleaned, or the newsletter is done on time — things that need to be done, of course — but these things are secondary to holiness.

Our children and those we provide leadership to need to know that we are concerned with how they are doing spiritually. They need us to urge them toward holiness.

This week, let these words define the way you relate to those you lead, including your children, loved ones and others you come in contact with.

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