Our women's Bible study group is about to start back up soon and I have been thinking a lot about something we used to do. We have a group covenant which is just a way for us to be on the same page - to know what we expect of each other in the group. We go over these items the Introduction night of each study. Most women return to the group and are very familiar with the covenant. But for the new people and as a reminder to the rest of us, we go over them.
A covenant is a binding agreement between people. "Covenant" is a key word in the Bible. God made a series of covenants with His people. We consider marriage to be a sacred covenant. A covenant is a solemn promise.
We promise a list of 9 things to each other. We go over each one. We sign it and date it and can keep it in our study book. Here's the covenant we go over.
I particularly have been thinking about #5. I agree to regularly pray for and encourage all other members of the group.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.
1 Thessalonians 5:11a
I know the ladies in the group pray for each other. I've been thinking about the encouragement part. Are we really encouraging each other? We are while we are at Bible study. But outside of it, are we?
For many years a friend and I co-led a women's group for women battling depression. There were some hurting women in that group. The covenant was first developed with that group in mind. We wanted to nurture a safe environment for them to share and grow spiritually and heal. And a big part of that healing process was to encourage each other.
One way we achieved that was to write each person's name on a piece of scrap paper and put it in a cup. Each week we asked them to pray before drawing a name. In the coming week they were to encourage that person in some way. Mail them an encouragement card, text them, email them, give them a phone call, meet them for coffee - however they wanted. They were just supposed to reach out in some way and encourage that person.
It was pretty phenomenal!
I am in the process of cleaning several piles of papers I had stacked in my guest bedroom. I am somewhat of a paper hoarder. I've got a huge mess now.
As I was going through a stack I found several very sweet cards and notes from these ladies. Re-reading them brought tears to my eyes. I saved them because they meant something to me.
I suppose coming across those cards is why I can't stop thinking about the part of our covenant where it says to encourage each other.
I was trying to think of the last time someone has purposely and unexpectedly encouraged me. When was the last time I was purposeful about encouraging someone? I'm talking about more than just telling someone to have a nice day or complimenting what they are wearing.
I'm talking about really speaking into a person's life - telling them how much they mean to you, specifically giving them some words that speak to their current situation, intentionally giving them some of your time.
Who of us can't use a regular dose of ENCOURAGEMENT?
I'm going to have our Bible study do this again. It is only an 8 week study. If everyone commits to this, each woman in the group will be encouraged 8 times in the coming 2 months!
Why don't you try it?
Think of 8 people you would like to encourage. Write each of their names on a piece of paper and put in a container. Once a week, pray asking God to choose who you should encourage that week, draw a name, and then do it.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Let's spread some love!
Encourage one another.