Tag Archive: encouragement

Well Timed Encouragement–the Leader’s Role

My assistant knocked on my door and named the person on the phone who’d like to speak with me. I was awaiting a conference call and couldn’t take the call. But as I thought about why this person was calling, negative thoughts entered my mind.

The person calling is a wonderful person who serves on a team leaders of our church who help govern our church. I’d been in a meeting with this person the night before. My mind raced, “what did I say that could’ve made them mad?” “Did I cut them off while they were talking?”

I later returned the call and braced myself to hear what they had to say. What they had to say…

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Encourage Teams (without it being forced)

©Sunny studio/ Dollar Photo Club

Do those you lead have to scream, “Hey! Look at me!”? Do they have to vie for your attention?

Are you taking time to watch your staff? Your church’s volunteers? Are you visiting their spaces of influence to watch their work, teaching, and leadership?

For me, Summer time means trips to the neighborhood pool with my four kids. While I’m there, I hear this a lot: “Daddy! Watch me!” I could write about my failures as a parent and why my kids feel the need to shout my name for my attention, but in this particular blog I’m going to focus on team leadership and you.

If you’re doing the work required of a leader, you have a lot going on. You have your own work and are accountable to someone for that work. So how do you handle your own work and also create time to be around and watch the people you lead?

How can you intentionally create “Watch me!” moments for your team, without them having to shout at you?

If you want to be the kind of leader who gives attention to your staff without them having to scream and do cannon balls, consider these leadership truths:

Your team wants your attention.

You may feel like no one on your team cares if you show up and stand in the back of the room to watch them lead a meeting. Or you may feel like team members don’t care about whether or not you speak encouragement to them. But in most cases, that’s not true. In fact, you’re probably underselling what your presence and encouragement can do for them.

Spontaneity is your ally.

I’m not a spontaneous guy. I have to schedule space to be spontaneous. At times, without notice, I show up where my staff are leading, to watch them do their thing. When you do this, there’s a risk they may wonder if you’re there “checking something out”. But a follow-up email like, “It was fun to see you in action tonight. Well done.” will help them get over that.

If you’re naturally spontaneous, let that lead you to places you’ll see your team in action. But if you’re more like me, schedule your spontaneity.

One compliment doesn’t guarantee carte blanche (approval of all things).

I’ve often feared if I compliment an action or work team members have done, they may hear that as a compliment to all their work – and rarely is all of someone’s work “compliment worthy.” Do you struggle with this concept, too?

Despite feeling this tension, what I’ve learned from others leaders and books is to compliment anyway. If you’re concerned about your staff hearing more than you intend, be specific with your compliment. Instead of, “You’re an all-star!” try, “The hospitality team you led this week for VBS did a great job. Thanks for recruiting and training the greeters well.”

Specific compliments not only mitigate the possible tension you feel as a leader or supervisor, but may also be even better received than a general one. A specific encouragement tells them you’re paying attention and noticed the nuance of their work.

Eye contact, use of their name, and handwritten notes are critical.

After my daughter has accomplished the feat of holding her breath for three seconds under water, she raises her goggle-clad face out of the water to see if I’m watching. She wants eye contact. She wants me to look at her and say, “Blake, three seconds, that was awesome!”

Most everyone wants to be cared for – and use of eye contact and a person’s name are important ways to communicate you care. It’s hard to communicate care when your eyes are focused on a screen and you can’t remember their name.

Also – you likely write lots of emails in a given day. One or two of those may be encouragement emails to your team – but they’re typically only one of several emails your team might receive from you that day. However – if a handwritten note shows up on their desk, it feels different. Even if it says the same thing as an email, it communicates a different level of care.

Those you lead shouldn’t have to do cannon balls or hold their breath under water to get your attention. Great leaders seek out ways to be present, watchful, and encouraging to those they lead.


(Confession: As I write these truths from my own experience, I also realize how much work I have to do in these areas. I’m committed to becoming better. Will you join me?)


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The Church Honoring God — Our Story

I have used this blog to post “practical takeaways for everyday church leadership” since its inception in July. Today’s post is slightly different, yet, it still illustrates how practical actions taken by people, make for great churches and great ministry.

Below is the script from a talk my wife recently gave. Having been invited to speak at our former Church, First Baptist Lewisville, she shared our story of moving to Tennessee, and the birth of our fourth child. While God has always been good to us, those were some difficult days, and she describes them well.  And because I’m proud of my wife, but even more so, because her script honors God and the many people that ministered to us during that time, I’m sharing it…


She asked me… “Why are you smiling?”

Who asked me this and why is part of my story.  A part that has left a huge impact on my life.  But I want to back up and tell you about my journey at the point of leaving Texas and heading towards Nashville, Tennessee.

I want to recognize the fact that some of your stories are filled with much greater sorrow and struggle then mine.  My hope is that my story might provide a little joy into your story.  I believe God loves you unconditionally and with that love comes joy!

Many days I read the devotional book, Jesus Calling.  It is written as if Jesus were speaking.  Here is a sentence I read recently and found to be true.

“Difficult times can jolt you into awareness of your need for Me.”

I have to be honest.  I did not realize I needed a jolt.  I would have told you that I was fully aware of my need for Jesus.  However, I am thankful to have a God who loves me enough to make me aware of my deepest need…HIM… and then brings me joy through the difficult times.

Happiness is an easy expression for me.  I have often been told that I am a “Happy” person.  I like to laugh, I like to smile. (I have to compensate for Brian.)

I have always loved how Dr. Stephen describes happiness vs. joy.  He says “happiness depends upon circumstances and joy is grounded in God’s Word and his promise to always be with us.”  So smiling because I am “Happy” is good but I want the reason behind my smile to be the Joy that comes from Jesus, even in the midst of being jolted by a difficult situation.

Leaving Texas

This church (that I love), the community I have raised my family in and the friends that I will forever cherish was tough.  I was not “happy”, leaving was hard, leaving was sad and challenging.  Not only emotionally but physically.  I was pregnant, in my last trimester with my 4th child.   Trying to keep my house picked up and clean to sell.  Packing – what do we need in the next few days, what goes in to the next few months pile and what can we store until we find a house?  It was nuts – hormones going everywhere.

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Difficult – yes.  Happy – No.  But there was Joy, knowing that Brian and I were following Gods leadership, His plan for our lives.  So…I SMILED.

Memphis and Theft

Off we go on our new adventure.  We stopped overnight in Memphis.  At our hotel Brian unloads our entire car — or at least we thought was our entire car.

Here is an excerpt from one of Brian’s post…

Unknowingly, I’d left one bag in the car overnight. It contained a Ziploc bag, which held all the contents I’d taken from my bank’s safe deposit box– passports, birth certificates, SS cards, and even my wife’s most important jewelry was in the bag.

Most of those things were replaceable. But it was the next few items I remembered, that caused me to literally become sick.

Journals, my personal journals.  One recorded how God had been dealing with me the last two years, including the very important last six months as God called me from one church to the other.

But there were also other journals in the bag–gone. And those were the ones that caused me to grieve.

For each of my children, I’d started a journal. From the day of their first sonogram, I’d been writing in a journal that was just for them. I planned to give it to them when they moved from my home as adults.  Their journals were about them, my faith in God, my hope of their faith in God, their awesome mom, and other “dad needs you to know” stuff.

I could never replace that content. It was worth a lot more to me that anything else stolen from my car. The moment I realized the journals were gone, I was disheartened.

As we drove our final stretch with the crazy noise of a window covered with plastic, frustrated at our situation, Jernie’s four-year-old voice breaks through and says… “Shouldn’t we forgive and pray for the man who broke into our car?”  My child’s reminder brought me Joy even in the midst of the frustration, the dread of all the calls that need to be made, the anger towards someone who stole something from us.  My little girl reminded me that God loved us and forgives us therefore we must love and forgive.  We prayed together in the car and I SMILED.

Ephesians 4:32

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

I have often thought and prayed – I hope Brian’s journals fell into someone’s hands that needed to read the encouraging words from a father to his children. Using the godly advice Brian had meant for his children and made an impact on someone God had ordained to read all along.

Apartment Living

I have lived in many apartments.  But this experience was different – 3 kids.  Brian and I became very aware of how active our children are indoors when we were sandwiched between other peoples living quarters.  When they ran – the ground shook.  When they jumped the walls shook.  When they yelled – our nerves shook.  I felt like a broken record. Walk, stop jumping, and don’t yell.  Walk, stop jumping, and don’t yell.

On top of unpacking, making calls about our lost identities, finding our way around, preparing for a new job, setting up doctor appointments, completing paper work, getting a window replaced in our car there was an important sheet in our “apartment” folder that I glanced at but did not totally register – the dates of them repaving the apartment’s parking lot.

So, Monday morning comes…Brian’s first day on the job.  I am 8 months pregnant, with my 3 kids, the temperature exceeding 100 degrees – I have promised the kids we are going to get out of the apartment and find the library.

With my train of kids, holding hands we walk thru the parking lot to our car – “that’s weird, I could have sworn we parked here.” I continue to look at a few other places within the complex – no car.  I walk into the office… “excuse me, I seem to have misplaced my car.”  The response from the office girl… “we put out memos that we were repaving and if your car was in the area to be paved, it would be towed by 8am.  Your car must have been towed.”  Oh no!  “Your car is at a temporary undisclosed location for the next half hour…if you can find the tow truck guy, give him $60 in cash, he will give you your car back before taking it to the impound location.”

What?  I am not happy.  I am hot, my kids are totally confused, I have no cash but the girls had some of their piggy bank $ – I count my kids money to the penny – not enough.  I do not know anyone who can help me.  I have to call Brian on his first day to come and rescue me.  I totally lose it. I march into the office again – demand they tell me where to find my car, the tow truck guy and give them a piece of my pregnant mind. The girls in the office looked scared to death of what I might say or do next.

They tell me, my car is about one and a half miles up the road.  I come to find out my hike is next to a busy road, with no sidewalk, grass up above my ankle, on a day that Tennessee is having a heat wave and I am now living in a state with hills. By the time Brian pulls up to rescue me, I am crying, sweating, embarrassed, mad, and weak all at the same time.

I got my car back but we never made it to the library that day.  God convicted me to go back into the apartment offices, with my kids, to apologize to the girls that work there for the way I spoke to them…I was not happy but to know that God wanted to use me to show humility to my kids brought me Joy.  I SMILED,  a tiny bit.

1 Peter 3:8 (The Message)

Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble.

Blake’s Arrival

Blake Jules was born on July 18, 2012.  I had a scheduled C-section in the morning – my 4th…Brian and I went in feeling like pros.  We choose Williamson Medical Center based on the fact that it was the closest hospital to our new house.  All signs where looking good – no cause to be alarmed.

She arrived (8 lbs, 2 oz.), we kissed her, admired her super lungs, took a few pictures and then she was taken to get cleaned up.  It was only ten minutes after she arrived that her nurse noticed her coloring above her lip had changed…Blake was suffering from heart failure.

When I was rolled into my room, my doctor was there to explain that Blake was having some type of heart issue but it was unknown what.  I was not super alarmed – this stuff happens.  Just moments later, I am told that she is being transferred to the Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

The next time I see Blake she is gray in color, intubated, still and quiet.  Lifeless.  The Vanderbilt NICU transport team asked if I would like to touch her before they take her, “Yes”.  I sled my arm into the hole of the transport incubator she is in and I touch her tiny foot.  I say, “I love you.”  The nurse hands me a tiny shirt that says, “My first ride was on Angel” – the name of the Ambulance that is a NICU on wheels.  The Vanderbilt nurse, Kathy, looks intense and at the same time sad – what is her expression telling me?  She says they need to go quickly.

Brian was on his way to the hospital when I received the first call from Vanderbilt.  “Blake has arrived, she is very sick.”  Two ministers from Brentwood Baptist come to pray with me.  Even though I tell them I do not need them to stay, Gayle (Congregational Care Minister) says she would like to stay, she does not want me to be alone…she sits quietly in my room – I can physically feel her praying.  I am grateful to have her there , even though we do not know one another.

All wired up day 2

My mom, Dakota and Jernie, our oldest children arrived to my room when I received the next call just minutes after the first.  This time I am on the phone with one of the doctors.  She tells me that Blake is critical, she must be placed on ECMO, a lung and heart life support machine.  She continues to tell me that Blake has been resuscitated 3 times, and her chance of survival is low.  She asks, “Do you understand?”  I tell her, “Yes, my husband is on his way.”

The next number on my phone is Brian’s – I am scared to answer, fully knowing the weight of what he may have to tell me.  He says, “He has met with two of the doctors.  They have also explained to him that Blake must be placed on ECMO and is critical.”  I have heard Brian tell the story of arriving to the hospital, the doctors guiding him into the “Quiet Room”, he gets out a pen and paper wanting to make sure he relays all the information accurately back to me.  But the doctor says, “Mr. Dodridge, there is a very small chance that your baby with survive.”

I hear the pain in Brian’s broken voice, a father’s ache that makes me feel weak that we are not together.  I have been asked if I would like to be transferred but have said no…My feeling was that I cannot move…will I even be able to see her, be with her even if I were there?  And to transfer seems to imply that it is for the sake of seeing her for the last time…I am unwilling to accept that.

A couple hours later, Blake is in surgery, my mom and dad are with my kids at the house.  My mom calls to inform me that Davis’s cough is bad and he is struggling with his breathing again.  We had been to the ER with him two nights ago for this very reason.

Now Brian and I are discussing which hospital do we bring him to and how do we get him there?  We ask the wife of a member from the church’s personnel team that hired Brian. Someone we barely know.  Brian seems to remember that she has a child Davis’s age and therefore a car seat. She not only takes him to Vanderbilt but stays with him until Brian’s dad arrives from Arizona at 2am.  She is now a dear friend of mine…not like she had a choice.

Back at Williamson Medical, Blake’s nurse (Kelly) stops by my room at the end of her shift.  With tears, she tells me, they (the staff) are praying for Blake.  She also says, I can be transferred any time even in the middle of the night.  She is emotional and apologizes for not being more professional.  Her emotion is exactly what I needed.  Not someone else telling me that Blake was receiving the best care possible by being at the Children’s Hospital but someone who recognized the enormity of the situation and responded in a heartfelt way.

Her encouragement to transfer along with one of Blake’s doctors at Vanderbilt wanting me to be there – gave me the push I needed to try and walk.  At 10pm I stood and walked to the bathroom and before I made it back to my bed I tell my nurse, I am ready.  I arrive at Vanderbilt around midnight.  After being grilled with some of the most ridiculous questions for my admission in the hospital I am wheeled into pod J, Blake’s room, at 1am.

I am relieved to be with her and also scared.  I am afraid to admit that I do not recognize her…she is so swollen.  So many things going in her little body – I wonder how all of the wires and tubes have functions?  I tell her I love her and pray silently over her.  Total exhaustion takes over and I must go back to my own room.  Brian and I are all business in our conversation, we are so emotionally drained, and breaking down with one another does not seem to be an option at this point.

The next morning I arrive to Blake’s room.  She made it through the night…I feel a new day brings more hope.  Shortly after I arrive a team of doctors are at Blake’s door for rounds giving Blake’s current status, using terms and words that make me think they are speaking a different language.  Some acknowledge me with a nod but it was Dr. Markham who walks right up to me and says, “Why are you smiling?”

“Why are you smiling?”

She says it in a way that makes me realize how inappropriate it must seem – I didn’t even realize that I was.  I am silent and stunned, searching for the answer to her question.  The nurse breaks the silence and says that my smiling must be the way I am dealing with the situation.  It seems to satisfy Dr. Markham because she has backed off and asked if I have any questions.

But all l that I am thinking about is her question to me…” Why are you smiling?”  Is this a coping mechanism?  In my heart I know that it is more than that and looking back I wish I could have verbalized that my smile was obviously not one of happiness but one of Joy.  Knowing that Blake’s life was not in the hands of these highly trained and skilled doctors but in God’s, the one who formed her and the one who’s love has no end…in life or in death.

This verse is marked in Brian’s Bible (Day 2 of Blake’s life, July 20th)

Psalm: 138:8  “Lord, Your love is eternal: do not abandon the work of Your hands.

Brian’s handwritten note in margin:  “I know You will not abandon Your work (Blake), either by healing or calling her to you.”

In the days to come, I am desperate to hear that Blake is getting better.  That I will have the chance to be her mother here on earth for years to come but the news of her status was so grim her first week of life.  She was being treated for having a clot in her IVC (Inferior Vena Cava) and for poor heart function.  A case like no other for this hospital – which is saying something.  I want to live out Psalm 62:8

“Trust in him at all times, pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

I did find comfort in pouring out my heart to God, crying and questioning.  He was eager to remind me that his love for Blake was greater than my love for her and not only is he my refuge but Blake’s refuge as well.

During this time Brian and I have been giving a pager from the church.  People are asked to pray for us and then call the # so the pager gives us a buzz.  Day and night it goes off…I am grateful.  However, even without the pager I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of prayers I can feel.  Many I know came from you sitting here tonight.  THANK YOU!

Davis was able to return home after one night in the hospital and I healed quickly, walking the 1/2 mile between my room to Blake’s the day after my C-section.  Our parents were able to be with us.  Meals being delivered to our home.  Sisters flying to stay with our kids.  The Simbeck family taking time from vacation to show us love and play with our big kids.  Deacons making daily visits to pray with us.  Cards, emails, messages continually bringing us encouragement.  All of this because people who love God were obedient to pray, to be available, to give, to share, to show me the Joy of Jesus in their lives.

The Church being the CHURCH…I smiled.

Despite dark moments for more than a month, I came to understand the Joy that God imbedded into my life the moment I asked Jesus into my heart.  I said earlier that God loves you unconditionally and with that unconditional love comes Joy.  So whether you are having struggles with your kids, lost a job, grieving for a parent you are now caring for, you yourself are sick, God loves you.  God wants you to experience Joy even when, maybe especially when, you are being jolted by a difficult time.

So, “Why are you smiling?”

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