Recently I watched a baby of about one year old who was trying to learn to speak. As conversations were carried on around him, he mimicked the sounds and actions he was observing. When people were talking, he would make word-like sounds in their direction as if we wanted to be included in the situation. At dinner after taking a bite of food, he would say “mmmmmmm.” Whenever he took even these small steps toward language, the adults went crazy praising him and showering him with attention. What did he do with this praise, this attention? He repeated the sound of course. If you get a response that good the first time—keep on doing it!
In the same way in our ministries, affirmed behaviors tend to be repeated. When we catch people doing something right, tell them! Brag about them, compliment them. Even with small successes, encouragement keeps people going. Celebrate the effort.