we need more cheerleaders

25-14 yrs-1982
okay don’t laugh too hard at this picture of me.  it’s when i was a sophomore in high school.  and yes, i was a cheerleader.  don’t hold that against me.  i swear, i was a nice one, albeit a sort of klutzy one.

a little bit ago i spent some time with one of my dearest friends, deborah loyd, who founded & co-pastored the bridge (the refuge’s awesome & amazing sister church in portland) for many years before retiring & beginning to teach at seminary.  i met her and her husband ken through a mutual friend in the first few months of the refuge & we’ve become dear friends ever since.  she is one of my cheerleaders.  she reminds me this work is worth it.   she knows what it feels like to be a female pastor in the not-so-female church world.  she knows what it’s like intersecting with pain day after day. she prays for me.  she worries about me.  she cheers me on.

i’ve been thinking about this a lot lately–how we all need cheerleaders, people who believe in us, encourage us, inspire us, and challenge us to keep moving despite the obstacles.

unfortunately, a lot of the time there’s a spirit of competitiveness among people instead of encouragement.  i honestly think that’s because of insecurity.  some get threatened–if someone else succeeds, what does that mean for those of us who don’t ? if they do their dream, what does it say about us never trying ours? if they win, then that means we might lose.  it’s so messed up, really, our lack of encouragement & support for one another.

it crosses both sexes, but i have just personally seen it more among women because i am one & know many who have really felt the lack of support from other women.  there’s a lot of snubbing, ignoring, dismissing going on that can really be discouraging. it’s bad everywhere, but i think it’s even worse in the christian ministry world, where the free & inclusive spirit of supporting & encouraging others to fly feels fairly rare.

if there’s one thing i feel more committed to than ever it’s being a good cheerleader for my friends–men & women–who are trying hard things & need love and support.  they are leading communities, healing from all kinds of gnarly pain, rebuilding after divorce, returning to college, pursuing new career paths, cultivating their artistic passions, writing books, muddling through parenting their kids, and caring for their aging parents.

whatever their situation, they need good cheerleaders.   not fake rah-rah, but people who care, encourage, love, support, nurture, and believe in us.

and not just women encouraging women or men encouraging men. we need more mixing!  i can’t tell you how healing it’s been to have male cheerleaders, too.  i need both.

so here’s my question to you–who are you being a good cheerleader for?  who needs your encouragement, your support, your reminder to keep on battling even it’s hard?  it may be a person who is going through a difficult time in their life, someone who is jumping into something really scary or going back to school or wanting to step into their dream.  it may be someone who is younger, older than you, or exactly the same age.  the question is–how can you cheer them on & support them in their journey?  how can you pull them up, pray for them, love them during this season?

my second challenge is this–if you need more cheerleaders, ask someone.  be honest.  let them know that you really need some extra love right now, someone in your corner.  it’s risky, i know.  i hate asking.  but recently i did–i was honest & said “i can’t do this book thing without your support.  please, please stick with me on this one; otherwise, i’ll just be too vulnerable.”  it was hard to ask but i’m so glad i did.

i am ever grateful for the cheerleaders in my life, the men & women who support and encourage me.  the truth is, without them, i wouldn’t be here.  i needed other people to believe in me when i couldn’t.   and now that i’ve been doing this in-the-trenches work for a while i know that in order to sustain, i need it even more because otherwise, it’s just too freaking hard.

yeah, we need more cheerleaders.

* * * * *

ps:  here’s a post i wrote for sheloves magazine this month from down we go.  it’s called why prepositions matter.  if you’re not already a facebook fan of sheloves, become one here.  i am so glad to be part of contributing monthly; their heart for justice & love & hope & peace & courage is amazing.

also, here’s a post from my friend-from-the-carnival-blog-and-now-in-real-life sam who visited denver & the refuge last month & has a really fun blog series about loving your neighbor.  he writes about his experience here in this post–being the church in community, part 8, the refuge.  i do love our little sweet community.  also, if you want the most amazing cookie recipe ever, it’s here.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • Hooray for cheerleaders!! I don’t know where I would be without wind beneath my wings from a-mazing supporters. I think that it helps with humilty, in that sometimes we cheer, and sometimes we realize that need to be cheered on. In my opinion, the whole actually really living in the trenches of a faith community, needs cheerleaders as much as money, if not more. 😉 Like you said, too freaking hard without!

    • yes, it’s definitely too hard without them! thanks for being such a great one….xoxox

  • I just wanted to stop by and let you know I am digging in to your book! I find myself reading and re-reading just to soak it all up! I’m usually a VERY fast reader- but not with your book- I’m just feeding on it slowly 🙂
    I had the opportunity to share it with a few teenage boys the other night and one pre-teen girl and they were ready – they got excited talking about where we want our youth group to go- we named it R3AL – R3 is for real, relevant, and relational – REAL/ R3AL youth! thank you for sending your book. I’ll be writing about it on my blog as soon as I can manage to read it all! It’s wonderful – 🙂 praying for your ministry from southwest florida!

    • thanks, kelli. i am glad you are digging into down we go & look forward to your reflections. that is so fun that you’ve been talking about it with the teens, too! prayers and love to you from colorado.

  • I need to expand my cheerleading capabilities…had two patients JUST this week tell me I’m a good “cheerleader”. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I cheer on peeps too well in other areas of my life. Maybe I should wear my Spartan Cheerleading outfit to church? “Roll call…” “who’s that Refugee sitting in that pew?” Could be a fun skit at least!? 😉

    • that made me smile. oh that would be so fun to do at the refuge! one time a few years ago at the refuge when we used to meet at miramonte they made me do a cheer from high school. it was so embarrassing but they left me no choice, there was no way i could get out of it. yikes, i still cringe when i think about it.

  • I love the book of Philippians because i see it as Paul cheerleading all of us!!!! You have a wonderful ability at it Miss Kathy and I hope more and more of us will discover our *inner cheerleader* and put it to work!!!

    1 3 4 5 who shows Jesus is alive??? Kathy kathy yaaayyyyyyyyy KATHY!!!

    Were you a flyer by chance?? 😀

    • i swear, robert, there’s no way to read your comments without totally smiling. thanks for sharing & i love philippians, too, although i never thought of it from that angle before. nah, i am pretty klutzy so no flying for me 🙂

  • The idea of genuinely asking people to help you meet your needs; that’s very confronting. Helping and encouraging others seems so important and life- affirming, but asking for the same thing from others seems so scary. I wonder if it’s because we don’t believe in ourselves?

    • yeah, that’s so hard for me, too, to really “ask for what i need”. it definitely doesn’t come naturally and i do think it comes from that place of not having enough value somehow. thanks so much for sharing & reading, eva. i’m glad you’re here.

  • You’re so right! We all need cheerleaders, people who support and encourage us and who believe in us. Ideally, some of them would be Jesus followers who know us.

    When we gather together, Jesus followers and friends, I think we really want this – people who know us, believe in us, love us, support us, encourage us. Most of us don’t really give a flying fig about the seven meanings of some Greek word in one of Paul’s letters or about the twenty seven ramifications of dispensationalism and all that other religious stuff, but we do care about if someone cares about us. I want to be part of that group that people observe and comment “Wow! See how they love each other!”

    As a visitor to The Refuge a few weeks ago, I felt that vibe. I want to be a part of something like that.

    Kathy, try to ignore the critics. A long time ago I worked alongside a woman who loved to critique various restaurants. It took me awhile to figure out that she knew very little about good cuisine. She mostly liked cheap junk food and lots of it. And so it goes who the religious folks who think they are “experts” at critiquing others. They may know religion, but don’t recognize Jesus. I just want to stay away from people like that.

    • thanks, sam, for being one of my awesome cheerleaders from afar. i am really grateful for you. some of my greatest cheerleaders have been outside of the church instead of in it, that’s really interesting to me. i am very thankful though for the many in and outside of it who support, encourage, and cheer me on. it makes me think of something maya angelou says about “we’ll never remember what a person says but we’ll always remember how they made us feel…” or something along that line. lots of love from colorado, glad you got a taste of the love here, too, that makes me happy.

  • Wow. It is so important to have real cheerleaders. I have a couple now (you included). It is amazing the difference from the fake cheerleaders I used to have. You know the ones…they are always ‘encouraging’ you to ‘get over it’ and ‘move on’….fake smile and confess that you’re ‘fine, fine – everything’s fine’. Real cheerleaders know when to let you mourn. My #1 cheerleader pointed out proverb out to me that so fits…
    “Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather, And like vinegar on soda, Is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.” – Proverbs 25:20.

    • oh that is such a beautiful proverb that i hadn’t heard before. yeah, the fake cheerleaders are really a drag, aren’t they. “move on, cheer up, could be worse, be thankful!” are not really very helpful when we’re hurting and struggling. “i’m with you. i hear you. i love you.” are. thanks for sharing & i am so glad that in some small way i can cheer you on from across the miles…

  • give me an H give me a U give me an M give me a B give me an L give me an E, what does that spell? FEAR
    thanks kathy for your constant reminder that a life of humility is at least one of if not the foundational spiritual practices. i was trying to explain your awesome book the other day to someone, trying to get them to read it and this is my summary “humility is both the foundation and goal of any worthwhile endeavor”
    so why is it so hard for me? i am just to dang scared. what if i let someone get ahead of me, wont i miss out? what if someone else gets more attention or stuff, wont there be less for me?
    i know the answer is yes, but the equation never easily goes away. if i ask for help, i am laid bare and at the mercy of the one i need. scary stuff- keep calling it out in us.
    peace sister…

    • thanks, karl. oh that is so true…what humility spells. it is so hard to step out into this crazy life of faith and following Jesus to the places that are so scary to go in our own hearts & in the lives of others but where we learn the most about ourselves & God & other people & all kinds of other things we didn’t quite bargain for, that’s for sure. without some cheering on & reminding it’s worth it, we’re toast. glad to be in the midst of all this crazy learning with you.


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