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Keeping Yourself Spiritually Challenged

Linda Shepherd

You're a spiritual oasis to thirsty children and famished volunteers. They open up their canteens, and you pour from your spiritual wealth. But what happens when your well runs dry?

You have to keep yourself spiritually challenged in this demanding field of children's ministry or your oasis will become a mere mirage. To give you ideas for filling up spiritually, CHILDREN'S MINISTRY Magazine asked five children's ministers, "What keeps you spiritually challenged?" Here's what they said:

Liz VonSeggen, director of children's ministry at a Denver church. "Journaling-as I'm doing my reading, I try to write down scriptures that really stand out to me...I also actually write prayers and praises. Not a daily journal, but every couple or three days. Then sometimes when I'm feeling particularly needy, I go back and reread some of those entries, and that is very good for me because it makes me go back and see where my thought life was."

Liz frequently speaks at conferences about her puppet ministry. But she also attends challenging services or conferences just to revitalize herself. She says, "I go with my Bible and pen in hand, try to hear what God is saying to me, and I become a listener." Bart Campolo, executive director of Kingdomworks in Philadelphia. Bart keeps spiritually challenged through a literary fellowship group. "We have a class once a week that I sort of lead. It's not a Bible study per se but a class where we read great books, great Christian books, secular books, and sort of discuss their spiritual ramifications and try to figure out what they're saying and what they're about. The idea of having that kind of fellowship but having it circle around great Christian literature has been really helpful because it provides a different prism to get at our lives.

"The other thing is that, and this is my personal crusade in life, is the opposite of that: What destroys my spiritual life, more than anything, is television. And simply removing the TV set from my living room and deciding never to watch it has opened up all sorts of spiritual avenues...Most people I know, no matter what they do to enliven their spiritual lives, to keep themselves spiritually motivated, if they don't stop watching television, it all gets kind of drowned in that morass."

Pat Verbal, Christian education consultant and former children's pastor in California. "I stay in a really good, active prayer group with other people in ministry, and that helps me a lot. Because if I'm feeling low or weak, that prayer group really keeps me going.

"The other thing is that when you're in an administrative level of ministry, when you're in a large church, you can lose one-on-one contact with kids-not your own kids, other kids. So I keep a children's worship team. They apply at the office, and I choose two or three from each upper-age group, so I have a dozen kids every quarter. And for that quarter, those 12 kids are my group. I take them to dinner. We go get ice cream. They help me plan. They tell me what kids like: "We liked children's church last week" or "No, we didn't." They keep me in touch with what's up."

Jim Wideman, Christian education director at a Tulsa church. "One of the main things I do is go to church. I delegate responsibilities and have enough workers available so I can attend church services."

Jim keeps a balance in his spiritual life by treating his "spiritual life like a checkbook-I make deposits before I write a check."

How does Jim make those deposits?

"I just schedule in my daytimer times with the Lord, just like I make appointments with other folks. If anybody tries to make an appointment during that time (with the Lord), I just tell them I have an appointment."

Bill Wilson, pastor in Brooklyn and author of Whose Child Is This? (Creation House). "After 25 years of full-time ministry, one thing that I have learned, whether it's in my own personal life or working with staff, is the busier you get and the more it seems you are actually accomplishing for God, the easier it is to forget...your own personal walk with the Lord."

Bill lists a couple of key factors for him to stay spiritually challenged. "I don't necessarily think it's the type of material or amount of it, or even if it's done at the same time each day, but I have tried to stay very keenly aware that on a disciplined basis there must be a time for honest evaluation and reflection. The key word here is honest...One of my philosophies of life is, 'To be is more important than to do.' If we are what we say we are, and what we know we need to be, the doing of our ministry will become a very visual byproduct of what God is actually doing within us.

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