25 off-the-beaten-path ways to find
This thing we call "ministry." It gives us the opportunity to
use our gifts and talents to serve God. And it's rejuvenating and
rewarding as we see children's lives changed. There are those times
when we just want to yell from the mountaintops, "I love
But there are also those valley times when nothing's working the
way we planned, everything's in turmoil, and we can't seem to
muster up the motivation to get going.
It's in those times that we must get out of our "pity party," as
author Mamie McCullough calls it-where I'm the only guest...and
nobody's serving refreshments!
If we open our eyes and look around, we'll find that God is
sending raindrops of hope and encouragement. God has great things
planned for us. We simply have to take the time to experience his
The next time you're down in the dumps, try one of these 25
picker-uppers to boost your spirits.
- Take a child to lunch. Could be your own or
one from your group. Really listen! Join in the laughter as the
- Cuddle a baby in the nursery. Sing a verse of
"Jesus Loves Me" to the child and yourself. Jesus means that song
for you, too!
- Call a teacher to find out what's exciting in his or
her class. Enthusiasm is contagious, so try to catch
- Stand at the entryway to your sanctuary between Sunday
school and worship time. Greet the children as they come
in, and drink in their genuine expressions of love-a wave, a hug,
or a "hi."
- Give a hug and enjoy the squeeze effect.
"Never hug tomorrow someone you could hug today," says Dave Ross in
A Book of HUGS. Ross suggests giving Octopus hugs, Puppy
hugs, even Porcupine hugs as ways to give and get a hug. There are
even Single Arm hugs for people who walk together. Hugs can be a
blessing any time!
- The next time you get a hug, imagine God's great big
arms wrapped around you. Receive God's love through this
special, "huggerific" messenger!
- "Joy rises in my heart until I burst out in songs of
praise to him"-(Psalm 28:7). Keep a tape deck within easy
access and plug in your favorite worship music. If you have a
collection of kids' music, sing along and feel the joy lift you
into God's presence.
- Micah 4:2 tells us, "Come, let us go
up to the mountain of the Lord...so that he can teach us his
ways." What a great means of encouragement! Take off for a
weekend. Well, maybe an afternoon, to your favorite hideaway. Catch
your thoughts, review your direction, allow God to talk with you.
That is what God wants, but so often we're too busy doing his work
to enjoy his presence.
- You don't have an hour, much less a day? Well,
take an early-morning bike ride or a brisk walk. Marvel once again
at the sunrise, the music of the birds, the beauty of the trees and
clouds, and all God's creation-without the noise and bustle of
- When the opportunity affords, get out that inflatable
mattress and a really good book. Take a float in a nearby
pool or lake.
- Or join your kids in the front yard to build a snowman
and have a rousing snowball fight. Don't forget the hot
- Declare your mouth a "no-whine" zone. Any time
you want to complain about something, find at least one positive
thing about the "whiny" area and say the positive thing instead.
You'll be surprised how focusing on the positive will change your
- Take the time to listen to a good friend. Time
spent giving to a friend is a great encourager to you. Share your
troubles over a special cup of tea.
- Keep a sense of humor. Allow yourself to laugh
at you and the funny things that happen in life.
- I love to fill my office with pictures of my family at
special times and children who have been a blessing. These
pictures help put what I'm doing back into perspective.
- Have you ever noticed how there's always room for ice
cream...or Oreo cookies and milk? Just get out of the
office and take a walk while you lick that chocolate cone.
(Sometimes, even a lollipop will do!)
- Nothing beats a good "Smile File." Save notes
of encouragement from friends, parents, or kids. Pull out the file
when you need a smile. These notes will continually deliver
encouragement from the senders to you.
- A good laugh brings great joy and loosens up those
tight muscles. I have a friend who's an avid Far Side fan.
Her collection of cartoons comes out often during discouraging
- Take a trip to a local card shop with a friend or
co-worker. Pick out cards to exchange. Read them, share
them...but don't buy! This is a quick half hour to lift your frown
lines and your spirits.
- Always remember you're not alone in God's work. Keep
special coffee blends in your office area. Make any day
special when you invite staff in for a "Praise and Pamper Party!"
Celebrate the positive happenings in each other's ministry and
- A "Scripture a Day" calendar is a quick lift to keep
close. Devotional calendars with quotes, quips, and verses
can fit easily on a desk corner, a bathroom or kitchen counter, or
even in the car. It always amazes me how God will draw my attention
to a verse at just the moment I need it.
- Retreat to the backyard swing or a local park to watch
the sunset. Take that sunset personally. God's glory
revealed in his power and majesty is a powerful reminder of his
ability to care for you.
- Always carry a pocket book of encouragement.
My favorites are the works of Max Lucado: God Came Near and He
Still Moves Stones. These books often reveal a Scripture that I
need to set me straight. Many authors have published great works of
encouragement (some are now made small enough to fit in a pocket or
purse), but the best is found in God's work. Read through Psalm 139 when the world gets you down, and
know that God cares for you.
- Do you have a prayer journal or praise list?
Keep track of needs, jotting down dates and prayer requests. Note
answers to prayer. Go back over these answered prayers days, weeks,
or months later to see proof of God's faithfulness to you.
- Above all, talk to God. He longs to hear from
you...and he will always listen and respond. Remember: Don't pray
by heart, but with the heart. Be open and honest with your Lord.
God knows your every need, and he will bring encouragement from
Mary Van Aalsburg is a former children's minister in
California. Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and
prices are subject to change.