Use these ideas to rekindle the reasons you first said yes to God’s call to children’s ministry
It’s a typical Monday morning. Before you even get into your office at church, your phone rings. It’s one of the weekday preschool teachers. It seems the holiday decorations in the 4-year-old classroom have disappeared.
“It must’ve been ‘your’ Sunday school kids,” she accuses.
Shared space. Discipline issues. Disgruntled parents. Difficulty finding qualified leaders. Whirlwind holiday marathons. These are but a few of the typical issues in children’s ministry. We enter into ministry with a blissful “honeymoon” feeling, a confidence that we can change the world. It typically doesn’t take long before reality sets in, though.
Sometimes each of us has to sit down and face the question, “Why am I doing this? Is it really worth it?”
I remember seriously asking these probing questions after completing the 16th vacation Bible school of my children’s ministry career. I was facing not only burnout but also a crisis of calling. What did God really want me to do with my life? What was my purpose? Was I fulfilling God’s purpose for my life through my current ministry position?
I needed to be “innergized,” a new word I invented to describe the work that God needed to do in me before he could completely work through me. I needed an inside tune-up, a fresh touch of the Holy Spirit working in my life — helping me to find the answers I desperately needed.
When I find myself in need of “innergy,” I remember the story of Elijah running for his life from Jezebel in 1 Kings 19:3-21. Elijah was physically, emotionally, and spiritually spent. His innergy was exhausted. God gave him specific instructions to recharge his spirit.
First, the Lord instructed Elijah to lie down and sleep, then to eat. When we face an innergy crisis in our life, God gives us practical advice for getting the things our bodies need: rest and nourishment.
When I face burnout and stop long enough to think for a few seconds, I realize that I haven’t been taking good care of myself. I find I’ve rarely taken time to enjoy a leisurely lunch, a workout at the gym, or even a good night’s sleep. These times are critical because we acquire a mental change through physical challenge. We gain a new perspective through taking care of our physical bodies.
Registered dietician Pamela Smith says that “God has scripted energy into every cell of your body. Getting the inborn energy system operative and running smoothly is your best bet for achieving a sense of physical well-being and vitality.”
When your spirit needs recharging, first take an inventory of your physical well-being.
• Diet Watch. Eating the right foods at the right time will increase your energy. And the right foods include a balanced diet with protein and complex carbohydrates, such as fruits and grains, at every meal. Start your day with breakfast. Skipping this meal means you’ll spend your entire day fighting an energy deficit, according to Smith.
Smith recommends, “Eat early, eat often, eat balanced, and eat lean.” And don’t forget to drink plenty of water — dehydration results in fatigue.
• Exercise Routine. Exercising is not only a stress-buster, it also increases your energy level and strengthens your immune system. Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week will revitalize you, enabling you to be more alert and energized. A brisk walk over lunch could be just the boost you need to make it through a hectic day.
• Snooze News. The recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night that we’ve all heard of — but may never follow — is the best prescription. Sleep provides the crucial time needed for your body to recharge, both physically and mentally. How you eat during the day and your exercise routine will determine how well you sleep at night.
After considering these three areas, design a routine that works for you to meet your physical needs. Taking care of your physical needs enables you to be a better servant to others.
Partners And Pals
The second piece of advice that the Lord gave run-down Elijah was to get someone to help. That’s good advice for children’s ministers too! Here’s how.
• Seek partners within your church. Elijah recruited Elisha to be a partner in ministry. Too often we try to accomplish everything by ourselves, and that’s the precursor to burnout. Recruiting others to serve in ministry not only helps us do ministry, but it also provides encouragement as people catch the vision of serving children in the church.
• Seek partners outside your church. Another method of partnering is to find individuals who are serving as children’s ministry leaders in other churches in your community. Many communities already have networking groups for children’s ministry. If there isn’t a network in your area to plug into, call churches in your community to find individuals serving in the same capacity as you. Go to lunch with them. Develop a local network of friends who serve children.
It’s amazing what happens when you share your ministry frustrations with others who fully understand. Verbalizing disappointments, problems, and areas of concern with likeminded people gets these burdens off your chest and may provide a solution to an issue you’re facing because someone has already wrestled with the problem.
The Fun Factor
Dale Carnegie once said, “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” On a scale of one to 10, 10 being the highest, what is your “Fun Factor”? Part of the challenge of living a balanced life is making sure there’s enough fun in your life! For us adults, though, we have to be intentional about fun.
• Plan ahead. Map out your week so you get a perspective on how much time you have to play. Schedule fun in. Most people serving in ministry are dedicated, loyal, and hard working. We usually don’t have to worry about not working enough hours! Church staff typically err on the opposite end, spending too many hours giving and giving and giving. Plan time each day to make even some mundane things more fun.
• Be playful. I once read about an executive who came back from an out-of-town trip and had 100 phone calls to return! Instead of begrudgingly sitting at his desk to accomplish this feat, he figured out a way to have fun and make the calls at the same time. He sat in his spa tub and, using his cordless phone, returned all the calls in a way that made the task more enjoyable.
This scenario may not be your idea of fun at work, but you get the idea. Sometimes we need to challenge ourselves to think fun. When you make your weekly list of goals, phone calls, and things to do, think about how you can do some of these and have fun at the same time.
• Think outside the box. Depending on your church’s policies, are there things you could do from home? I’ve returned many phone calls while enjoying a beautiful spring day in my own back yard. I find that if I can keep up with phone calls, I feel less overwhelmed. I can manage my days better when I maintain a steady pace rather than a sprint-and-stop method.
If you have to go shopping for supplies, take a friend with you to make the task more enjoyable. Plan a lunch date with your spouse to break up the day. Schedule meetings off campus for a change of scenery. Take a group of volunteers to an arcade for some kid-culture training and stress-busting as you play the latest video games.