Here’s the must-have roadmap out of the valley of common ministry leadership problems.
Ministry is full of peaks and valleys-and boy, do we love those peaks! The high points are what keep us coming back for more, knowing that our toil and effort make a real difference in kids’ lives. Every now and then, though, we meander into one of those dreaded valleys, where problems seem to overshadow the joy of ministry. It can be easy to become lost. Ministry valleys are often where our toughest problems lurk-those conundrums that strain our brains and seem impossible to overcome. With God’s help and strong support, though, we can find our way out of the valley.
Just about every children’s minister has traveled into a valley or two. So we asked you to anonymously share some of the most vexing issues you face, and then we put our experts to work. The problems are tough, but our expert advice is stronger. Read on to find the roadmap out of the valley of common ministry problems!
Question: I’ve tried everything I can think of to get my church to see the importance of children’s ministry. We’ve made headway with our pastor, who’s now on board. But overall our ministry is pushed aside and overlooked, definitely considered a “minor” ministry with the lowest budget, no staff, and no visibility. We don’t even get a credit in the bulletin-despite a team of dedicated volunteers, lots of grass-roots publicity, and a steady stream of kids. What can I do? I’m so frustrated and completely out of ideas. —Frustrated in Fresno
Answer: Here’s the harsh reality: Many children’s ministries are underfunded, understaffed, and overlooked. The recession crimped budgets and children’s ministries often face cuts first. Still, the good news is your pastor is your fan.
Children’s ministry involves planting seeds and tending seedlings; we rarely see the fruit of our labor. That’s why situations like yours are gut-check moments for why we even do children’s ministry. If it’s for visibility or validation, we’ll be disappointed. The reality is, adults tend to push children out of sight, down the hall, away. No one may care or notice what we do. The joy comes when children experience Jesus and laugh, learn, or love.
That said—I’ve experienced similar frustration when ministry isn’t given its due. Other ministries garner more money, attention, and volunteers, so it can be easy to grow cynical and apathetic. I encourage you to persevere in patience (James 1:2-8).
You mentioned some important wins, including dedicated volunteers and attendance (with a positive buzz). Don’t let the lack of bulletin promotion bother you because in the big picture, bulletins matter very little. Keep working on your grass-roots promotion—it’s more effective anyway. And turn some focus to visibility within your congregation. If your pastor is open to it, why not dedicate a day per month to something children’s ministry-related? Fifth Sundays are great days to spotlight and affirm volunteers, let kids tell their stories, and engage kids in worship. You can also organize tours of classes or deploy children as greeters, worship leaders, and ushers.
And by all means invite pastoral staff and other church leaders to serve in your children’s ministry. Not for an hour or every week, but for a few minutes when possible. Leaders need to see what you’re doing (because they often don’t)-and when they see the fruit of your work, it usually means more funding and attention.
Rick Chromey (rickchromey.com) has over 30 years in children’s ministry leadership and is the author of Energizing Children’s Ministry in the Smaller Church and Sermons Reimagined.