Are You Dangerously Discouraged? Here Are 6 Ways to Help.
Published: November 14, 2022
No doubt about it, the seasons of joy and despair in ministry can ebb and flow. When things are going well, there’s no better feeling. When they’re not—or you’ve simply hit a personal dry spell—ministry can feel like punishment. Here’s how to tell whether you’re dangerously discouraged in ministry.
Consider Amber, who’s successfully led her church’s VBS for over 10 years, ministering to hundreds of children. Every year, church leaders and members crow about her wonderful accomplishments and how important VBS is. Yet, when it comes time for budgeting, there’s no money for the children’s area. Today, there’s no official children’s department or programming. And while other staff are well compensated, Amber’s role is strictly volunteer. Her leaders have made it clear that special donations alone will pay for VBS and no other budget dollars will go there or any children’s programming. The end result after all these years? There are 3 to 5 kids in church each Sunday, no established children’s ministry program, no youth department, and a dwindling, aging demographic. After all her work, very few young families even attend the church. When Amber has approached her senior pastor with these issues, his response is disappointing.
“He still gets a paycheck no matter what happens with the kids,” Amber says, disheartened. “After all these years and all this effort, I can’t do it anymore. I’m the one killing myself, and no one else in our church will do anything—not even speak up that this is a problem. Yet they all say they want to see children’s ministry grow and they want me to keep doing VBS every year. It doesn’t make sense.” Amber says she’ll do VBS one more year because she promised the kids, but after that she’s hanging it up—and planning to walk away from her church.
Are you dangerously discouraged? Here are six ways to help.
If you’re discouraged, you’re not alone. Ministry can be brutally tough at times. Here are six things you can do right now to stop the tide of unhappy feelings and begin to think practically about your next steps.
Too often in churches, people tiptoe around harsh realities because they don’t want to be rude or hurt someone’s feelings. But when you’re in a leadership role, part of your responsibility to the church is to handle problems directly. This may mean sitting down with your senior pastor for a heart-to-heart or the team member you can’t get along with. Be kind and listen as much as (or more) than you talk—but be direct about what the problem is. Don’t focus on the person; instead, focus on the behaviors or processes that are causing the problem. When you take the focus off the person, you’ll remove the need for him or her to become defensive.
2. Find someone outside your ministry to talk to.
This person doesn’t need to be in ministry at all. He or she just needs to be someone who’ll give you honest feedback, listen to you explain why you’re feeling discouraged, and keep confidence. Someone who doesn’t attend your church or have relationships with the players involved is ideal.
3. Reach out to your CM network for problem-solving.
If you have logistical issues or programming problems you’re discouraged with, connect with others in ministry for advice. Don’t use these avenues to complain about your situation; instead, take the approach that you need fresh eyes on your problem. Be open to their suggestions. Above all, seek to view the problem anew.
4. Stand your ground.
If your discouragement stems more from how you’re being treated or how others view your role, remember first whom you really work for: God. Once you keep that in mind, you’ll be more likely to stand strong for the things that really matter and for the things you know will strengthen the ministry.
5. Take a break.
When feelings of discouragement are strong enough to make you feel like quitting, that’s a big sign you need a mental break. Even if it’s just for one weekend or a couple of days, completely remove yourself from ministry and do something you enjoy. Let others know you won’t be available during this time, and then really don’t be. Once you’ve had a mental break, you’ll be able to think more clearly and consider your next steps. For great renewal ideas, click here.
6. Find out what others in similar situations have done.
Read this article right now about how several children’s ministers handled being seriously discouraged in children’s ministry—and what professional counselors and therapists say your next steps should be. For even more pointers, click here.
Want more articles for children’s ministry leaders? Check these out.
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