Use these ideas to recharge your spirit and 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?”
1. Getting “Innergized”
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.
2. Temple Maintenance
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.
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 wate—dehydration results in fatigue.
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.
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.
3. 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. A great way to connect with others in your community is Group’s Children’s Ministry Local Training.
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.
4. 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.
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.
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 backyard. 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.
5. A Balanced Life
There’s only one thing you can spend and never get back—time. So how are you spending your time? To ensure that you’re spending it well, follow these tips.
Time for yourself
Taking time for yourself is one of the best things you can do for your ministry. When you’re refreshed, you’ll get more done and enjoy the journey more. Take a bubble bath, play a round of golf, or sit on a porch swing and curl up with a good book.
Time for family
Take vacations where you relax and spend time with your family (that means leaving the briefcase and laptop at home). When time permits, take a mini-vacation; a quick getaway can boost you when you’re feeling weary. Having a fun trip to look forward to helps make crunch times more bearable.
Time for ministry
Map out your day so you intentionally have a more balanced life. A friend of mine in ministry divides his days into three sections: morning, afternoon, and evening. He only does ministry during two of those three time frames. It helps him be a more balanced person, and he’s a better role model for his church members.
Time for God
I love having my quiet time in the same place each day, but there are times when I need a little more “innergizing.” A change of scenery to be with the Lord does that for me. Every now and then, find a spot to escape from the ordinary. When I lived in Kentucky, I would occasionally drive to Natural Bridge State Park, climb to the bridge, and sit there to journal, pray, and read for hours. I’d pack a lunch and soak up God’s glorious creation. By the end of the day, I felt refreshed and renewed for ministry.
6. Reminder Refreshers
Quick visual and written reminders can help you remember why you said yes to children’s ministry. Try these ideas.
To be refreshed and reminded daily of the difference you make, fill a folder or memory book with things you’ve received, such as cards, notes, letters, children’s drawings, and whatever else you choose. This is a great tool to pull out when you’ve had a hard day or week. Keep it handy for those weeks you know are going to be especially tough. These are tangible reminders of how your ministry impacts the lives of others.
On a small bulletin board in your office, put photographs of people whose lives you’ve touched, such as that friend who lacked the confidence to teach, but you had faith in her abilities. Today, she’s not only teaching Sunday school but also mentoring new volunteers. What about the sixth-grade girl who was afraid to audition for choir and you helped her realize her gifts? This summer she’s touring with a choir who does outreach. Maybe you’ve influenced someone to become a children’s minister. These are visual reminders of the difference you’re making in people’s lives.
As you remember the reasons you went into children’s ministry, jot them in a journal. As you find pictures in magazines or real photographs or illustrations that depict your reasons, cut them out and add them to your journal.
One of the reasons I went into ministry is to empower others for ministry. Another way to say that is I want to teach others to fish. I found a great picture in a missions magazine of a man fishing and pasted it to poster board. This became a visual prayer for God to use my life effectively in his service. I keep this visual prayer in my night stand to look at it each night as I go to bed and each morning when I get up. It reminds me of God’s call and purpose for my life.
God has called us to his service to make a difference in the lives of children and their families. Take time to be innergized so you can faithfully continue the work God has called you to do.
7. Come Away
Another way I love to recharge my spirit is to find a retreat center and get away for a day or two. Taking only my Bible, a hymnal, a prayer book, and a lot of empty pages in a journal, I spend time sleeping, reading, praying, and receiving from God. This is a great time to personally recast the vision for my ministry.
I know you’re busy, and sometimes you just can’t get away for a few days. So, instead, use this hour-long retreat plan to allow God to place a renewed fire in you to carry out your ministry. Refocus and spend time with your Savior. All you need is a Bible, a journal, and something to write with. Find a quiet place. Maybe it’s the sanctuary of your church or just the quiet experienced by closing your office door.
Elaine Friedrich Hall is a children’s ministry consultant who lives in Cordova, Tennessee.
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