Children’s ministry is not for the faint of heart, as every leader or volunteer surely knows. Plain and simple, ministering to kids and families is hard work and often comes with discouragement. KidMin can chew you up and spit you out, leaving you feeling defeated and alone.
Sure, we have good times filled with fun activities, big events, and exhilarating results. But our calling has a dark side. Obstacles include unsupportive leadership, unruly kids, unmotivated or unavailable volunteers, unhappy parents, and an underwhelming budget.
No wonder the average “lifespan” of a children’s pastor is less than 24 months. So I want to address what I believe is the No. 1 killer of children’s ministry leaders: discouragement!
Beware, Children’s Ministry Leader
Discouragement comes without warning. It barges into your world, steals your joy, and cripples your confidence. It distorts the way you see yourself as a leader and distances you from the people you need the most.
I have a weird, ongoing relationship with discouragement. It’s like having an obnoxious, out-of-state second cousin show up at my door totally unexpected and unannounced. “Hi there! I’m just passing through and thought I’d stop by!”
May and August are prime seasons for this distant relative of discouragement to come knocking. It just so happens that’s when we do all our volunteer recruitment campaigns. Year after year, the plot unfolds in the same predictable way.
My team and I determine how many volunteers we need to kick off the school year or summer program strong. We pray and come up with eye-catching posters and banners. We set up the info booth. Plus, we send out emails, post on Facebook, visit adult Bible classes, and have face-to-face conversations. We even make announcements during adult worship.
Then we wait and wait and wait. A couple of people sign up. A few others promise to think about it. Most people pass the info booth either politely smiling or not even looking our way. Slowly the church halls empty, and discouragement enters. It plumps down its fat suitcase and starts unpacking its baggage.
5 Effects of Discouragement
“You failed! No one seems too eager to follow you. You’re not cut out to be a children’s ministry leader after all.”
“You poured so much effort into this campaign, but no one has responded. Poor you!”
“Are you even the right person for this job? Do you have the skills and personality required to really make this work?
“No one else cares about the children. These people are just a bunch of self-absorbed churchgoers!”
“If no one else cares, why should you? Surely you’d be better off doing something else with your time.”
After discouragement finishes scattering its junk all over my soul, I become blinded to anything good happening in my children’s ministry. When that happens, the temptation to quit or at least cool off my zeal becomes very attractive.
What’s interesting is that it doesn’t take something big to make discouragement show up at my door. Something as little as a text or call on Saturday night letting me know a key volunteer won’t be there on Sunday can cause the heavy cloud of discouragement to descend. When that cloud comes, it affects me in two primary areas—my perception and my direction.