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As Children’s Ministry leaders, we have all lived in seasons of hard ministry. We have faced the temptation to call it quits and move on. I’ve been in those seasons before, and this is my attempt to offer encouragement and words that you can come back to whenever needed.

Dear Tired, Undervalued, About-to-Burnout Children’s Ministry Leader,

I see your tired mind and weary body. You love what you are called to do, but you’re not sure how much longer you can make it. There are nights when you can’t sleep and mornings when you don’t want to wake up. You work yourself to the bone as if eternity depended on it. And while the results are not up to you, eternity really is our focus. The weight of such a calling is heavy. It has made you tired and weary. You need to hear these words:

Do not give up. 

In your weariness, remember that wondrous God is using you to introduce Himself to wide-eyed children who desperately need to know Him. In your moments of feeling under appreciated, remember that every conversation with a child is a chance for the Holy Spirit reach their heart and transform their eternity. You are making a difference and God is using you to fulfill His good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)

It might feel like no one understands or cares, but don’t give into that lie. Your church needs you to continue pouring into children and families. They may not see all that it takes or understand the sacrifices that you make. Your struggles to find volunteers and get support may feel like failures, but you must keep going. You are providing opportunities for others to be involved in everything God is doing to raise up a new generation who will love and serve Him.

Do not give up.

In His sovereignty, God could have placed anyone in this role, and He chose you. He chose you because you are made for this role. While He has certainly gifted you for this role, your abilities will never be enough. But His grace and power are enough. Find rest in what Jesus has done for you and who the Gospel proclaims you to be. Find strength in the God who has made and cares deeply for all things—including the kids in your ministry and you. Find hope in His promise that His word—faithfully taught in your ministry—will not return empty.

I’m sorry that you are tired and undervalued. I know that Satan has undoubtedly used those feelings to make you feel like throwing in the towel. If I could put a voice to what I think God might be saying at this very moment, I would simply say:

Do not give up.

If you are enduring a hard season and need prayer, please leave your name in the comments or contact me. I want to spend this month praying for you and your ministry.

I was reminded this week of the power that a father carries in the life of a son. From love to leadership, the father sets the example for manhood. Boys need their fathers. At the same time, there are so many young men that have absent fathers, and they need a strong male to mentor and guide them. We all need someone to love us and guide us. We all need an example of manhood.

In 1992, Derek Redmond was a favorite in the 400 meters at the Barcelona Olympics. About 150 meters into the race, he tore his hamstring. Derek collapsed in the middle of the track. Determined to finish the race, he stumbled forward. His dad broke through security and came to walk alongside his son. They crossed the finish line together. This was a global expression of what it means for a father to love and guide his son.

Sooner or later, everyone suffers a period where they lack encouragement or motivation. It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, there will be times when you feel under-appreciated or depressed. These times could be related to your performance, your relationships with those around you, or just to the crummy weather outside your office window!  No matter what the cause, these periods are difficult to deal with unless you have prepared for them ahead of time.  When I face these times, I turn to Scripture and prayer so that I can be reminded of God’s promises. But that’s not all I do. I also turn to what I call my “happy file.”

When I started in ministry 9 years ago, a received great advice from my first boss. He instructed me to create a “happy file” to hold notes, cards, emails, or gifts that were encouraging to me in my ministry efforts. The tendency is to read these items, fill up on the encouragement, and then toss them away.  

After creating a “happy file”, I realized that encouragement is a non-perishable item.

When I face a discouraging moment or a rough season in ministry, I will always go to my “happy file” to be reminded of the things I’ve seen God do in and through me. It may not immediately or completely remedy the funk, but it ALWAYS helps.

Here are some examples of things to put in your “happy file”:

  • Encouraging cards from others
  • Pictures, cards or gifts from your kids or other children
  • Copies of encouraging emails from your co-workers or boss
  • Pictures of people who have influenced you or made a difference in your career
  • Pictures of people who have been encouraged or influenced by your work
  • Quotations, Scripture verses, or lyrics that have spoken to you in other times of need

What will be the first thing you put in your happy file?

This past weekend, my wife, Dana, and I decided it was time to do some much-needed landscaping at our new house. There are a lot of hobbies that I enjoy, but gardening is just not one of them. The main reason I don’t enjoy it is because I really don’t know what I’m doing. In the past, we’ve paid hundreds of dollars for plants only to watch them die due to my lack of horticulture knowledge. But this time was different because I had a mentor.

My father-in-law loves gardening and he’s extremely good at it. He just happened to be in town this weekend, so he came over to help with the task.  I quickly learned that having a mentor is a powerful advantage that transforms the entire experience.

Here is what I learned from the landscaping project:

You need a mentor to increase your passion
As the day went by, my disgust for gardening faded because of my father-in-law’s contagious passion.  He was teaching me about the process that he really loved, and pretty soon I was hooked. I realized passion exponentially increases when you’re exposed to a mentor who is passionate.

You need a mentor to increase your knowledge
One of the major reasons that I was beginning to enjoy the landscape project was because I felt like I finally understand what I was doing.  I wasn’t simply following instructions that came with the plan. I was watching and learning as he explained the best way to prepare the soil and care for the plant.  My knowledge was increasing because he was showing me how to get it done.

You need a mentor to increase your work
The landscape project only included the small flower bed in front of the house. I was too scared to tackle the larger beds that were on both sides of the house.  I was also too scared to touch the existing plants and shrubs that had become overgrown. So what did we get done? All of it! We pruned the shrubs, pulled out the weeds, and spruced up all three flower beds. And we did it in record time! What seemed daunting and impossible to me became a fairly easy project because I had leadership and encouragement from a mentor. We’re able to get so much more done when we have a mentor that is leading us and cheering for us!

As a ministry leader, you need a mentor. We all have blind spots. We all go through seasons of stagnation. We need a mentor to lead and encourage us to move forward. 

By the way, HUGE shout out of thanks to my father-in-law, Gary, for all the landscape help. We now have a much more beautiful yard thanks to him. More importantly, I feel like I have a lot more horticulture knowledge!