I see it at nearly every church in which I’ve served or with whom I’ve consulted over the last decade. Whether you are a volunteer, a part-time, or a full-time KidMin leader, you’ve seen it happen in different settings and at almost every level.
It starts with phrases like “I can’t do this if I don’t get more volunteers!”, or “Why am I the only one who is doing anything!” I’ve even heard, and probably said, “This is the last year I am doing this event!”
Notice two things about each phrase. Each ends with an exclamation point. When we are ready to quit or do something drastic or simply want to be heard, we tend to “exclaim” it. The second thing to note about each phrase is that “I” has become the central figure of concern.
KidMin leaders DO experience burnout at a high level. However, here are some things that may not only help you avoid burnout, but allow you to thrive in the midst of a crazy KidMin world.
- Refocus on Christ. Let him call you, once again, to the work that many of us have come to realize is the most rewarding ministry of the body. Children’s ministry is a calling. Often, we stop hearing it, not because it’s not still sounding, but because the “tyranny of the urgent” has become too loud. This is a daily commitment to stay focused on the One who understands what it means to stay focused. (Luke 5:16)
- Organize and strategize post-event “resets.” Before you plan a VBS, program, camp, or another massive kid event, plan the post-event clean up. DO THIS FIRST. Get a point person to oversee or help with the process. In fact, find someone who is not involved in the event at all or even in KidMin. You just need an administrative organizer for this. This person’s sole responsibility is to make sure that everything is cleaned up, put back, and ready for next Sunday. They should have a team that begins to reset things the very moment that the event ends. If you ask most pastors, they’ll say that this is one of the most neglected components of event logistics. “Leave it better than you found it” is always a good rule.
- Put recoup in your schedule. Work with your pastor to insure that you get a regularly scheduled time to “retreat.” Plan these times regularly and with intention. Plan on praying, reading God’s Word, and just dreaming about what plans God might have for your ministry. You should be getting away for a day at least once every other month. Plan them before you need them, knowing that you WILL need them.
- Organize your leaders with a plan for migration. We want volunteers who are consistent and committed. Many people want to help, but are not willing to make long-term or full-time commitments to it. I’ve always put volunteers into three buckets. The first bucket is short term. These folks are generally the ones that volunteer for an event or a trip. It’s the easiest one to fill, but you want to try to move these folks to the second bucket, which is long-term/part-time. These are leaders who will commit to serving for a season or more, but only every other week or so. Great group, but we want them in the last, golden bucket of KidMin goodness which is long-term/full-time. All three buckets are great, but I’ve seen that leaders who have this bucket to the brim tend to experience burn-out the least. Leaders who are committed to the long-term KidMin in your church and show up every week to help lead it are the MVPs of KidMin.
- Surround yourself with leaders who will help you with the previous four items. Don’t go this alone. You might even consider leaders OUTSIDE of your ministry area. While people who are in the trenches together can support each other, it’s wise to have folks who serve the body in other areas and whose gifts include encouragement.
In the end the end, you might still make those statements, but you won’t have to shout them as loudly and you won’t be alone in your fervor for seeing kids come to know Jesus.
Jeffrey Reed serves as a Kids Ministry Specialist for Lifeway Kids. His ministry experiences include worship leader, director of children’s ministry, and has served on the executive leadership in several growing congregations. He, his wife Katherine, and their four kids live in Spring Hill, Tennessee where they serve each week in their church’s Kids Ministry.