KidMin Leader, I have two questions for you. Are you being discipled? Are you making disciples? To be certain, we are in the discipleship business as we pour into the lives of kids and families, pointing them to the gospel. But, what about you? And what about your team? If we are not careful, we can allow our teams of volunteers to “hide out” in our ministries for years at a time without making sure they are firmly planted in daily discipleship. My friend and fellow Lifeway leader, Michael Kelley, joins us on the blog today to give his thoughts about the need for volunteers to stay nurtured in the gospel.
Disciples the Disciples Who Make Disciples
I have a friend who’s fond of saying, “What’s down in the well comes up in the bucket.”
Jesus said something similar, though much more poetically: “How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. A good man produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil man produces evil things from his storeroom of evil” (Matthew 12:34-35).
The point remains the same—what is happening in our heart does not stay there. It eventually makes its way to the surface through our words, attitudes, and actions. These outer signs point us to the true condition of what’s happening below the surface.
But consider, for a moment, what happens when the well starts drying up?
Sure, the water continues to flow for a while. The once clear, cool liquid starts to get muddy and brown until it ceases all together. Call it burnout; call it overwork; call it ministry fatigue; whatever you call it, this is something we, as ministers, must pay attention to in the lives of our volunteers.
These ordinary men and women give so much. They spend hours and hours studying, praying, planning, cutting, pasting, and creating. Every time they do those activities they are pulling water up from the source. It is our responsibility to make sure that the source isn’t starting to run dry. We should, then, be concerned that these disciples of Jesus, who are helping make disciples of children, are also being discipled by others. This concern is one practical way we can tend to the hearts of those God has called to do the work of ministry alongside of us, making sure their ministry is coming from the overflow of their own regular encounters with the gospel.
How practically can we do this? Here are three suggestions:
- Require a sabbatical. Yes, volunteers are at a premium. And yes, it is painful to let go of someone who does the good hard work of ministry, even for a season. But sometimes the best thing to do is let the ground lie fallow for a short time so it can recover from the harvest.
- Link your age groups. Consider asking an adult or senior adult group to adopt a kids class. Their role in that adoption would be to substitute teach once every couple of months, and therefore give your kids ministry volunteers a week off. It’s amazing what a single week of rest can do.
- Rework your leadership team meetings. Time is a scarce resource, and there are many details to cover when you meet with your volunteers. But consider devoting a good portion of that time not to logistics, but instead to soul care. For this, we’d suggest a simple, discipleship pathway called Disciples Path. You can download a free preview at disciplespath.com.
Let’s make sure together we aren’t treating people like buckets; let’s instead make sure we are working together to fill the well.
Michael Kelley is a husband and father of three who lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where he serves as the Director of Groups Ministry for Lifeway Christian Resources. He is also the author of “Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer,” and “God and Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life.” Follow him on Twitter at @_michaelkelley or read more content like this at michaelkelley.co.