What’s the best way to build and maintain a healthy children’s ministry team that beats the stereotypical high turnover rate? Recruiting drives and appreciation efforts can be helpful, but if the leadership is struggling and weary, these efforts could be wasted. As leaders, it’s smart for us to look at our own patterns from time to time to make sure that we are not headed down the road of burnout—this sets us up for long-term service, and sets a good example for others as well. Here are some simple things you can do for yourself to promote longevity in ministry:
- The saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” certainly applies in when it comes to burnout. Taking steps to make sure you are healthy—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—is perhaps the most important factor in developing staying power.
- Check in: find a mentor outside of your church who you can trust and set a regular time to check in. Give them permission to be honest with you, and set a tone of transparency in your conversations.
- Self-care: set aside time daily to care for yourself. This is not about self-indulgence, but about stewardship. You cannot serve without caring for your mind, body, and soul.
- Good boundaries: it’s a good practice to regularly assess your routines, workload, and responsibilities. If you can see that there are areas in your life that are often being neglected, take the time to see what you can take off of your plate and make sure you know that being a good leader (or volunteer!) includes knowing when you need to say “no.”
- The signs that you are approaching (or perhaps knee-deep in) burnout can be either glaringly obvious or super subtle. Here are a few things to watch for:
- Sick and tired: God created our hearts, minds, and bodies to be intricately intertwined. It’s common to experience a weakened immune system, dwindling energy, or even depression as you are emotionally depleted.
- Frustrated/offended/dissatisfied: Though ministry can be, at times, challenging, to say the very least, when you find yourself frequently irritated or often offended, this could be another signal that burnout is a factor.
- Flaky or inconsistent: It’s easy to blame uncharacteristic unreliability on a number of things, but sometimes it’s a sign that you may be spiritually or emotionally exhausted.
- Once you notice the signs of burnout, what can be done? These simple steps may help you get on the road to recovery:
- Remembering: taking the time to remember why you started serving in children’s ministry may help relight the passion that God first sparked in you. Spending time in prayer may help.
- Rest: Jesus is clear that we can always rely on God for peace. Scripture recognizes that we will sometimes feel weary or heavy-laden, but that God will be faithful to give us rest. Sometimes that may look like a good night’s sleep and other times it may take the shape of time off to recover or relax. Vacations and retreats may be just what you need.
- Reevaluation: Occasionally, the restlessness or exhaustion or frustration you feel may come from working to stay in a ministry to which you are no longer called. Search God’s will in scriptures, prayer, and in trusted fellowship. If, after evaluation, you discover it’s time to move on, you can do so knowing that God will always send exactly the right person to take your role and will have a plan that’s right for your future. If you discover that you are led to stay in your position, you can do so confidently, knowing that God will provide the refreshment you need.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).