Leading Kids for the Long Haul

Lesson #1 Motivation: Who benefits from what I do: The kids and the team I am a part of.

Motivation gets tested early. You need a kingdom mindset. No job in kids ministry is more important than the other—we are all building the kingdom by using the gifts God has given us. That can feel sort of vague, but when you understand who you work for (Jesus Christ) and who benefits from what you do (your kids, your pastor and ultimately your church), it helps you with your motivation.

Watch for wrong motivations. God and children share a divine quality: They both have the divine ability to destroy ego.

We all have a very active sin nature and can sometimes think more of ourselves than we should, but if you and I want to last for the long haul, we need to ask ourselves, “Do I have the same attitude as Christ Jesus?”

What helps me make it for the long haul? Reading Philippians 2 and asking God to do this in me:

Philippians 2:1-11
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:? Who, being in very nature God,? did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,? but made himself nothing, ?taking the very nature of a servant,? being made in human likeness.? And being found in appearance as a man,? he humbled himself?and became obedient to death—?even death on a cross!? Therefore God exalted him to the highest place?and gave him the name that is above every name,? that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,? in heaven and on earth and under the earth,? and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, ?to the glory of God the Father.

Lesson #2 Maturity: If you want to grow as a Christian and as a leader, you need to learn how to be a self-feeder.

How do you become a self-feeder?

1. Read your Bible. It’s more than a textbook; it’s a guidebook.
2. Practice transparent faith. Transparent faith only takes place in the context of relationship. Find a small group and live transparently.

Do I think we as leaders should talk openly about everything we are dealing with? No. I do think creating a healthy church environment starts by doing what James tells us to do: Confess our sins to each other that we may be healed. I believe people who are far from God can identify more with our transparency?than they can with our super-spirituality.

3. Leverage collaborative connections. This is something that was missing from my life up until five years ago. I wanted it, but I just didn’t know how to make it happen. It makes all the difference.

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Your pastor
  • Other kids’ pastors

You may say: “I’m just a kids’ pastor. Why would I bother using Twitter to talk to other kids’ people?” You may not, but you can talk to other small-group leaders in your church and learn from each other. Ask your leaders questions; the more you know, the more you grow, and the better it is for your kids, for your leaders and ultimately the church.

It’s important that you network and ask others for input. Children’s ministry can be very isolating. You need to make sure you don’t get isolated or overwhelmed because that will lead to discouragement.

Lesson #3 Dealing with Discouragement: A big reason many leaders quit kids ministry is due to prolonged periods of discouragement.

Early warning signs I look for in myself:

  1. Irritability
  2. Lack of Focus
  3. Pessimistic outlook on life
  4. Tired
  5. Apathetic
  6. Frustrated by small things

I look for any of these things starting to creep up in my life. If and when I notice them, I realize the clock is ticking and I need to take steps to counter them, or it will only get worse.  Here are some of the things I do when I start to see signs of discouragement in my life:

  1. Ask God for help.
  2. Talk to accountability partners and close friends about what I am feeling.
  3. Make sure I am reading my Bible.
  4. Listen to worship music. I am a big music person—listening to worship music does wonders for me personally.
  5. Practice thankfulness. Jim Wideman taught me this one. (To be honest, if this is all I learned from Brother Jim, it would be enough. This has helped me more than anything. When I feel discouraged, thanking God helps me with my perspective.)
  6. Spend time with friends and family. Nothing helps discouragement more than surrounding yourself with people who know you’re good, bad and ugly and love you anyway.

If you want to last for the long haul and leave a legacy:

1. Always support your pastor. If you find yourself in a place where you no longer do, it’s time to find another pastor whom you can support.
2. Make sure you measure success by the right standards. Tools we use do not measure our effectiveness but life change that results from the tools we may or may not have.

Life change is not measured in weeks and months but rather in years and decades. Your family is the best indication of your success in life and ministry. You will have short-term successes, but to see fruit that remains in your life and ministry, you need to lead for the long haul.  

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Sam Luce has been the children’s pastor at Redeemer Church in Utica, New York for the past 14 years. Currently he serves as the Utica campus pastor and the Global family pastor. A prolific blogger and popular children's conference speaker, Sam has worked in children's ministry for over 23 years and is also a contributing editor to K! magazine.