Working in kids ministry—whether volunteering or in full-time ministry—is a challenge. Teaching God’s Word to children of any age takes training, dedication and seemingly infinite patience. If you’ve been involved in kids ministry for any length of time, you understand that on a deep level.
As a kids ministry leader, you hopefully have help—whether that’s through paid staff members, a team of volunteers, or some combination of the two. Your concern is raising up the next generation, but you also have to be conscious of your team’s wellbeing.
Lately, you might've noticed that members of your team are tired. They’re showing up later to meetings. They look physically weary. They’re drinking more coffee than normal or complaining about things that didn’t bother them before.
If that sounds familiar to you, here are a few reasons why your ministry team seems tired.
1. Working in kids ministry is tough
There are countless challenges facing people in kids ministry. That’s true for leaders at the top and every volunteer leading a small group. Some level of fatigue comes with the territory—it’s natural and unavoidable.
That’s because working in kids ministry involves working with kids. (Shocker, right?) And working with kids is a mix of exhaustion, frustration, and complication. Children aren’t adults. They behave immaturely because they’re immature. They’re full of energy and emotions and aren’t always equipped to handle them.
Kids are also a blessing from God. They can be equally wonderful, inspiring, and joyful. Working in kids ministry can simultaneously be rejuvenating and meaningful for all who approach it with the right attitude. Remember that working with kids is tough—but worth the effort.
2. Kids ministry teams are overworked
Every kids ministry has a group of go-to volunteers. They’re the ones you can always trust to show up for an event or have your back when someone else is a no-show. These are the folks you rely on to get the hard work in your ministry done.
These are also the same volunteers who are being overworked. They clearly have a dedication to your ministry, but you need to be careful of asking too much of them. There is a certain point when volunteering can become draining and leave these superstars empty.
Check in with your team routinely through one-on-one meetings. Pay attention to how they’re feeling and acting. Ask them to keep an eye on one another for accountability. Ensure that they’re staying healthy and that you’re not pushing them too hard. Because a tired kids ministry team isn’t an effective ministry team.
3. They’re under-appreciated
No one works or volunteers in kids ministry for the praise. You’re not in it for the money, or the fame, or the awards either. You’re likely in ministry because you care about kids, you’re passionate about Jesus, and you want to introduce one to the other.
Still—a little appreciation from time to time helps keep you moving forward, especially when times are tough. Those kind words from your boss. A small gift from a colleague. A parent recognizes when you went the extra mile. These minor moments can lift your spirits and refill your tank.
The same is true for your team. They aren’t in their role because of the appreciation, but it certainly helps to keep them encouraged. Consider what would be meaningful to you and intentionally do those things for your volunteers. Buy them all breakfast one morning. Or hand out some Starbucks gift cards. Call out some superstar volunteers in your next meeting.
No one expects grand gestures or gold watches, but a complete lack of recognition or encouragement can lead to resentment and exhaustion rather quickly. Don’t let that happen to your team. Make sure they feel like they belong.
4. They’re not in the right role
As your kids ministry grows, so do the number of responsibilities and tasks to be done. You can’t do them all (seriously, please don’t try), so you need to delegate them out to your team. That means deciding who is the best fit for each role.
This could include everything from organizing logistics at events, training volunteers, dealing with technology, communicating with parents, and a whole lot more. As you group these tasks together, you could almost think of each one like a separate job, with its own job description.
Unfortunately, sometimes team members will end up in the wrong role. For one reason or another, they’ll be stuck with a task that they don’t enjoy or that they’re not good at. This can lead to frustration or anxiety for them, diminishing their effectiveness and energy. Unless you give them a way to express those concerns, those negative emotions will weigh on them.
Take the time to audit your team. Assess who is doing what and if they’re the best person suited for that role. Ask how each person feels about their role—whether confident or concerned. Not everything will be a perfect fit, but giving people the ability to be heard goes a long way.
5. They’re burning out
If any of these challenges go too long without being addressed, you run the risk of burning out a team member. Burnout is when they’ve reached the point of no return. Once a volunteer or staff member is burned out, they’ve used up their effectiveness in ministry (at least for now).
Unfortunately, children’s ministry is sometimes referred to as a "fast pass to burnout." It’s sad but true. Burnout can happen to anyone, including you. If you’re over a kids ministry leader, you need to be watching them for signs of burnout as well.
Finding good kids ministry volunteers is difficult, but keeping them appreciated and energized might be even harder. So, you need to watch for signs of burnout. Pour into others who seem to be lagging. Find opportunities for them to rest and recover. Give your team time off as needed.
6. Because it’s the example you’re setting
Finally, your team might be constantly tired because you are. If you’re the leader of the kids ministry, then you set the example for the rest of the team. If you’re constantly working with no rest, then you’re sending a signal for your team to do the same.
Be self-aware enough to know what example you’re setting. You might need to ask a colleague from another ministry or another church to provide an objective perspective. Ask your volunteers what they think the expectations are. And look at how full your calendar is. These are all good indications of what example your team is following.
Remember to apply all of these principles to yourself, too. Don’t overwork yourself. Find ways for some self-appreciation. Make sure that you’re in the right role and that you’re not burning out. As you address these issues, hopefully, your team will regain some energy and enthusiasm.
What’s the energy level of your kids ministry team?