I took my kids swimming the other day.
We had a blast.
After a few minutes in the kiddie pool, I thought I should jump into the “big-kid” pool to swim a few laps. You need to know something: I have no business swimming laps. I have a hunch that lifeguards mistake my awkward form for a yellow lab splashing toward a floating tennis ball.
Nevertheless, I jumped in. “Holy cow! That’s cold!”
(I actually said that out loud).
And a fair amount of shame at my verbalized shock.
I wanted to get back into the Kiddie Pool a.s.a.p. It was nice, comfortable, and small.
KidMin can be like that: shocking and sometimes a little embarrassing. But before you jump out and return to warmer waters, you need to know that you’re not alone. Many leaders have gone before you – facing the same tensions and shocks that you might be facing.
Here are five of the most common shocks that KidMin leaders face:
1. “Oh no. I’m a babysitter.”
This shock is pretty common. Often, it comes from the simple reality that many parents drop their kids off outside your classroom so they have a few hours to themselves. Let’s be honest – that does feel a lot like babysitting.
While the bulk of your ministry time might be spent copying coloring pages, rehearsing puppet shows, or pouring Goldfish into Dixie cups, you are serving. While the most “spiritual” your meeting time ever gets might be a 20-second conversation with one child, don’t ever think that your time is wasted. You are building relationship and practicing of art of Christlike presence in the lives of children.
When strung together, faithfully having 20-second conversations with kids add up to a lifetime of influence.
2. “I’m all alone.”
Leadership can be lonely. If you’ve been “promoted” to leadership role after serving many seasons under the radar, you’re very aware of your new responsibilities. Suddenly, you’re leading those you used to serve with. Just like switching from the kiddie pool to the “big kid” pool, you’re not alone. It’s just that the pool is just bigger, with less people in it. Every church has less leaders than volunteers.
Use this as an opportunity to connect with other leaders, pastors, and staff. Learn from those who have been leading for several seasons. It’s very likely that God brought to where you are for the simple purpose of showing you something new. Look for it. Search. Ask others where they see you being effective and how they see you growing.
3. “They don’t like me.”
Whether from kids or parents, our hunt for affirmation is usually well-intentioned: We really want to know that we’re doing a good job. We want to know that we’re being effective. But don’t let yourself fall into the trap of believing that affirmation is an accurate indicator of your effectiveness.
Don’t be shocked that you’re finding yourself hungry for affirmation. Instead bear these principles in mind:
- When your identity is tied to affirmation, you’ll never rise higher than others’ opinions.
- Ministry effectiveness is rarely measured in the short-term, especially in KidMin.
- Some people will never express the appreciation, even though they do.
- Don’t count your critics. Weigh them.
- Affirmation may tell you what you’re doing well now, but rarely where you need to lead in the future.
4. “I’ll never have enough help.”
This shock lasts the longest. Honestly, it probably never goes away. When faced the reality of not enough volunteers, most new KidMin leaders make one of two huge mistakes:
Panicking for help, they lower their standards – just looking for adult volunteers to fill a slot. As a result, ministry quality suffers. Rather than give into the pressure of “just another warm body,” consider scaling back. It’s okay to have an honest conversation with your pastor (even if that’s yourself) and let them know that you can’t find adequate staff.
Great but small > Big and mediocre.
If you aren’t the type to lower your standards, you might start to develop a second bad habit: you do everything yourself. We’ve written on burnout before and its paralyzing effect on children’s ministry. Don’t overextend yourself. Don’t try to fill the gaps by giving yourself more work. You want to be here long-term.
5. “I’m not a real pastor.”
Yes – you are a shepherd. But it’s important to remember that you shepherd differently.
The metrics are different: You’re the only pastor in your church who actually looks more dignified when your face is slathered in whipped pie filling or your office floor is covered in multi-colored water balloons. Getting messy is one sign that you’re doing your job. When you’re investing in other leaders – building them up so that they can thrive – you’re doing your job. Shepherd where God has placed you. And do it as only you can.
Being called “pastor” is a good thing. Not for the fame or the attention (certainly not for the cheesy bumper stickers), but because of what “pastor” represents. In a real way, “pastor” says “I’m here to care for you.” KidMin leaders like that sentiment.
If this is your first year in KidMin, dive in.
Welcome, we’re glad you’re here.
The Goosebumps will fade.
You’ve got this.