When do runners typically tucker out and what does it take to finish strong? I don’t like running all that much, but I’ve done it enough to discover when fatigue hits the hardest. Adrenaline pumps most when the starting gun goes off and again when the finish line is in sight. It’s somewhere after the halfway point, and just before the last leg of the race, that runners tire to the edge of quitting. To finish strong, they need a boost of endorphins and encouragement somewhere between exhaustion and the end of their competition.
Encourage from Start to Finish
In children’s ministry, we want every leader that serves kids and families to start and finish strong. We long for the day when each one will share Paul’s sentiments in 2 Timothy 4:7: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” To be sure, each ministry season is short compared to the lifelong discipleship race. However, every believer and leader needs encouragement from beginning to end. For those serving kids, teens, and families, they could use an extra cup of cold water from you this time of year.
It’s the last leg of your serving race before summer, so what can you do to help your leaders finish strong? As a leader of leaders, you have the opportunity to breathe life into them every step of the way. Depending on when your ministry season ends, you and your team have four to eight weeks left. Here are nine creative ideas that will encourage you to encourage them to finish strong.
1. Set up water stations.
Grab some water pitchers and paper cups. Place small tables as water stations in strategic spots wherever your leaders walk. Recruit some parents and kids to cheer your team on with a cup of cold water and a high five while they serve.
2. Hand out protein bars.
Who doesn’t want a quick pick-me-up after a long day at work before serving? Give your leaders an energizing snack along with a word of encouragement when they arrive. Offer an alternative to protein bars if you have policies regarding nut and gluten allergies.
3. Provide umbrella service.
“April showers bring May flowers,” so help your leaders finish strong by keeping them dry between their car and the church building. Gather a group of volunteers who will walk your team from here to there whenever it rains.
4. Roll out the red carpet.
Give your leaders the royal treatment by honoring them in a fun and festive way. Buy a long red carpet or a roll of tablecloth. Lay it down in the entryway wherever your leaders arrive or meet. Be sure to take lots of pictures and spread word on social media that your team is amazing!
5. Pay with chocolate coins.
Volunteers don’t get paid, but you can still let them know their ministry is valued. Hand out chocolate coins whenever you catch your leaders serving with style. (Snack size Payday or 100 Grand bars work well too!)
6. Play fun hallway music.
You can change the tone of any serving season by altering the tempo. Play upbeat worship music in the halls and see how leaders light up. This is an easy way to make kids and families smile too. Help everyone finish strong through the power of music.
7. Carry volunteer supplies.
Most leaders have bags and bins to lug around. After doing it all year, wouldn’t it be nice to give them a break? Ask kids and teens to help take a load off their leaders’ shoulders as a way to help them finish strong.
8. Decorate “thank you” totes.
Head to your local “dollar store” and buy one plain tote or reusable lunch bag for every leader in your ministry. Set up a coloring station for kids or send the bags home with families to decorate. Give them to leaders as a way to thank them for investing in children’s lives all year long.
9. Celebrate with gold medals.
Honor your leaders’ faithfulness by giving them a gold medal. You probably can’t afford 14K medallions, so just settle for plastic. Invite leaders to stand in front of the kids. Then, lead the room in a ridiculously extended round of applause.
Are You Inspired to Finish Strong?
Hopefully these nine ideas will inspire even more creative ways to help your leaders finish strong. My encouragement to you is to keep doing whatever is working well in your ministry to build up your leaders. Keep living out 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” The way you serve while you lead will invite every kid, teen, leader, and family your ministry reaches to follow Christ for life—to finish the race and keep the faith.