The weeks after Christmas are some of the toughest in your ministry year. Long winters bring discouragement and dull the passion of even the most devoted.
Let me share a few ways I am preparing my heart to make it through discouragement in the ministry this winter. Feel free to comment and add to the list.
1. Focus on the long term vision
Short term setbacks can really kill my morale. I get discouraged when my teaching falls flat or when I lose a busy volunteer. Ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish in the lives of these children 20 years from now?” Stay faithful to the vision and do the little things well. Then trust God to work things out in the long term.
2. Be thankful for past success
Take the time to step back and see how much has been accomplished this year. Write down five ways that God has touched lives through your children’s ministry. Give thanks to God and trust him to continue his work next year.
Nothing energized me for ministry like getting close to God. Very few real gains have ever come without prayer. Fight discouragement by seeking direct support from your Heavenly Father.
4. Remember that kids matter to Jesus
When God was calling me to work in children’s ministry I was amazed to discover all the Bible verses that spell out God’s love for children. Always remember that his passion to reach the little ones will always exceed your own. All you have to do is get in line with his purpose.
5. Encourage others
One of the best ways to get over discouragement is to become an encouragement to someone else. Look a Sunday school teacher in the eyes and say, “Your work matters to God and is making a difference.” Do this every week.
6. Spend more time with hurting children
Sometimes I forget the pain that many of these children are facing in their own lives. Take time to connect with a child who is suffering from a rocky home life.
7. Visit unchurched families
Few things energize me for ministry like getting into the “rough” homes of some of our kids. Remember, only the Gospel can break the cycles of sin that destroy so many families.
8. Love the unlovable
Identify the child that causes you the most stress, the one that you may have written off as a trouble maker. Then make it your personal project to love that child and become the presence of Christ in their lives. If you succeed, you will never forget it.
Editor’s Note: This post was first published in 2007. We’ve updated it to help you start 2013 off right. Click here to leave your comments.