When Children Leave Your Ministry

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Sad child looking down
Children love freely with complete abandon and without thought for tomorrow – so do many children’s ministers. How can you avoid caring for the ones God cares for? Watching children grow in God, seeing the light come on during a lesson; these things make us love our kids even more. I know how it feels; pouring your heart into a young life, helping him become the giant God intended him to be, just to see him leave.
When children leave your ministry, you’ll feel angry, sad and even discouraged, especially if the child leaves unexpectedly. Don’t be hard on yourself for these feelings. It’s quite natural to experience spiritual grief; however, you cannot allow these feelings to develop into deep-seeders like bitterness or unforgiveness. Shutting yourself off, refusing to connect with children or families is not a solution either. The true, healthy mending of a children’s minister’s broken heart begins by adapting a God’s-eye perspective.
Remember these two truths when struggling with heartbreak in kids’ ministry. Use them as steps, read and remember them. Healing a broken heart may not happen in a moment, but it will happen. God loves you and is grateful for your service. Study to get a deeper understanding of His trust — and yours.
God trusts you. He intervenes in the life of a child, directing him or her to your ministry. God completely trusts you to provide human hugs, teach His Word and demonstrate worship. Like you, your child is walking a unique path and it is directed by God. Despite parents, grandparents, schools or any other influence – through your prayers, the hand of God is on the life of your children. God trusts you to pray fervently on behalf of your kids.
God wants you to trust Him.  When you have done all you can do, it is time to step back and let God do the rest. I think of it like this: I see a child’s life as a line, from point A to point B. I am merely a stop on the line, usually closer to A then B. I guide the child to the finish line or at least the next stop. God trusts me to let go, when it’s time, to blow the whistle and shout, “Run, with all your might!” His Word says, “Some plant, some water, some harvest.” It’s not up to us to choose which of these we are allowed to do. God is the Lord of the Harvest. We are His laborers. Letting go is hard but letting go in God is healing.
Practical Steps for Letting Go

  1. Assure the child that all is well. Encourage him on his race. Put on a happy face, for his sake.
  2. Release him to the Lord in prayer. Demonstrate your trust, exercise your faith. Tell the Lord, in private, that you release him. Ask God to bless him, protect him and promptly send another servant to minister to him.
  3. Receive God’s peace. Don’t get bogged down with worry. Other children need you! Ask God for peace, His peace to comfort and assure you. He won’t mind, He loves you.
  4. Support the family’s decision, even if you disagree with it. Don’t allow them to burn any bridges. Be kind and helpful. If they do desire to return, they won’t have any obstacles in their way.
  5. Be an example to your other children. They look to you to define how they should feel.

From one children’s minister to another, I encourage you to continue loving children. Resist the temptation to withdraw emotionally – you are not your own!

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