6 ways to prevent your children’s ministry director from burning out

January 5, 2021

With tears in her eyes, Janelle moaned: “I can’t do it anymore.” 

In her mid-30s and married with two kiddos of her own, Janelle has been working as the children’s ministry director of a midsized church in the Midwest. She was supposed to be part-time, but because there was so much to do, it was closer to full-time work many weeks. On most days, she loved her job, but the last year had been rough.

Like a battle-fatigued soldier, Janelle didn’t have anything left to give. Here’s what added up to her downfall: 

She was overworked and underappreciated. How long could she last without any encouragement? She was a walking time bomb, ready to implode at any moment. If this kept up, she’d be another in the long list of casualties in children’s ministry. 

Have you noticed high turnover in the children’s ministry director (CMD) position in your church? What kind of love, training, and support would make the Janelles of this world stick around for decades? Let me offer six suggestions for how to save your children’s ministry director from crashing and burning.  

1. The children’s ministry director must be generous in giving responsibility to the members. 

If your CMD does everything, tell him or her to stop. It should never be the Janelle show. She should hand over as much responsibility as possible to the members. It takes an entire community of believers to raise these children.  

Encourage the CMD to give away enough responsibility to the members so that her role shifts to more of an NFL commissioner. She’s coordinating and overseeing different “coaches” and “teams” rather than being the sole person running the entire show. She’s not shy, but she’s aggressive in giving out opportunities to the members to take charge of children’s ministry. 

2. Build a competent and talented team around your CMD. 

A more formal leadership team for children ministry can stabilize it over the long haul. For some churches, it might be hiring one or two part-time paid positions. In other churches, it means adding key volunteer roles into your system, like a nursery coordinator or teacher trainer for your Sunday school teachers. Build a team of competent people around the CMD who take ownership of the ministry.

You might think in terms of a sheriff who deputizes one or two people in his community to assist in fighting crime—he formally gives them the responsibility to work alongside him. He sticks stars on their shirts, hands over guns for their holsters, and takes them along on the next crime investigation. 

3. Shepherd the CMD’s soul, not just their job. 

Though a CMD needs to get her job done, the most vital thing about her life is not her job, it’s her soul. If the CMD’s job performance is an A+, but her soul is a D-, then you’re failing her. You can and must do better. You must care more about her relationship with Christ than her job performance. Who she is in Christ matters far more than what she does for him. Jesus cares about whether Janelle loves him. You should care enough to ask Janelle regularly, “How is your relationship with Christ?” or, “How are you growing in your love for Jesus?” Asking such things shows that her spiritual life really does matter.  

4. Make sure your CMD is an active and healthy member of her church. 

Make sure Janelle’s spiritual life doesn’t exclusively revolve her job as the children’s ministry director. That’s a quick way to suffocate her spiritually.  

If Janelle spends all of her time on the children’s ministry floors, but never makes it into the main worship services, she’ll never hear the sermon, she’ll never get to sing with the congregation, or pray along with the corporate prayers. God has established a weekly rhythm for Janelle’s life; attending a weekly worship service resets Janelle and prepares her to face the trials and tribulations of the coming week. So, make sure your CMD can regularly attend the church’s worship services.

Janelle needs friendship with other believers who know her life, keep her accountable, challenge her to confess her sin, to dig deep into the Word, and to trust her Savior when things get hard. But she can’t do that if her life revolves only around her job. So, make sure your CMD is growing in his or her relationship with other believers in the church.  

5. Lavish an abundance of encouragement on the CMD. 

Give constant encouragement. Be especially clear when Janelle does things well—give her affirmation for a job well done. But also find big and small ways to offer encouragement. 

My daughters discovered that our CMD, Gio, loves apple cinnamon flavored fig bars. The next time we were at a grocery store, they said, “Daddy, look!” They were pointing to pack of apple cinnamon fig bars. We bought a box, and once every other week, the girls stop by to give Gio a little two pack of fig bars. It’s not earth shattering, but it’s a small gesture of kindness, a simple way to say to her, “We love and appreciate you.” 

6. Make sure your CMD takes a break. 

Having no breaks, and all work, is not good for anyone’s soul, let alone a CMD. Do everything you can to make sure your CMD takes a break from the normal pressures of his or her job. Get your CMD to slow down on Mondays (since Sunday is such a busy workday). Encourage your CMD to also use up all of his or her vacation days.  

A healthy CMD makes for a better children’s ministry

While I don’t have a fool-proof answer for how to solve every church’s problems, the recipe for a healthy CMD is not that hard to figure out. Keep him or her grounded in Christ. Be sure to feed them spiritually. Build a solid team of people around them. Get him or her to give responsibility to the members. Then encourage, encourage, and encourage (yet again!) in whatever he or she is doing.  

To God be the glory. As you care well for your CMD, you serve the whole church, not just Janelle. 

Deepak Reju

Deepak Reju (M.Div., Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a pastor in Washington, D.C., a husband to Sarah and a father to their five kids. He’s author of On Guard and co-author of Tell Them Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide to Gospel-Based Children’s Ministry. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24