Here is an excerpt from an article about being a self-feeder I wrote for K! Magazine. If you don’t subscribe you need to.
Being a self-feeder is a must for any growing healthy Christian. It is even more essential for those involved in leading kids. We are often in that position of giving out and pouring into kids and families. Without learning this principle we will dry up and burn out. It’s imperative that we not neglect our own spiritual growth. So what does it look like “to fill your own tank”? Here’s a few things you can do:
Read Your Bible
It’s not a textbook for ministry, but a guidebook for your personal life. It’s huge. Something that I find intimidating, if not down right frightening, is the fact that you reproduce who you are. I want to make sure I can say to those I am leading, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” We live in an amazing time in history, and yet we face some very unique and serious challenges.
One of the challenges we need to overcome is how to produce young people who are passionate about the Bible. There are a million things vying for our attention; we are bombarded by information. Our kids have more options today than we ever had growing up. That is why we need to be more intentional than ever about reading our bibles.
One of the best ways to get our kids reading their Bibles is to read our Bibles. I think the more we model this to our kids, the more we are going to be able to give them a biblical answer when they need one. The more we read our bibles, the more we are going to shape their world view. As a result, they will see the value of God’s word in their daily lives. I think we do our kids a huge disservice by treating the Bible as a textbook only to be studied or a storybook to entertain. I think we need to model the Bible to our kids as a handbook for life. If we don’t read it, they won’t read it.
Listen to Podcasts
I am not in the auditorium sitting and listening to the pastor’s sermon very often and when I am, I struggle with my ability to focus on what is being said because my thoughts so often drift to my kids and volunteers. One of the things I have found over the years to help me is to listen to messages during the week when I am able to listen without interruption. I try to get podcasts from my church and from many different leaders from around the country. I have to admit I am like a 13 year old girl buying concert tickets to Hannah Montana, when I am downloading Andy Stanley’s leadership podcast. If you are in ministry and don’t listen to Andy’s podcast – shame on you! Either way, find some podcasts of leaders you like and leaders who stretch you, and you will grow.
Practice Transparent Faith
This could be a whole article in itself, but I think another sign of maturity is transparency. Accountability has been a buzz word for years, and I believe it is very important, but I think as a leader of kids in today’s culture you need to practice, model and teach transparent faith. I grew up in church, and I honestly can’t ever remember any of my pastors talking about a personal struggle, a failure or misstep they had made. Do I think we as leaders should talk openly about everything we are dealing with? No. I do think that creating a healthy church environment starts by doing what James tells us to do: confess our sins to each other that we may be healed.
I often tell kids that there are times when I don’t feel like coming to church. Why do I say this? Because it’s the truth, and the more I can model transparent faith, the greater chance we will have of creating a community that also values it. I believe that people who are far from God can identify more with our transparency than they can with our super-spirituality.
Leverage collaborative connections
The last thing that I believe we need as leaders is other leaders that are fighting along side us. I remember as a young guy starting out in kids’ ministry and not knowing what the heck I was doing. I would have done anything to have 10 minutes with someone like Jim Wideman or Craig Juntila or anyone for that matter who had been doing kids’ ministry longer than me. When I was starting out, I was not connected to any other kids’ pastors, and I made some bonehead mistakes simply because I didn’t know better. I also did some things well but could have done better had there been other voices speaking into my life.
Fast forward to today, and I can tell you I have met more awesome kids’ leaders in the past year than in all my years of ministry combined. There are so many phenomenal tools like Twitter, www.cmconnect.org and www.kidology.com to help you connect, learn, and grow. Hard to believe that 12 years ago I would’ve had to spend $2,000 to attend a conference to wait in line for the slim chance of asking Brother Jim one question. Today I can sit on my couch, unshowered, eating cheetos while watching the Yankees slaughter the Red Sox , and Tweet my question to Jim (@jimwideman by the way). I get my response before the baseball game is over. Or I can think of a joke that would make @funnymandan laugh all the way in Australia. That, my friends, is amazing.
If you are not leveraging the power of collaboration, you need to start for your sake, for your kids’ sake and for the kingdom’s sake.