towelI grieve the loss of colleagues who have thrown in the towel and decided to leave professional ministry. Seven colleagues in the last 6 months. Five colleagues in the last 2 weeks. Each one led fruitful, effective ministry. All but two served in multiple local churches. One went through the process and was ordained.  Understanding that some are called for a season and life changes make for priority shifts, I still grieve the loss of their leadership.

According to an ongoing Lifeway survey, the average term of a children’s pastor is 3.6 years. The #1 catalyst which offers a longer term of service in the professional call into ministry: connection outside your own local church.

In a conversation several years ago with a preschool director involved in weekday ministry with children, I asked why she didn’t come to the monthly preschool director networking lunch. She replied, “I don’t need anything.” The way I saw it?  She had so much to share! Within 18 months of that conversation, she, too, left professional ministry. I don’t even know if she’s worshiping anywhere or using her gifts within a local church anymore.  Sigh…

Hebrews 3:12 reads in the NIV “See to it, brothers (and sisters) that none of you (y’all = a statement meant for the group of us) has an unbelieving heart (our tendency to discouragement, unbelieving, needing something more, and disillusionment) that turns away from the living God (because without one another, we drift.)”

Without one another, we drift. How far we drift depends on the relationships we build face to face, not Facebook to Facebook, or Instagram to Instagram, nor blog to blog. Social media is not enough. Building connection is time consuming, intentional, inconvenient, and uncomfortable. But O the value of sharing table life, a meal, a trauma, losses, disappointments, gains, ideas, celebrations, words of truth and encouragement with one another face to face .  I mean truth like what was shared with me a few years back, “I don’t know why in the world you are letting that situation take up so much space in your head. Let it go, girl, let it go!”  I let it go.

I challenge each of you reading this to make building professional relationships outside your own house (local church) a priority where throwing in the towel is not even an option. Network with others regularly in face-to-face gatherings. Join professional organizations not for what you can get out of them, but for what you can bring to the table. Make gathering for lunch or breakfast a priority in your continuing education. Linked-in doesn’t count, social networking doesn’t count, face-to-face counts. If there isn’t a gathering in your area, call the church down the road a piece and ask to speak to their children’s ministry lead. Invite him/her to lunch, or tea, or coffee, or breakfast….share some table life. Start one. Go ahead….you can do this!

“Leadership is the most complicated thing you will ever do in your life, why do you think you can do it alone?” Simon Sinek

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