Are You So Good at Leading That Your Spiritual Life Stinks?

Your walk with Christ is the aspect of ministry that no one ever sees, yet everyone assumes is perfect.
5 min read

Let’s talk about you. Obviously, ministry is not about you, but God has placed you in a leadership role.

You cannot effectively grow as a leader without first growing to be more like Jesus.

You can certainly fake it.

You can grow in leadership principles. You can grow in influence. You can accomplish great things.

You can be so good at leading that no one even has to know that your personal spiritual walk stinks.

But, if our goal is to be all that God wants us to be so that He gets much glory, we can not skip over the spiritual aspect of our leadership.

#1: Personal Relationship with Jesus

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…” Matthew 6:33

When we are leading in children’s ministry, a genuine relationship with Jesus must be our highest priority. Your walk with Christ is the aspect of ministry that no one ever sees, yet everyone assumes is perfect.

But if we are one hundred percent honest, our own spiritual lives are often less than awesome.

When we are leading in children’s ministry, a genuine relationship with Jesus must be our highest priority.

Ministry is busy and demanding. So it becomes way too common for us to neglect our own relationships with God.

Exhausted young man rubbing eyes in cafe
Image Credit: fanjianhua/Moment/Getty Images

Perhaps the greatest challenge in prioritizing our relationship with Christ involves our pride. Fixing the problem requires the humility to admit our relationship is broken in the first place.

Sometimes it is easier to fake it than to invest the work in growing spiritually.

Just as we are intentional about planning the next event and we are diligent to create amazing spiritual experiences for the kids in our ministries, we have to be intentional to prioritize our personal relationship with Jesus.

We have to practice all the spiritual disciplines we want the kids in our ministry to live out. Those daily quiet times that we teach about must be essential in our lives as well.

We need to worship outside of our ministry environments.

We have to be more in love with God than we are with ministry.

#2: Humility

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3

It is easy to become consumed with MY needs, MY volunteers, MY many hours worked per week, and MY underappreciated ministry. When “MY” and “I” become the focus, Jesus is not.

Our sinful natures tend to draw our attention away from Him and onto ourselves.

The best way to diagnose our hearts is to evaluate our thoughts and reactions.

  • How many times today did I feel under-appreciated?
  • Did I feel like no one cares about what I do?
  • How many times did I feel a twinge of jealousy when someone else got recognition?
  • Did I spend more time thinking about making my ministry great or making Jesus great?

A real leader focuses on making much of Jesus first, and then makes much of other people.

Happy casual coworkers in the office
Image Credit: Westend61/Getty Images

A real leader looks out for the good of the church, or the organization, and not just his or her own feelings.

A real leader follows the example of Jesus, the one who didn’t seek recognition for Himself but who put His own wants, desires, and self aside.

I believe He requires nothing less for us in His ministry.

Be willing to do whatever it takes. Quit complaining. Stop thinking about what others should do for you.

In other words, serve, help, meet needs, and love like Jesus.

#3: Tough Skin and a Soft Heart

“A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” Proverbs 19:11

If you are in leadership and you are easily offended, you will be offended all of the time.

People say and do goofy things. And people sometimes use the church as their safe place. As a result, they express their frustrations and stress from any and all areas of their lives.

If you are in leadership and you get easily offended, you will be offended all of the time.

Sometimes people disagree with us. Other times, people forget their manners. In other words, people are just people and, as leaders, we catch the good and the bad.

Woman with baby son sitting at table at home
Image Credit: 10’000 Hours/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Tough skin is a necessity in ministry, but God still calls us to have a soft heart toward others—even when it is really, really hard.

The key here is to remember who you work for. Your ultimate responsibility is to God. When you feel insulted or frustrated, give those emotions over to Him.

Through your faith in Him, give people the benefit of the doubt that they didn’t intend to sound as mean as they just did.

Choose to believe the best in people.

Let offenses go rather than dwell on them—forgive as you have been forgiven.

#4: Quick Forgiveness

“As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:13

Early in my ministry, a very wise friend shared the importance of quick forgiveness. One of the most difficult realities of ministry is that people will often let you down.

Volunteers will not show up. People will forget to do things. Church members will disappoint you.

If we are not quick to forgive those we lead and serve, bitterness often is the result. We cannot effectively lead out of bitterness.

Consequently, we must learn how to hold people accountable without holding grudges.

Forgiveness is not ignoring issues or people’s broken commitments. These things must be addressed with grace, love, and with the purpose of reconciliation.

Trouble sneaks in when we are hurt or upset by something and we either choose not address it or not to forgive—that leaves us walking wounded.

Forgiving quickly frees us to serve without carrying the burdens of grudges or anger.


You’ve probably heard the saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Please, leader, don’t allow yourself to be the weakest spiritual link in your ministry.

Allow God to work in you and through you to strengthen areas of weakness so that He can use your ministry to reach kids and families for the glory of God.

You Were Made For This cover

Ready to get some rest for your weary soul?

Get ready to pause, take a deep breath, and rest, in our guide from Ministry Spark: You Were Made for This: Caring for Your Soul as a Ministry Leader.
Free Guide
You Were Made For This cover

Ready to get some rest for your weary soul?

Get ready to pause, take a deep breath, and rest, in our guide from Ministry Spark: You Were Made for This: Caring for Your Soul as a Ministry Leader.
Free Guide
You Were Made For This cover

Ready to get some rest for your weary soul?

Get ready to pause, take a deep breath, and rest, in our guide from Ministry Spark: You Were Made for This: Caring for Your Soul as a Ministry Leader.
Free Guide
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  Updated on September 7, 2019

About the Author

  • Jenny Funderburke Smith is the wife of Dan and mama of three sweet and crazy girls. She is the Minister to Children at West Bradenton Baptist Church in Bradenton, Florida. She is a founding leader of Gospel@Center and blogs at jennyfsmith.com because she is passionate about equipping the church to disciple children to follow Jesus. Jenny also loves investing in other children's ministry leaders through one-on-one conversations, informal gatherings, or speaking at national conferences (such as CPC or Lifeway's Etch). She really loves ice cream, Tennessee football, and the beach.

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