There’s nothing worse than signing up to serve God and serve kids only to begin feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, and discouraged soon after. Working as a children’s ministry leader is worth our time and energy, but hard seasons are par for the course.

The church faces challenges.

Volunteers get sick and don’t show up.

There’s a demand to be energetic and creative … always.

And then there are all the needs of the children and their families. You’re busy caring for others and often feel unseen. “I do everything for everybody. No one does anything for me,” you may think.

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It’s easy to grumble. But if you have a desire to go “grumble free,” here are some ideas that will help.

Be aware of unrealistic expectations.

On any given day, we have hopes that things will go as planned. The grumbles come when reality doesn’t match up with how things were supposed to go.

When there is a bump in our schedules or people don’t follow through, we can’t help but complain (whether inwardly or outwardly).

We also, many times unintentionally, expect that people will just know that we need help. We shouldn’t have to ask, right?

Yet when we don’t communicate and unrealistically expect others to know our needs, we end up disappointed and frustrated. And if we can’t get help, we’d at least like a little thanks (but that rarely comes).

As Adele Ahberg Calhoun says in her book Invitations from God, “Unmet expectations are resentments and disappointments waiting to happen.”

One way to combat unrealistic expectations is to think ahead about ways we can respond when we discover an unexpected problem. Will we rally the troops, call in back up, or pray?

Rather than being overwhelmed or reactive in our behaviors, thinking ahead about a response prepares us to intentionally tackle problems.

When we plan for our reactions, we handle situations better. We treat church members, volunteers, and co-workers with respect—instead of grumbling about what went wrong.

Reacting with confidence will cause us to feel better about ourselves—and others too. We will take control of our emotions and remember that our ministry service is good, even though our days come with bumps and struggles.

Rather than being overwhelmed, thinking ahead about a response prepares us to intentionally tackle problems, instead of being reactive in our behaviors.

Communicate disappointment.

No matter how much we plan or how hard we work, there will be times when we are let down. The key is not holding our disappointments inside.

Good communication is sharing what’s really going on inside our hearts. It’s not okay to hold in all our frustrations and disappointments for the sake of not grumbling.

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If sharing what’s really going on in your heart with other staff is something you need to work on, then start with that first. Don’t do this alone.

Ask God to help you share truth with others in a loving way, even when it’s hard. It’s also important to practice listening as others do the same. True success in not grumbling means communicating well with others.

When we clearly share our struggles with others, we can find encouragement and seek out possible solutions.

Focus on solutions instead of problems.

No matter how much we work or how well we prepare, life is going to throw problems at us. Yet we have a choice every single time of how we’re going to respond.

Often the best way is just to tackle the problems, instead of letting the frustrations bog us down.

When we know there is a problem, and we don’t take responsibility for it, our minds will keep replaying the problem in our heads—just to make sure we remember it’s there. This can lead to anxiety and stress.

To stop the replay (and the anxiety), take a piece of paper and fold it in half. On the left side of the fold, write down all your ministry’s problems or needs. Then, on the right side of the fold, come up with one proactive solution for each problem.

As we do this, our minds will start working on fixes, instead of dwelling on the problem.

Your first idea might not be the answer you need, but it will get your mind moving in the right direction. As your mind moves into problem-solving mode, you will begin to pull yourself out of the grumbles.

What God says about grumbling.

While it’s important to work on grumbling, we also need to remember that this is a big deal to God. God doesn’t expect any of us to be perfect, but complaining is something He takes seriously.

Remember how Moses led the Israelites into the desert according to God’s command?

They had a lot of needs in that desert, and God knew that. But instead of asking Him to meet their needs—and trusting that He would—the Israelites complained.

Complaining is wanting our way without treating others—including God—with respect.

It’s easy to see grumbling as a bad habit. It’s harder to see it as an actual offense against God.

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Even if we aren’t intentionally meaning to, our grumbling is saying, God, you’ve failed me. We may feel comfortable stuck in our grumbling, but God has so much more for us—just like He had for the Israelites.

He had a promised land for them, but they only focused on the challenges instead of the good that awaited them.

It’s easy to see grumbling as a bad habit. It’s harder to see it as an actual offense against God.

They refused to be glad that they were God’s people—and that He had a wonderful plan for them—so they stayed stuck.

We have that same very choice. Staying stuck is up to us.

God can help with our attitudes.

It’s important to develop skills that help combat grumbling, but it’s even more important to remember that we don’t have to tackle this alone.

God not only can help us, but He wants to help us.

Every day we can pray and ask Him to change us from the inside out. When we turn to God, He can lead us as we lead our coworkers and volunteers in serving children and their families. Our spiritual lives matter.

We know this, but we still struggle. Why? Sometimes grumbling feels good. And many times, venting is easier than submitting.

God not only can help us, but He wants to help us.

Ultimately, to stop ourselves from grumbling, we need to turn over the power that we struggle to keep.

What is God asking us to give up when we give up grumbling? The right to ourselves, the right to say what we feel, the right to gain sympathy, and the right to make people aware of our disappointment.

We can ask God to take away our grumbles, but we also must ask Him to give us something in return: a thankful heart. True change will only come when we fix our minds on gratitude, knowing that God is good, and His help is available.

Changing a grumbling habit into gratitude.

We can get to the place where we control our reactions. But in order to truly get to deep contentment, we must replace our grumbling with gratitude.

When you feel like grumbling about anything, instead take a deep breath and make a mental adjustment. Ask yourself, “I want to grumble about this, but how can I offer gratitude to God instead?”

When the budget for Vacation Bible School is cut in half: “Thank You God for the ability to serve our community and evangelize to children. Thank You for already stirring others to give and serve.”

When one of the kids continues to disobey and stir up trouble: “Thank you God for this child. Give me Your love and Your compassion. Show me ways to touch this child’s heart and minister to him and his family. I know helping him make better decisions now will help him for the rest of his life.”

When you feel over-scheduled, overwhelmed, and unappreciated: “Thank You God that You have given me a sound mind to make healthy changes in my ministry and the strength to be strong in the things I cannot change.”

The more we replace our grumbling with gratitude—and the more we hardwire the right responses—the more effective we can be to teach, lead, and guide. Not only that, but others will take notice—especially the kids.

They will have a model to follow through life.

No more grumbling.

Stopping ourselves from grumbling isn’t easy, but it will make a larger impact than you think.

When we are aware of unrealistic expectations and communicate disappointment in truthful, yet loving, ways—we step out of having a victim mentality.

Focusing on God and seeking solutions can bring change to the situation … and change our hearts.

When we turn our hearts toward God, gratitude will come. And the changes we make will impact our ministries for a lifetime.

Dependence on God changes everything, and that’s something to be thankful for.

Did you like this article? You might also like Tricia’s books! Check out her latest, The Grumble Free Year and Calming Angry Kids