A Few Thoughts On Discouragement in Youth Ministry and Children’s Ministry | Season 4: Episode 5

You can find the Making Sense of Ministry podcast on all major platforms, including SpotifyApple Podcast, and Audible.

In truth, we all face discouragement at times. So what do we do about it? How do you handle discouragement? And will it defeat you? In this episode, Brian and Kirsten discuss a few thoughts on discouragement in youth ministry and children’s ministry. 

Resources Mentioned
Youth & Children’s Ministry Job Board
Youth and Children’s Ministry Certifications
Youth or Children’s Ministry Coaching

Join Our Facebook Group
Subscribe To Content Filled Emails

Find the Youth Ministry Institute on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or Linkedin.
Find Brian on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or Linkedin.
Find Kirsten on FacebookInstagram, or Linkedin.

Show Transcript

Brian Lawson:  00:02

Hey friends, welcome back to the Making Sense of Ministry podcast. This is the podcast designed to help you lead well in your ministry, transform lives and impact generations. I’m Brian Lawson back again with Kirsten Knox, hey Kirsten.

Kirsten Knox:  00:13

Hey, everyone. Hey, Brian.

Brian Lawson:  00:15

So today we’re going to talk about something that I think everyone in ministry, probably, whether it’s youth, children, family, or any level of ministry deals with, and I know I dealt with on a on a, an all transparency a semi regular basis. So today, we’re going to talk about discouragement in ministry. Where does it come from? You know, what is it? How does it impact us? And what do we do to get past it? So I don’t know about you Kirsten. But I think a lot of people who face discouragement, sometimes maybe give up too early?

Kirsten Knox:  00:51

Yes. Yeah, I think so. And I don’t think you’ll always expect it. Like I think the first couple times that you feel discouraged. You wonder, is there something wrong? Am I doing something wrong? And I’m like, I have felt discouragement on the regular. So I think that happens often.

Brian Lawson:  01:08

Yeah, I don’t know about you. But I know a lot of Wednesday’s programs. Our main program was on Wednesdays, we had Sunday stuff. But our main programs were always Wednesdays, I would go home, and I would relax on the couch eating my Chipotle. And that whole night, the rest of the night. I’m thinking it’s time to quit. I’m done. Like tomorrow, I’m quitting. And then maybe Thursday morning. I’m I think that for a little while you know, obviously I did it. But boy, I should have thought about it a whole lot. That’s something you’ve experienced?

Kirsten Knox:  01:42

Yeah. I think yes. Oftentimes, I think I would say, I’m not so sure about this anymore. Like that was kind of my like, I think maybe I need to process this. But oftentimes, which is ironic, but oftentimes for me, too, it was after going home after our main programming, and feeling that because in that moment, it didn’t look like everything doesn’t look like the way I would like it to look like. Yeah. And there’s for me, there’s discouragement in that space.

Brian Lawson:  02:11

Yeah. I don’t know if when I think back on my own, I’m not sure if it was as much that it wasn’t where I wanted it, or I didn’t like something as much as it was. I don’t know, can I continue to carry this weight? That’s I think that’s what it was for me. Like, can I do this again? And also, I mean, it is fair to say though, sometimes kids would upset you or disappoint you, or volunteers. And then to say, well, can I retrain them again? Or can I redirect them again? Or, like, or someone left and I have to find a replacement? You know, those kinds of things? I don’t know. That’s what.

Kirsten Knox:  02:56

Yeah, never ending. You’re like, I’m still there. Once again, we’re doing this again, like whatever that is finding the new volunteer. Helping having similar conversations. Yeah, I can see that it is heavy. I think sometimes we don’t talk about that either. There’s a heaviness to leaving ministry. That until you do it, you don’t always recognize it. And then I don’t think we always know what to do with it. Is that okay, is that normal? And I would say it is normal. We all feel that heaviness. Yeah, that’s part of it.

Brian Lawson:  03:27

Absolutely. You were just saying before we got on? I mean, is this something you’ve faced recently? Or?

Kirsten Knox:  03:33

I know I told you Yes. Because I’m like, Well, this is ironic, because I just felt discouraged as our main programming night currently, is Monday night. So I was leaving Monday nights. And I thought, ah, this is I think, well, here’s here is this, there are core values that I have. And when we have nights, we have nights where I feel like we have missed the mark and those core values. That’s discouraging to me. And so I think that I mean, I want to have a ministry where there’s some, we negotiate, we work together, right? There’s this give and take with students.

But there are a couple things that I’m not willing to give up on. And that is how we treat one another in small groups when someone shares something of value. And so I have some middle school boys and girls, it’s a middle school group, but they’re mostly boys who have gotten in the habit that the only way they know how to communicate is like picking and poking at each other. And I think, right, they’re middle schoolers, they’re learning how to communicate with their friends, but that’s like, the only way they communicate.

And I’m like, yeah, there’s a space for that. But when someone shares something in a small group, which, you know, you’re like, the gym happens, someone shares something, you’re like, let’s hold on to this moment. And then when that making fun happens in that space, and I don’t think they do it out of like, being mean, but it sure doesn’t encourage people to have the courage to share things that happen in their life.

Brian Lawson:  04:54

Right. And these are middle schoolers. These are middle schoolers.

Kirsten Knox:  04:57

Yes. So I had to get we had have a little bit of firmness last night about who we are going to be and how we’re going to each other in this space in this time, and sometimes I just feel like I think we’ve got late nights. We do really good at that. But like, We’re here again, like, so there’s this discouragement, I’m like, okay, but then I’m like, here we are, we’re gonna work. We’re gonna work at this. And I’m like, I’m not willing to negotiate that. So you know, you go home, and you think how we, we need to, we need a vision cast that a little bit more, right, we need to talk about it, we need to set it up.

And I think probably the most discouraging part was, I know, this is the habit we’ve created, or that has been created in that friend group. And so I started the small group setting on the small group and set it up by saying, hey, let’s remember who we are and how we treat people in this space. And a couple of times gently throughout. So like I did all the things, you know, it was just that the expectations, when they miss the expectations, you remind them of the expectations and then as like, and we’re done.

Brian Lawson:  06:00

Well, and we remember to like middle school students, especially when things get serious, they get uncomfortable real quick, oftentimes, and then what they don’t know how else to respond, right? Other than Yeah, just direct attention to somebody else. So no one will notice that I’m uncomfortable, or uncertain about how to respond to this. Yeah.

Kirsten Knox:  06:18

I’m like, part of it’s very age appropriate. Yeah. And then it’s almost like that’s what gets attention. Right. So now, students who typically don’t do that are now doing that, because that has become the cool thing. And then like, we’re gonna break this habit. Yeah. Where this is, you know, there’s a time to tease and poke around. But there’s a time when someone shares that. We’re gonna honor that that’s courageous to share something about your life.

Brian Lawson:  06:43

Yeah. So, okay, well, we’re gonna use you as the guinea pig here, Kristen.

Kirsten Knox:  06:48

Here we go.

Brian Lawson:  06:49

So you had a discouraging night? Last night, right. So it’s Tuesday when we’re recording this. So yeah, discouraging last night? Probably not feeling great about it this morning, I would imagine. So how do you or what patterns have you developed over the years that help you walk after the discouragement right, that help you move forward through it in a healthier, good way? Or maybe you’ve done some habits that were not healthy? You’re getting over it? You know, but what’s like, what does Krsiten do today or tomorrow? to try to recalibrate, if you will.

Kirsten Knox:  07:28

Two things, one, I talked to a couple of my volunteers last night, like we stood in the parking lot and dissected it, right, like talked about what we want it to look like how we’re gonna, so we strategized and remembered. This is part of the age, right? We want to be a place where they practice relationships, that is messy. So this self talk of really understanding where they are, and what is happening is the first thing. And then this morning, I talked to another friend, we walked in the morning, so we were talking and talking about ministry, and she’s in ministry.

So that was helpful, like someone who got it. So those are two things. And sleep. Because I am an introvert. So after a program night, that’s a lot of people in and I’m tired. I also know when I’m tired, I see things differently. So like a good night’s rest, will also help me see this even like not be put it in perspective of listen, if this was, if this was what we’re dealing with, it’s a good problem. I mean, in the sense of, it’s not the worst thing, but that was our so talking to people, sleeping, and then today having a strategy. So I’m already a format, like in my head, this is what we’re going to do. This is the game plan. I told my friend this morning, I was like, listen, we’re gonna break this habit, because I’m gonna tell you, I’m gonna win. You know, like, put it in the competition, right? And then I’m gonna win this, because I’ll fight for this.

Brian Lawson:  08:55

Which you experience, and you know how to develop the strategies and how you’re going to, you know, you’re going to, say defeat this discouragement or defeat this attitude in the group that has created this. But I think for somebody who’s new in ministry, this probably highlights the importance of having some sort of mentor, or somebody you can talk to who maybe has been doing this for a while, because you may not know what to do. You may not know how to defeat it in your words, or to, you know, to put this in its place, essentially. So you’re, that’s probably one of the one of the good things about experiences, you’ve got that to lean on.

Kirsten Knox:  09:31

Yeah, that community or people who get it has always been very important for me, and I think to process it and talk through it. So yes, I would say find someone in ministry who has been doing it for a while and find whether that’s a formal we call them a mentor. If it’s something we go to lunch, you know, somewhat on the regular but being able to do that I think is so valuable, and that is helpful to be able to do.

Brian Lawson:  09:58

A question In for you, Kirsten, that I was thinking about as you were talking, is your discouragement directed towards what’s happening in the program? Or does it ever turn towards yourself? Like, does it always stay? I’m discouraged by what’s happening outside of me? Or is it ever turned to well, now I’m not sure if I can do this.

Kirsten Knox:  10:19

I think it depends on what it is. Okay. I think like the other narrative that if I’m not careful is, What haven’t you done? Well, is this what you’re experiencing? Like, how do you need to lead better? How do you need to empower yourself better so that gets turned on me like, and I think there are some things when I get discouraged that I do sometimes wonder if I probably do I want to do this. Do I still want to do this? Like, yeah, it takes a lot of energy in for me, it’s not my main job, right? It’s a side job. So you’re like, do I want to do this? I think that’s probably the other piece. But what I recognize more than anything, is it. The reason it bothers me so much is because it’s a core value, like my core value is I want students to show up and be themselves. And that being good enough.

Brian Lawson:  11:12


Kirsten Knox:  11:13

Well, I think also, when there’s discouragement, I tried to process what is the root of what’s going on inside of me and try to be curious in that space, that is causing discouragement. And sometimes I was like, a little disproportionate to what’s happening. And oftentimes, that’s for me, because that means it has crossed like there’s a core value there.

Brian Lawson:  11:32

Yeah. Yeah. I think I think for me, my discouragement often turned inwards, not necessarily outward. So like it was it was propelled by or began by something outward, or something in the ministry, something in a person’s life, something we’re lacking or not going well, or, I mean, I guess at times I envisioned it being different than it actually was. But then it quickly turned inward for me as in like, Am I still capable? Like, am I still capable? To speak to young people in a way that they connect with? Right that, um, do I still know enough about their culture? Or, you know, am I patient enough for this still? Or, like, am I empathetic enough still for this, like, I just don’t want to be like, because usually when I get discouraged I’m like, I just don’t want to care. I just want to shut down. And I don’t want to care. And I just want to be this because sometimes I just want to be in a bad mood, like, I just want to be cranky.

Kirsten Knox:  12:33

And work myself out of these feelings.

Brian Lawson:  12:36

Right? Yeah. Like, I just want to sit here for a little bit. And so I just that’s why I was curious if yours was really external or internal, I think mine turns more internal than external. And, and so in my head, oftentimes, I would write my resignation letter, even though I didn’t actually ever write it or turn it in. But in my head for a little bit, I thought about it. But I think what was helpful to me is a lot of reflection afterwards. About, like, where did this come from? You know, like, Did this come from the actions of a person? Did this come from an environment that I set up that I can adjust? I mean, kind of what you’re talking about, you’re gonna adjust this small group environment, which will then minimize the discouragement you face later down the road as they make that adjustment, right? Is there something that I’ve have set up or allowed to happen?

That has caused this? You know, so like, I tried to trace down? Like, what’s the root of it? Like, what’s the source of this? Not because I can stop it all the time. But maybe I can reduce the number of times that I hit that wall. The other thing is, oftentimes, have I slept well recently? Have I ate well? Am I like doing anything? Exercise related? Am I doing anything for myself? And all those are fair questions. I think a lot of times when discouragement hit, I would probably say to one of those I’m not doing very well, maybe more than one of those, I’m probably not doing very well. And I always schedule my easy work on the day after my programming. Like my work, I like kind of enjoy it or doesn’t require a lot of me is always the day after my main programming, because I know I’m probably going to walk in the day after. Not super excited for what’s next. Unless we had a great night. Right? Unless we had a great night

Kirsten Knox:  14:21

Right. You’re like, yes, yeah, I had a boss. When I first started ministry, and he said every week every Monday I want to quit.

Brian Lawson:  14:29


Kirsten Knox:  14:30

And I like, I was like, I think that just gave freedom. And that’s like, I almost normalized it because my first full time ministry job, and I was the associate youth pastor, and that’s what he would say, every Monday, I want to quit my job. And I was like, oh, so I’m not alone. Like this is normal in that space. But I think reflecting is important. Also being able, right. It’s a symptom sometimes of other things that is happening. I would say I tend not to have a short fuse.

So when my fuse feels shorter, that’s that same indication for me, Brian, there’s something in my life. Usually, for me, it means I’m not spending enough time alone time. Yeah, that there is something that is causing my fuse to be short. So therefore I’m a lot easier, it’s a lot easier to be discouraged. Yeah, the night typically would be on any other night. So you’re like, I’m another night I may not feel at all be like, here’s where we are. This is what we’re gonna do about it. Where am I be at night that I walk away pretty discouraged.

Brian Lawson:  15:30

Yeah, that was a gift. You know, like, even if even if you don’t feel that you want to quit every Monday or every Thursday or whatever, it’s a gift to have somebody say to you, that’s I feel this on a regular basis. Because I don’t think I had anybody tell me that ever, like ever, for at least for a really long time that I know, other people felt the same way. So there was always this sort of little bit of guilt that I’m like, Wow, gosh, it was exhausting. I don’t know if I want to keep doing this. And I just didn’t tell anybody for a really long time. And I wonder how many people who listen to this. Maybe you’re on the same place? You know, maybe they find themselves discouraged at different times. And they’ve not said it out loud.

Kirsten Knox:  16:10

Yes, I think there’s so much that we feel like we can’t say because it’s not right. Yeah, feel that way. Or to be that way, particularly when we’re a ministry. There’s a lot of pressure we put on ourselves as leaders, versus normalizing those things and say, yeah, yeah, yeah, I do. This is hard.

Brian Lawson:  16:28

Because you know, you’re doing something for Jesus. So you’ve got to be excited all the time. And it’s got to be great. And you gotta love it all the time. And yet, we know that’s not true.

Kirsten Knox:  16:37

It’s just not real. Like, that’s just not. That’s not real.

Brian Lawson:  16:42


Kirsten Knox:  16:44

Yeah, discouragement is part of the game, I think. And I would say then, then what do you like for me? Then I start to process what what for me and manage ministry brings life and is energizing. And can I put some of that in my day? Yeah. So like later this week? I’m doing breakfast with one of our volunteers. And that is what that will energize me. Yeah. So I’m, like, put some things this next week that does that. So that helps. That helps me to move through that discouragement.

Brian Lawson:  17:14

Yeah, I have a very similar thing that I would meet, oftentimes with the network of, you know, youth or children’s people in the area. And they will often meet scheduled for Thursdays. Now, I was leading that. So I didn’t choose Thursday. But I certainly didn’t push back and they wanted to do Thursday, I was like, Yeah, Thursday is great, because I’m usually going to come in, you’re kind of cranky, and you’re gonna make me not so cranky.

Let’s do this. And so that was always helpful for me, you know, that was like, once a month, was always super energizing for me. And even if I didn’t have anything to contribute to the conversation, to just hear other people’s conversation was meaningful to me. So like, I’m wondering, for the person who’s, you know, maybe facing discouragement now, maybe it’s from one of one meeting, or maybe it’s a season. That’s been discouraging.

So I wonder if they’ve taken time to trace? You know, Can you trace back where this is coming from? You know, are there triggers that you’ve got that make you more discouraged than other times? And what also gives you life like you were mentioning here, so like, what things can you do? That is life giving to you and affirming? And then of course, this also goes back to the whole, you know, can you remember that you are cared by your loved and cared for by Jesus, regardless of ministry? I mean, can you remember that? will be some things that I would think so?

Kirsten Knox:  18:42

Yeah, I think all those things are good things, find people who get it in ministry, and put them in your life. I’m like, I think that’s fuel to us.

Brian Lawson:  18:51

Yep. So very brief statement here, friends is this, if you’re discouraged, you’re not alone. All of us feel it at some level of different seasons in different ways. Even if no one said, even if people don’t say it. And if you feel like you want to quit the day after your programming, you’re, you’re not alone. Lots of us feel it.

Brian Lawson:  19:12

Join the club, yeah. So now you’re not alone. But but do think about some steps you could take afterwards, to help both recover from the discouragement. I don’t know if recover is the right word, move past move through the discouragement and also maybe recognize where it’s coming from so that maybe you can minimize it in the future. So

Kirsten Knox:  19:12

Join the club.

Kirsten Knox:  19:31

Yeah. Stay curious.

Brian Lawson:  19:32

Yeah. All right. I think that’s all we have for your friends. As always, I hope we helped you make sense of this thing we call ministry.

We Would Love to Hear Your Thoughts

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *