by Joseph Seo, PhD
This is part 3 of a 4-part series on the "4 E's" of the Children's Spirituality Summit. At CSS, we seek to equip leaders with some of the very best practices current questions, and personal connections that will continue to inform their research and ministry by creating a space for dialogue between academics and practitioners. Read below how Dr. Joseph Seo has found being equipped has created space for him to flourish in ministry rather than burn out. We invite you to join us to be equipped this spring at our in-person gathering!
Serving in children's ministry has undeniably been a profound blessing for me. Witnessing the sheer excitement and boundless joy exhibited by children towards God, particularly during the praise time, has been an immensely rewarding experience. Their unwavering trust in God, stemming from pure hearts, has been a source of inspiration. However, amidst these moments of spiritual beauty, I also came face-to-face with the exhausting toll that children's ministry can exact on its leaders. In all honesty, I wasn't exempt from this reality. During my initial years in ministry, I found myself in the shoes of a young and inexperienced pastor, fueled solely by fervor and passion. I was like a sprinter attempting to conquer a marathon with the speed suited for a 100-meter dash. Needless to say, success in such an endeavor was unattainable. After several years of service, I realized that my ministry lacked depth.
"I was like a sprinter attempting to conquer a marathon with the speed suited for a 100-meter dash. Needless to say, success in such an endeavor was unattainable. "
During that phase in my life, I found myself treading a path that led straight to burnout. On Sundays, I felt a profound sense of emptiness, perceiving that I had nothing substantial to offer. It was purely out of a sense of duty, driven by my role as a pastor, that I continued to serve in children's ministry. At that juncture, I was clueless about how to foster personal spiritual growth in Christ. This period coincided with my decision to pursue a master's degree in Christian Formation and Ministry. Engaging in conversations with my professors, who not only possessed scholarly expertise but also boasted significant experience as leaders in ministry, proved instrumental. These interactions provided me with invaluable insights into my own spiritual formation. As I delved deeper into understanding myself, I gradually experienced a newfound freedom in Christ. Some of these conversations were emotionally charged, marked by moments of tears. While they seemed agonizing at the time, looking back, I realize that this phase was indispensable for my growth both as a Christian and pastor.
As articulated by the Apostle Paul, the Bible serves as a means to thoroughly equip God's servants for every good work (2 Tim.3:17). In my role as a pastor of Children's ministry, my aim has always been to acquire the necessary tools and knowledge to facilitate a connection between children and their spiritual relationship with God. Nevertheless, it's pertinent to note that not all of wisdom in the Bible is immediately accessible. While some pearls of wisdom are easily discernible and readily available, others remain obscured, akin to hidden treasures awaiting discovery beneath the surface. To unearth these concealed gems within the Bible, I recognized the need for guidance from individuals well-versed in both practical ministry and scholarly pursuits—individuals capable of seamlessly blending their experiences in pastoral work and academic scholarship. It was through my pursuit of education in graduate schools that I found an entryway to connect with such remarkable individuals. These encounters proved instrumental in assisting me to delve deeper into the layers of wisdom embedded within the scriptures, guiding me toward discovering these profound treasures.