Put on Your Oxygen Mask first


This summer my family and I enjoyed a 3-month sabbatical.

It was a wonderful time of reflecting, recharging, reconnecting, making memories, and… traveling.


We covered thousands of miles. Some on the road. Some (to my wife’s utter dismay) in the air.

Let me tell you, when you get on and off 14 different planes in the span of 90 days, whether you want it to or not, this message will get stuck inside your head:

“If the cabin loses air pressure, oxygen masks will drop down in front of you. Place the oxygen mask on yourself before helping small children or anyone else who may need your assistance.”

WHAT?! Take care of me first??

Sounds counter-intuitive, right? I love my kids. I place them first in everything I do. OF COURSE, I will want to get their mask on first.

How dare you ask me to be a selfish pig, and go about making sure I am okay while my children are in danger?

Turns out, my altruistic instincts don’t work on the airplane. Simply put: if I don’t have oxygen, I’ll pass out and won’t be able to help others.

THAT’S why they want me to put my oxygen mask first. So that I will be able to give my best to others.

Come to think of it, the same is true in all areas of life. If we don't first take care of ourselves, we will not be able to help anyone else.

In this edition of Tips, Tricks and Tools, let’s look at how the oxygen mask principle plays out in a children’s ministry context.  



Define what your “oxygen mask time” will look like, and put it on the calendar.

Start by asking yourself what makes you come to life, what energizes you, what restores you spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically.

Put your answers on paper. (Here is what works for me, in case you’re interested.)

Designate specific time for your oxygen mask ritual, and then put it in your calendar. Don’t pencil it in this time - use permanent marker!!

You need that oxygen, that energy that helps you be the best version of yourself. Your children, volunteers, and your own family will thank you for it.

Even on the busiest of days, stick to your plan. You’ll be surprised what happens when you take just a few minutes to unplug, disconnect, and tune-out to the world.

Keeping this “date” with yourself will protect you from destroying yourself, and will help you maintain a long and fruitful ministry to the children you love.



If you want to start and keep your new habit, don’t do it alone. You’re more likely to follow through with a commitment when you’re being observed by others. To stick with your new oxygen mask routine, find a way to let others know about your efforts and goals.

There’s power in numbers! Two are better than one, remember?

If you’ve been neglecting yourself in the name of ministry, chances are some of your key volunteers and/or staff teammates, are doing the same.

Right now, some of them might be slowly and quietly suffering for the cause, while losing their spark for ministry.

One of the best things you can do for your team (and ultimately, for yourself) is to share a little bit about your own oxygen mask journey.

Tell them about your plan to start taking better care of yourself. Tell them about your goals and how you plan to achieve them, and then ask about how they are doing emotionally, relationally, spiritually, and physically.

These honest conversations can lead to forming an on-going support group. Nothing formal or structured, just a group of friends who are on the same journey. A group of fellow strugglers who are checking in on each other, and helping each other through setbacks and disappointments.

If you would like a fun and non-threatening way to start this conversation with your team, download my free “Your Oxygen Mask First” workbook.


This is a tough one. There’s a chance that the unsettledness you’re feeling in your current children’s ministry role is not a sign of burn-out, but God’s call to move on.

Sometimes putting on the oxygen mask means to… quit.

If you are stagnating in your role, if your church is crippled by legalism or inner-politics, if it feels and behaves more like an institution and less than a family, perhaps it’s time to submit a letter of resignation, and step into the great unknown.

There could be many reasons for this. Here are just a few scenarios that indicate that it might be time for you to move on:

Toxic environment: You’re not appreciated, valued or cared for as a human being, and a minister of the Gospel.

Philosophical differences: Your vision, strategy, values, passions, and methodology clash with those of your senior pastor.

Theological differences: You’re no longer able to stand by your church’s faith statement.

Irreconcilable differences: Your ministry style and perhaps even your personality (the way God wired you) don’t fit into the current context and culture of your church.

Change of seasons: Perhaps you took your current role as a single person and the salary was enough. Now that you have a wife and a child on the way, you simply can’t survive on what the church pays you.

Collateral damage: Your role is taking a significant toll on your family. Your family or personal life is suffering because of the demands of the church.

Better opportunity: Another role may more closely match your skillset or give you a chance to learn from a great mentor and have unique opportunities to be developed professionally.

Relational breakdown: Your relationship with co-workers or leadership is damaged beyond repair. When it is obvious a professional relationship cannot be mended, it may be time for change in your workplace.

A clear call from God to a new season: There might be a deep sense of “It is finished” within you, and a growing excitement for new challenges and opportunities.

If you sense that God is calling you to move forward with your life, chances are you’ll need to look for new employment. Which means that you’ll need a powerful, stand-out-from-the-crowd resume.

If you need a bit of inspiration to create or update your resume, download my mock-up resume to help you get started. (I also included a Cover Letter.) I hope it will give you some fresh ideas to frame your experience in a compelling way.

Dema Kohen

Founder of WeAreKidMIN. Having spent 25+ years in children's ministry, Dema is an expert in making children laugh, creating engaging content and sounding just like Gru (putting that Ukrainian accent to good use).