Why Are You There For Everybody Else’s Kids?
The end of summer means the end of the busy season in youth ministry. It’s not that the rest of the year is cake, but summer is a beast. And don’t get us wrong, we love summer! The busyness and focus of the summer schedule is amazing for our students, but it can be tough on our spouses and kids.
The question we fear the most from our own kids is, “Why do you take care of everyone else’s family but not ours?” The schedule of a youth leader’s family has highs and lows, and if we are not careful, our families can feel left out.
Here are a few of our suggestions for helping your own children feel loved and cared for in the midst of taking care of everybody else’s kids:
- Avoid avoidance. Ministry can at times be easier than family life. Make sure you are not using ministry to avoid your family. Family life can be tough. Heck, ministry life can be tough, but no family can compete with the highs of youth worship, mission trips, and crazy game shenanigans. Allow God to fill you with the courage necessary to be with your family.
- Be present. Being physically present at home is important, but it is crucial that you are emotionally present as well. Don’t just be in the room with your family, be fully present in the moment.
- Be intentional. There are times when travel is part of youth ministry – it’s just part of the gig. So when you get some time off to spend with your family, make sure you help your kids connect the dots that you are home to spend time with them. In other words, if you come home early, make sure you say something like, “Hey kids, I love y’all so much that I came home early from work just so I could be with you!” Or if you chaperon something at your own kid’s school, make sure you say something like, “Isn’t it awesome that God gave me a job where I can come and do cool stuff with you?” Kids may not naturally make these connections, and it may be helpful to connect the dots for them.
- Tell them you miss them during the busy season. The busy season is just tough on a family. There is no way around that. Don’t try to tell your kids that the busyness of youth ministry is a good thing because of all the Jesus stuff you are doing – there are too many mixed messages unintentionally hidden in that statement. Instead, be honest and tell them that you miss them too.
- Plan family time. At the end of every summer we plan a vacation (or a stay-cation depending on funds). Throughout the summer we count the days, “One more camp, a week of VBS, and then Levert VACATION!” And when Leverts are on vacation, there is NO work allowed. NONE! Our kids get our full attention; we are intentional about making sure they know they are getting our full attention; our full attention usually includes ice cream.
We love ministry life, but if we are not careful, we could love it at the expense of our kids. We hope our kids never feel like they have to compete with Jesus or an entire youth group to receive love, support, and attention from us. And if we’re wise and intentional, we believe it’s possible.
– Tim & Tasha Levert