This past week we took a quick glance at the stats for our blog holymessofmarriage.com. Believe us when we say, it’s not something we do that often and we really don’t care specifically what the numbers are, that’s not why we write. But we were curious to find out exactly what people are reading and we were pretty blown away with the most read piece, which was Surviving Youth Ministry with a Young Family. It wasn’t so much the topic that was surprising, but the vast…and we mean vast…gap there was in the views between that one and the one behind it. Apparently, it’s a topic that a lot of people are wrestling with, including us!
It’s been a year-and-a-half since we wrote that piece. Our daughter is now a fully walking, sassy, too-cute-for-her-own-good, 19-month old and our son is just nearing the end of the terrible twos and about to enter the potentially more terrible threes next month. The last year has been an exceptionally difficult season of life with two toddlers only 17-months apart, and we continue to learn along the way about what we need to do to survive and make it to the elementary years intact. Here are four more tips about surviving ministry with a young family:
1. Ask for help. It might go without saying for some of you, but honestly we’re not very good at asking for help. It’s easy in ministry to feel the need to look strong and capable, especially in the realm of family issues, but looking the part doesn’t make things any better. It’s crucial to be willing to ask your church family for help when you need it. Remember, people can’t offer help for something they know nothing about and we bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much support you may have around you that you weren’t aware of. (And bluntly, if your worst fears are materialized and you are met with little to no support, it’s time to leave an unhealthy environment behind and go somewhere that will care more about people than ministry.)
2. Make sure you have a core volunteer who can jump in to relieve you when needed. Until our kids came into the picture, Jake had a streak of about 10-years in ministry where he hadn’t missed a youth group meeting or Sunday morning that wasn’t scheduled well in advance. With our kids in the picture, that went out the door pretty quickly. A trip to the ER, sickness and flat out exhaustion have all caused Jake to miss a meeting last minute a few times over the last few years. If you’re entering the season of having a young family and you have been doing Lone Ranger youth ministry, understand that won’t fly once you have kids. Make sure you have volunteers who are regularly involved and there is a go-to person who can jump in last minute if needed.
3. Lower your expectations for your relationship. Investing time and energy into your relationship is absolutely crucial and we talk about that in the first article on this theme. However, you might not be able to have the same kind of date nights, sex, or conversation time that you were used to prior to having young kids. You’re both regularly exhausted, money is a little tighter since there are extra expenses and babysitters can cancel or be hard to find to begin with. This doesn’t mean your relationship can’t continue to grow, but it just means it has to do so a little differently than before, and that’s ok.
4. Remember that life with young kids is a season. With any season, there will be things you love about it and also things you hate about it. And life with young kids, at least in our opinion, is a pretty difficult season where we find it very easy to focus on a number of the negatives. In those moments, we try to constantly remind ourselves that eventually, our family will shift into a new season. However, that also challenges us to focus on the positives of our two toddlers as much as possible and enjoy the season we’re in.
Thanks for loving students and your family!
– Jake and Melissa Kircher
P.S. Want more wisdom from Jake and Melissa? Check out their book 99 Thoughts on Marriage and Ministry!