INSTRUCTIONS: Spark conversations about biblical truth by discussing the “News Nugget” below. Bring it up in conversation, as a discussion-starter…
Over the past year and a half, we’ve added two children to our family. One is our adopted 18-month-old son and the other is our newborn daughter, just seven weeks old. It’s been a crazy adjustment, to say the least. We’re working each day to try and figure out life with two small children, plus an entire youth group. We know it takes balance and patience, but in all honesty it’s a struggle to make everything work. There are a lot of days we just want to run away! Here are four things we’re trying to focus on as we enjoy/survive youth ministry and a young family.
1. Be home as much as you can. Your kids will only be small for a short while. If there is ever a time to do a little less with youth group and a little more with family, it’s now. Talk with your senior pastor or supervisor about what church things are non-negotiable and where there is give in the schedule. Your spouse, your kids, and your ministry will benefit.
2. Find time to breathe. Everything changes when you have little kids, and it can be exhausting. Being exhausted can raise your tension levels and make you more easily frustrated or short-tempered. And it’s never a good idea to blow up at church or at home. So even though it’s difficult, really work with your spouse to carve out downtime for both of you to rest, relax, and breathe.
3. Prioritize time for your marriage. Your marriage came before your children and will be around long after they leave the nest, so it’s crucial to make time for it. Both your own children and the ones in your youth group will benefit. Make sure you spend as much one-on-one time together as possible and go out on dates, even with a new baby. Say yes to those church ladies who want to babysit and take time for yourselves.
4. Include your children in the ministry. Teens today desperately need to see healthy families and loving, involved fathers and mothers. When appropriate, bring your children with you to an event or meeting. Involve the youth groupers in playing with and taking care of younger children. And as an added bonus, babies are a great way to attract the attention of new students!
How can I serve you today?
You know you can use a little help with something. Maybe it’s a phone call someone wants you to return or some copies you’ll have to make before your next lesson. Some of those things require you, but I’m guessing not all of them do. It’s just a matter of delegation.
Now reverse that, and imagine how this is playing out in the lives of the other people around you. They can use a little help with something. Your senior pastor or another church leader could really use a fan of the next big thing they’re about to announce. A few parents of kids in your youth group need you to print off a form for them that you assume they’ll just download off the internet. The other adult leaders you serve with require one less meeting you’ll ask them to be at this month because they haven’t been investing into their family like they have the church.
So ask them – “How can I serve you today?”
Be prepared for raised eyebrows and tongue-tied responses. Even in the church we can nurture a culture of independence where we’re all trying to “earn our keep.” It’s humbling to admit you need help.
And yet you know that you need help, so why wouldn’t the people around you?
- At home, ask if there is a job you can take on short-term that you normally don’t do.
- Ask busy neighbors if your family can cook them a meal this week, because you’ve seen how crazy their schedules are.
- Tell your senior pastor you’d like to babysit his or her kids this weekend, passing along a gift card for a date night out to the movies.
- Approach someone in your church who serves in a different ministry and offer them two hours next week to help them with “whatever.”
- Send a quick text to the parents of the kids in your small group, asking what you can pray for them about or help them do?
Or…simply ask…“How can I serve you?”
Someone did this for me a few months ago, saying, “Whatever you need me to do this week, I’ll do it. Just tell me.” I had him proof-read a sensitive email and share a testimony before I taught. Both blessed me in ways I’m still reaping.
So…how have you been blessed like this or been a blessing?
Youth ministry schedules can be hard on marriages and families. Not only are there a million youth events and programs to attend, but many youth pastors and their families are also expected to be involved in the everyday life of the church. Youth workers can easily find themselves far too busy and with spouses and children desperate for time and attention.
As with anything else in life, there’s no magic fix or specific formula for working out a healthy youth ministry schedule. But here are some general ideas to keep in mind when dealing with your ministry calendar.
- First, keep your spouse in the loop and value their opinion. The quality of your marriage is important and keeping that relationship a priority as you schedule programs will make your spouse feel like they don’t always take second place to the needs of the youth group. When planning your calendar, include your spouse in the conversation. There will always be non-negotiables in church schedules, but many things can be flexible as well. It’s important to take time to listen to your significant other if they feel things are too crowded or if they’d prefer a different date for an event or program. When your spouse feels listened to and they see you accommodate their wishes when possible, it strengthens your relationship and prevents resentment from festering.
- Second, keep an open dialogue with your supervisor or senior pastor. Having the support of those in authority over you is key to balancing work and family. Consult them when conflicts arise and discuss when your presence at church is a necessity and when it’s okay to spend time at home. If you find that those above you have an unhealthy view of church commitments, then perhaps it might be time to look for a new position. Sacrificing family for the sake of ministry is never healthy.
- Third, listen to your body. This might not sound as spiritual as we’re all used to, but our bodies are innately wired to let us know when we’re doing too much. If you or your spouse observe that, you’re constantly tired, disconnected, grumpy, or overly emotional, it might be necessary to cancel something, take an extra day off, or plan a vacation for yourself and your family. Staying in touch with your body is crucial to keeping your personal, relational, and ministry health on track.