3 Keys to Keeping Your Kids — YM360


Each day of our lives, we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.

-Chuck Swindoll

 

More than most other facets of ministry, student ministry has many varying factors that can make the “balance” of family and ministry tough. Weekends, summer, and holidays are times when your ministry responsibilities ramp up. Ministry is especially tough when you have small children. We can’t simply tell our newborn to sleep through the night. We’ve all been there and wrestled with the physical exhaustion and the emotional/mental struggle of being there for students vs. being there for our families. What can we do to mitigate the “PK Pandemic” that seems to hit preachers’ kids and drives them away from their faith and family? How are we to respond when our four-year-old asks why we have to leave?

 

As a PK myself, I have many memories that have shaped my philosophy of ministry and family. Truthfully, my greatest fear in life has been that I neglect my family and place a stumbling block (Matt. 18:6) between them and Jesus. Here are a few lessons our family has uncovered along the way to connect us to one another and the Gospel.

When my kids first started school, I found myself in several strange conversations with their teachers. I was asked to help with a birthday party and to bring desserts for a few events. Eventually, I had a teacher ask if I could make a cake for her son’s birthday party. A bit taken aback, I asked, “Why would you want me to make a cake? I’m not good at that kind of thing.” Surprised, she said, “Well, your daughter told us about your bakery, and I wanted a professional cake for our son.” Come to find out, my youngest daughter had answered, “My dad has his own bakery!” when asked what I did for a living.

 

One of the things we do in our student ministry is celebrating birthdays with a small party and cake with ice cream. Many of our students don’t even get that much at home. My daughter saw me bake many cakes each month for such parties…so…I must be a baker. She knew I did some things at the church each Sunday and Wednesday, but she never SAW me engaged in ministry because I rarely brought them along. I thought it was easier that way and that it would maintain a 50/50 balance of family life and ministry.

 

The truth is, trying so hard to do such a thing really offered a warped view of who I was and what authentic ministry looked like. Our kids form their ideas of family, God, and their own identity based on countless experiences in life. We must bring them along with us in ministry. Certainly, they do not deserve to be thrown into the “deep end” of ministry and see all of the darkness and struggle that may be present at times. They do, though, need to see us care for the sick, feed the poor, and be the hands and feet of Jesus in our community. If the situation allows, let them participate in hospital visits or outreach in the community. You’d be amazed at what they understand and how excited they are that they can do it too. Ministry will shift from something that “takes dad away” into something that you all can share as a family.

By now, in ministry, we’ve all learned that there is no metric we can hold to to “do ministry” and be a “good parent.” It’s not a question of equal time, effort, or a perfect balancing act. You are going to forget things and fail people on both sides of the equation. That being said, your first concern is to love your family and care for them. How are they to know their Heavenly Father if their earthly father is not there to teach and love them? There are times when you will need to set aside ministry because your family needs you. Your kids will see, hear, and feel whether they are important to you through time and action. Make sure you practice placing margins in your life that allow for family emergencies and downtime. If you’re heading off to summer camp, make sure to schedule off time before or after for your own rest and your family’s attention.

 

Your kids will also be able to tell if you’ve had a tough day at work. No matter where you work, your family can tell if you’re sad or disappointed. Many ministers try and hide the hurt they come home with. I had a tendency to hide out for an hour or two after coming in from a late-night emergency or a tough staff meeting. This resulted in my wife worrying that she had done something wrong and my children worrying that something was about to go wrong. I never dreamed that my attitude and lack of communication were putting such a burden on them. Try taking the scenic route home from the office to weep or cry out just between you and God after a particularly tough day. You may even want to explain to your family that “Daddy has a lot on his mind, but I’ll be okay. You haven’t done anything wrong.” Doing so opens the door for later discussions on how to deal with personal struggle and how God really does exchange beauty for ashes (Isa. 61:3).

Early on in parenting, we begin to feel pressure to perform. No, I don’t mean the pressure to be the cool or perfect parent (though that is certainly there). We begin to feel the pressure to make sure our kids are successful. We want them to walk sooner, be gifted in academics, and be the all-star on the field. In ministry, we sometimes feel pressure for our kids to “perform” a certain way. Your children will likely feel pressure to dress a certain way, act a certain way, or be held to a higher standard than all of their friends because they are your children. Do not allow this to creep into your home and your ministry context. Your children will make mistakes like everyone else. They need forgiveness and redemption like everyone else. When you come home with a new baby, you aren’t now tasked with building the “perfect human.” Rather, we are given the opportunity to help them unfold into whom God has already called them to be. If someone does put undue pressure on them, pull that person aside and explain to them that your kids are not perfect and that they deserve a chance to be kids as well.

 

Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:

  • Have you and your spouse discussed the effect ministry has had on your family? What are some of the concerns or joys you’ve seen in your family?
  • How often do you pray for your children? Set aside time to intentionally reflect on life and ministry with them.

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Dustin Stewart is the Associate Pastor and Minister of Students/Education at Ridglea Heights Baptist Church in Escatawpa, Mississippi. For 16 years he has served there and his passion for discipleship and outreach has only grown during that time. He also has a soft spot for other pastors as both his father and brother serve in ministry as well. Dustin and his wife Tabatha have three wonderful children and quite a few chickens.



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