Senior High Ministry: When Ministry & Family Collide
group magazine: May-June, 2011
by Doug Fields
I make sure everyone around me knows that I’d rather be known for being a great husband and father than being known for the ministry I lead. Pursuing a healthy family in the midst of ministry is a goal, drive, and passion for me.
Maturing ministry leaders learn how to navigate the difficult moments that confront them when family and ministry land on the same day. There will be times when a leader says “no” to family for the sake of the ministry (and the reverse is also true). My prayer is that we make the “no” to family the exception and not the rule. The teenagers in your youth ministry are longing for an example of a godly man or woman who models a healthy commitment to family. Yours may be the only healthy family your youth group kids ever see.
Here’s an example from my life. Last weekend I was helping lead our youth ministry retreat, so I missed my daughter’s volleyball tournament. Because I have three kids who’ve played sports their entire lives (from childhood into college), I’ve been vigilant about not missing their games. I’ve probably made 85 to 90 percent of all of their games, but that 10 to 15 percent often haunts me. My kids have seen my effort, and definitely offer me grace when I occasionally miss (they are 22, 19, and 16 years old). But here’s what I do when I have to miss an important family time:
1 I communicate my genuine disappointment in having to miss the event. My wife and I spend time each week planning our family calendar so that we don’t miss events. But, when it’s impossible to make an event I express my sincere disappointment to my children.
2 I call before, during, and after event. This may seem obnoxious to my kids, but I want them to know their dad is engaged in their world, even when he’s not there. (The “during” part is usually getting text updates from my wife that my kids hear about afterwards).
3 I watch the video of the event. My wife recorded Saturday’s volleyball game and I watch it within 24 hours of returning home (regardless if my child watches with me or not).
4 I make positive comments about what I saw on the video. All my comments from the video are positive, and I repeat my earlier comments about “wishing I was there.”
5 I make an extra effort to attend the events that aren’t “special.” I’ll attend my daughter’s volleyball practice this week (and I also attended last week, knowing that I was missing Saturday). I don’t go to all the practices and/or rehearsals, but I’ll often attend around the times when I know I’m going to miss a game or performance.
6 I pray that my kids will remember the high percentage of times I was there and not the low percentage of times that I missed. Presence communicates, but it’s not as loud as lack of presence.
After 29 years of employment at a church I’ve learned that it’s definitely not easy putting your family ahead of your ministry, especially when your ministry never stops. Focusing on your own family requires effort, sacrifice, and difficult decisions. Each day with your family is a gift that you won’t ever get to do over. Make those misses minimal.
Doug is a youth ministry veteran who served for 17 years as the pastor of Life Development for children, youth, and college at Saddleback Church in California, and he’s the co-author of 99 Thoughts On Leading Well (Group/SYM).
Candy: Twizzlers Pull ‘n’ Peel
Golf club: hybrid
MMA fighter: Mark Munoz