There are many opinions on the topic of family and ministry. If you haven’t read Kerry Ray’s post Choosing to live an Unbalanced Life, I would highly recommend reading it.
If you are leading student ministry and you have a family, then student ministry is something you do as a family. If you’re living your life as a student pastor separated from your family as they go and do their own thing, then you’re living in a place of danger. Danger in the sense that resentment for the ministry may build in your family — or danger that you’ll replace what you need from your family with something else. Both are devastating. Since you’re in this together, I’d like to give you some things to consider about how to involve your family in the ministry.
1. Encourage their presence.
This can’t be overstated. There will be times when your spouse will feel like there isn’t a purpose in being there because you’re so busy with details and making sure everything is running smoothly. Remember, their presence at that moment is less about you spending family time at an event and more about your family building relationships with people in the ministry. Their presence is important even if you don’t have a lot of opportunity to spend time with them. Extra-curricular activities are often great opportunities for you to involve your family in student ministry as you attend various sports, concerts, and performances. Many times you will find that you enjoy sitting through that middle-school musical much more with your family next to you.
2. Have leaders and students in your home.
This gives you a great opportunity to build relationships with the people in your ministry within the family context. Leaders and students will see how you interact with and lead your family. It provides a comfortable environment for your family to become more connected with the ministry as well. Try to do this in small groups so that real interaction and relationships can begin to form. For some students this may be the only example of a godly family they will see.
3. Take your kid(s) on a mission project.
Be wise here based on the age of your children and the type of work being done. When appropriate, this can be a great time for you and your kids, as well as the people in your ministry. It will give you opportunities to share and display the gospel with your own children as they begin to process what it is that you do. It also helps to build a culture of service within your student ministry. When you involve your family in things like this it shows that you are “all in,” rather than just planning an event for the students to do.
4. Protect them.
Be observant of those who are interacting with your family most often. Unfortunately, there are people who would seek to know them because of the influence they think it may have with you. Don’t allow this manipulation to happen. If you feel there is some hidden agenda, then withdraw your family from those people and carefully observe. Also, watch closely which students are with your kids. Be very careful about which students you leave alone with your kids. If something strikes you as strange, go with your gut. You can’t be too careful. Your first responsibility is to protect your family.
5. Avoid unnecessary pressure.
There have been many times where I’ve heard this story: the wife of a student pastor becomes bitter and resentful about the ministry, not because of the time commitment of her husband, but because of the pressure put on her to lead in student ministry as well. Many times this comes in the form of expectations placed on the wife to lead a small group, be the girl’s ministry leader, and be present at anything and everything. Student pastor, your wife can support you with all her heart and not lead a small group or be the leader of your girl’s ministry. That may not be her gifting and that’s ok. Have open communication with her about her giftedness and what she feels like her place in the ministry should be. Help her plug in accordingly.
The topic of family and ministry is an important one. Your first responsibility is to your family, but that isn’t an excuse to be a lazy student pastor. Put in the extra thought and work it takes to get your family involved at specific points along the way and you will find that it creates a healthy environment for you, your family, and the ministry.
I’d love to hear from you! What are some things that you have done to connect your family with the ministry that you lead?
Ben Trueblood serves as the Director of Student Ministry for Lifeway Christian Resources and has served the local church as a student pastor for fourteen years.