We will talk about this when we get home
A couple of years ago, one of my daughters said something during one of our youth ministry teaching times that was completely out of left field that put a stop to the momentum we had begun to build that particular night. This led me to pause awkwardly not knowing how to proceed. The next words out of my mouth were, “I’m not sure about that, we will talk about this more when we get home, ok?” Super awkward moment for me as a leader yet still so powerful.
This moment was awkward. If any other student had spoken up, it might have been different, but this time, it was my own kid.
This moment was powerful though for a couple of reasons. Primarily, it reminded me I need to spend some extra time with my own kids on the subject we were discussing that night. This opportunity also showed the group and my own children that my family always has the opportunity for “extra” after hours’ time. These powerful points stop me in my tracks from time to time and cause me to text or call or go visit with one of my children to catch up on things as parent/child, youth pastor/student, friend/friend.
My son who is now in college was our lead tech team guy for our youth ministry. My oldest daughter who is in college now as well was one of the members of our worship team. My middle daughter is one of the vocal leaders in our ministry now. My youngest is coming into 6th next year and will be one of our jr-high-off-the-charts-high-energy-students. All my kids are unique and have found their places through the years in our youth ministries, but it was not always easy for them or for myself and my wife Melanie. When our kids find their place in their social groups or on teams, we walk with them through it like most parents do. This experience can be eye-opening and be challenging at times. When our kids find their place at church and in the youth group, the difference is the expectation that the watching world of church people have on them. This part of finding your place as a teenager is a game changer.
Leading a youth ministry with your own children in it comes with a lot of potential risks.
My dad is the youth pastor so:
- I have to act right all the time even when I don’t want to.
- I have to be there all the time even when I have other stuff I want to do.
- I am an assumed leader for the group even though I have no idea what I am doing.
- I am expected to know the Bible through and through but I can’t always find what I’m looking for.
- I am supposed to care about everything and everyone but who cares about me?
- I am expected to be at every event but there are way cooler things to do somewhere else.
- I have to wear only churchy or youth group t-shirts.
- I have to dress “appropriately” in public but other kids get to wear whatever they want.
- I am supposed to represent our family and the church everywhere I go. “Our job” is on the line.
Lots of Christian students think about these kinds of things but if their parent is one of the staff pastors it can be even more pronounced. There are other issues that go to a deeper level that pastors kids definitely have a tendency to struggle with.
- I can’t mess up even though all I want to do is mess up.
- I can’t stand that everyone knows me as the youth pastor’s kid.
- I can’t stand the Bible, it’s all we talk about at church and at home.
- I can’t stand the church, it’s all my dad cares about.
- I have to sit in the back seat while my dad talks to the troubled student in the front seat.
- I want more time with my dad but it seems like everyone else is more important.
- I have to be careful what I say and what I pray because everyone is listening
Not only have I had three of my own children in my ministry so far, I have been the youth pastor for 20 plus ministry kids through the years and seen and heard a thing or two about pastor’s kids and pastor’s homes through the years. These students are not just students like everyone else. There are certain expectations and certain situations to keep in mind and that can make ministry messy to them and to your own kids at times.
Even though things can be a bit touchy with blurred lines when your own kids are in your ministry, here is a narrowed down list of 12 things I have learned and am still developing in.
- Remember that if you can’t lead your own kids well you may not have the leverage to lead others well.
- Remember your ministry to youth may have a shelf life but your ministry to your own kids never ends.
- Remember you are the youth pastor to a bunch of students but more than that to the students who happen to be living in your house.
- Remember even if your kid makes mistakes, their impression of the church and Jesus are directly impacted by you and your response to their shortcomings as youth pastor’s kid.
- Remember one of our primary callings as parents in Deuteronomy 6 (look it up).
- Remember to live out at home what you are teaching at youth gatherings.
- Remember to schedule time in your week that is more than a car ride to just hang out.
- Remember to be at your kid’s events.
- Remember to disciple your own son or daughter, and don’t count on another person to take that responsibility
- Remember when they have a birthday party use the connections you have to make it better than a youth gathering.
- Remember to not make them assume a leadership position in the youth ministry, instead, let them tell you what role they want to play in the youth ministry.
- Remember they are teenagers and are a little bit nuts just like the rest of your students.
It has been healthy for me to use the suggestions of my kids in writing this post. They have had some great advice and suggestions for me to pass on and we all hope this can help youth pastors and their families achieve the common goals of peacefully and successfully doing ministry together while living together and being in right relationship for the long term.
Here are some quotes from my kids about what they like about being the youth pastor’s kid and what they don’t.
“I like that I know everything that is going on at church.”
“Something that comes with the territory is every life event of mine may turn into an illustration for a sermon.”
“Free t-shirts. Wait, are we supposed to pay for those or is it a perk of the job?”
“Donuts are almost a guarantee for us on Sundays. Even if someone forgets to bring them, they always show up.”
“I don’t like it when people are not following your directions to a game or lesson.”
“It drives me crazy when people are talking or texting while you are preaching.”
“I deeply dislike people having discussion about me or one of my family members when I am not around. Basically, I don’t like people talking about us.”
“I wish Bible knowledge was like a family osmosis thing. You know a whole bunch of stuff I wish I automatically knew.”
“ I like meeting pretty much every new person that walks in the door.”
Lee Coleman has been a youth pastor for over 23 years and enjoys serving Dallas/Fort Worth as well as traveling the country sharing Jesus’s message of hope and freedom to children, teenagers, college students and adults. Lee is currently on staff with Waxahachie Bible Church along with being the Lead Character Coach for WISD athletics. Besides these roles, Lee also helps people and organizations grow in efficiency and excellence through personal and organizational coaching facilitated through the group “What’s Next? Coaching and Consulting” of which he is the founder. Lee and his wife Melanie, have four kids, Caleb, Faith, Marigrace and Lilly. Follow him on twitter when he remembers to tweet @LEECOLEMAN.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.