This is a continuation from an earlier post. To look up part 1, look under Recent Posts or click here.
How #2: It affects what you Model
Pete Hill was an unassuming figure. He didn’t “look” like your stereotypical youth leader. He was tall and heavyset with thinning hair. He also had this very loud, yet contagious laugh that sounded more like Santa Claus’ laugh than any Shopping mall impersonator I have ever heard. Although he did drive this cool, navy colored Jeep Wrangler, he probably would not have been someone you would pick out of a lineup to be an effective youth leader. However, over a 10 year period, Pete was one of the most successful and effective youth leaders I have ever seen who modeled to so many youth what it means to put Christ first in your life and what it means to choose your family first.
To be effective in ministry, a leader has to model Christ to everyone he/she ministers to. Pete did that as he took many students deeper in their relationship with the Lord. But, it was also Pete’s passion and heart for his family that made him a great example to everyone he came into contact with. As teenagers, young people are trying to find themselves. It is a natural transition for them to begin to separate themselves from their own family in an effort to become more individualistic and find their way in life. It was during this transitional time in my life that Pete modeled that family is very important. Whether it was him bringing his younger brother out to hang out with my friends and I or him changing plans on us so that he could spend time with his family, Pete was a great example of what it means to have a family and to minister to them just as much as he ministered to others. Looking back at times, Pete spurred me on in my relationship with Christ a lot, but it was what he modeled to me about family that really sticks with me today as I minister to teens.
Unfortunately, people in ministry have not always emulated the example of Pete’s family first model. I have seen more times than naught a Youth Minister continually sacrifice quality time with his/her family just so they can be out ministering to students more. This is not to say that youth leaders shouldn’t spend times ministering to youth at times that may not be convenient for your family. But, if youth leaders continue to spend a lot time with their students and neglect their own family, what do you think you are teaching them when they get older and have a family of their own?
Choosing family over ministry is not always easy. There is no doubt about it, teenagers, especially boys, WILL make fun of you for being whipped and COMPLAIN that you are not around as much as you used to be. But in the long run, both you and they will be blessed because of it. You will be blessed because you will be connected to your family more and get to experience those life experiences to share and enjoy for a lifetime. Sure, it may seem like just “bath time” or “dinner” to others, but missing out on that time with your family could cause you to miss the first time your child does something great, or says a word or does a funny, memorable thing. These are important things for you to be apart of. The youth you minister to will be blessed because they will see a healthy example of what it means to be a good parent and a member of a family. They may not realize it at first, but they will, especially when they begin a family of their own.
In addition, choosing family first means that you have the opportunity to model something completely different to adults as well. You can’t imagine how many looks I get from other parents or teachers when I pick up my children from school sometimes who must be wondering, “Why is he picking up his child? Doesn’t he work?” I have actually been asked numerous times, “I’ve seen you outside your house with the girls or up at the school helping in classrooms. What do you do for a living?” People can’t believe that I have the flexibility in my schedule to spend time with my children. Furthermore, they cannot believe that I am not using that flexibility to get out on the golf course more often and have some “guy” time (although, sometimes I wish I was). What I am modeling to other people and parents is that my family matters to me and I care about what my children are doing. Now, I am not trying to pump myself up as I see other people and ministers model this much more successfully than I do. But, in this age of workaholism, it is a refreshing and helpful for parents and others to see that you actually care about your family.
How #3: It affects your Planning
If you have a spouse and children, you have probably experienced this before. You have this great youth group night planned with an awesome mixer and you have a great talk prepared. It is one of those nights you are truly pumped for as it seems like everything is lining up just right. Then, the day comes and your spouse or one of your children get sick – not just cold sick, something like the flu or strep throat. What do you do? You need to attend to them and help out, especially if your spouse is sick, but you also your have a youth function to attend to. Don’t these situations always tend to pop up at some of the worst times? It is almost like there is someone/thing out there who is trying to destroy families and ministries. Who could that be? Regardless, every sickness or unexpected event that comes up are not the same. There are varying degrees. But, what do you do when your family and ministry lives intersect and both need you?
In ministry, it is always good to plan out weeks, months and even semesters ahead of time. But, just as important as planning ahead, it is always a great idea to have a back-up plan. Even without a family, you should have a back-up plan for your events in case something happens to you or someone else serving in an upfront role. A back-up plan involves delegation and preparation.
- Delegation: As Head Youth Leaders, you never want the program to rest solely on your shoulders. You always want to include other leaders and the students as well. It gives them ownership and helps them feel that they are apart of things, rather than just spectators to your show. So make sure, that every youth function is not just contingent on your running the game, mixer, announcements and talk. Delegate to others so that they will feel like they are contributing.
- Preparation: An older, much wiser Youth Minister once challenged me to be prepared for last minute changes by having all my leaders prepare a talk that they would know by heart and ready to give at any moment. By having your leaders ready with a talk, if any unexpected thing happens to you or whoever is giving the message that day, you have any number of people who can step up and share a great message to the youth. In addition, be prepared by having your leaders know exactly what is happening week to week. The more they know exactly what is happening week to week, the better they will be able to contribute if something unexpected comes up.
Secondly, you need to have leaders you trust. In addition to having an effective back-up plan, you need to have leaders you can trust and rely on in case a last minute change or Plan B needs to go into effect. Now, I hope you can trust all your leaders. But, what I mean here is that these are the leaders you know that can come up with an impromptu game, mixer, skit or whatever may be necessary. There have been many times in which we have had to go to Plan B at Cedar Run. When Plan B was needed, I knew that I had at least 3 leaders I could turn to that could pull off something to kill time. Do you have leaders you can turn to when something unexpected comes up or when you need to go to Plan B? It takes a lot of pressure off of you and, just like with having a back-up plan, gives other leaders or student leaders an opportunity to shine and share their gifts to others.
In the above paragraphs, I outlined some ways that choosing your family first affects your ministry. Sometimes you may think that when you choose your family first, you ministry will suffer. Rather, when you choose family first, it also benefits your ministry in a variety of ways:
- It provides a positive role model for your youth and others to look to
- Your ministry becomes less about you and gives your leaders opportunities to step up and confidence to perform.
- It affects future ministry possibilities because you are a positive role model to your family. They realize that church isn’t more important than they are. Christ should always be first and foremost, but Church work is not Christ and although there is a difference young children or even non-believing extended family members may not realize that and end up with a hard heart to Christ because they associate the 2 together.
The big picture point is this, whether you are part of one or have a family of your own, your family needs to be a bigger priority than your ministry. That doesn’t mean that your ministry ends or makes you less effective. As I just pointed out, I believe that it can have some very positive affects on your ministry. So don’t worry, your program is not going to deteriorate and the youth in your program are not going to abandon ship just because you have a fewer hours a week to spend with them. Sure, they may complain or poke fun at you, but in the long run, what you model to them by choosing your family first is so much more important. As my friend Pete Hill demonstrated countless times, you can be a great example to your family, the youth you minister to and many others all at the same time and impact them for eternity.
TAKE A MINUTE and…
- Plan some Plan B scenarios. Who are leaders you can trust and how can you build up other leaders so that you can rely on them in Plan B situations?
- Set up a time where you can challenge your leaders to have a message ready for any given time. This may need to be a “Training Time” that you have with your leaders. So, either set up a Training Time or encourage them today to start preparing a talk to give at any give time.