Here we are in the midst of the summer break months. For most student ministries this can be the busiest season of the year. Many student pastors take advantage of the fact that their students have more free time. It’s camp season! It’s mission trip season! It’s retreat season! It’s music festival season! If you are like me you are finding yourself out of the office more and around students more and this is what we thrive on because student ministry is our passion.
This can also mean less family time for us as student ministers if we aren’t careful about our scheduling and planning. I get the question from time to time, “Why aren’t Misha and the kids with you?”.
I have a few reasons why they aren’t with me:
> Fresh. I want student ministry events to be something exciting and new when my children enter middle school. I don’t want them to be “pros” at youth camp or the mission trip. I don’t want them to have the schedule memorized.
> Focus. When I’m at camp or even at Student Church on the Beach (our Sunday worship gathering in the summer months) I want my focus to be on our students and not on my children.
> Simpler. It’s easier for my family. If you have kids you know it’s often easier to take care of them at home and stick to your normal schedule. It is more work on my wife to care for the kids away from home. Many times the accomodations aren’t equipped to handle families. On Sunday night it is a lot of work for my wife to go home from the beach without me and get the kids showered and into bed. Have you seen my daughter’s hair? Getting sand out of her head is no easy task. Beach clean up goes much easier when done in tandem as mommy and daddy, at least it is for our family.
Life can be stressful enough as parents of twin 7 year olds and an 11 year old and throwing a wrench in the routine, for us, doesn’t make it less stressful.
Because I’m at work and the students are my focus on a trip I may see my kids throughout the day but there really isn’t quality time. In fact I get better quality time conversations with them if I Facetime them once a day from camp or the mission trip.
Doesn’t this take away from your family? Yes and No. There are some things that simply come with the territory when you are in ministry. Your family learns to be flexible. They get used to someone texting or calling you during dinner to ask a question that could have waited until the next morning when you are at the office.
Last week I was at camp as the camp pastor. My only real responsibility was to get up and preach the messages and then when I walked about camp or hung out I would strike up conversations with campers. On this trip I took my youngest to hang out with me. He loved being outdoors all week and since I wasn’t responsible for students it was easy and fun to have him along.
How do I cope with being away from my family?
>Technology. In the words of Kip, "I love technology". I sat on the porch of my cabin on our mission trip to the island of Eleuthera with Camp Bahamas Missions and Facetimed with my wife and kids. Each day I would communicate with them. I do the same when I’m at camp.
>Church Support. My church understands that I must first be successful as a father if I’m going to be successful as a minister. I’m allowed to take some comp time after trips such as camps or mission trips. I usually take them near the end of the week so I can spend 3 or 4 days at home with my wife and kids.
You may “tick” differently and function fine with your kids running around at camp or on a mission trip. If that’s you I say “go for it.”
Figure out what works for your family and make sure there is balance but most importantly keep your family as your priority above your job.