I remember when I started in youth ministry. I was young. Not even married. I had time. I had passion. I had freedom. Youth ministry was fun. When I married, not too much changed. I was still young. I still had time. Because I was working a pretty good job, I had some extra money. And, my wife was as much into youth ministry as I was. At the time ministry was fun and easy. Doing things with students was easy, spontaneous, adventurous. Concerts, camps, amusement parks, trips, pizza parties, hayrides, bonfires, Christmas parties, lock-ins, all of it came so easily.
When I accepted my first full-time call, I was so excited. Two years married. One kid (barely a year old) and one on the way. We moved. We were ready. I poured everything I had into the ministry and it was awesome. The ministry grew. With two little ones, we were able to go just about anywhere. And we did, traveling to most events together, my wife and I, and the 2 kids. Ministry was still exciting and pretty easy. I loved being with teens; the conversations, the fun, the way they looked up me. It was such a great feeling. And I remember thinking, as I looked at my two boys, “This is great! I can’t wait till I can have this same relationship with my kids. We’re going to have some great discussions. We’re going to do so many cool things together.”
Now, let’s take a big leap forward. It's now 18 years later. I have 5 kids. 3 teenagers (almost 18, 16, & 13). Then there's 10 year old and the 7 year old. When my oldest entered our middle school ministry, with his brother following a year later, it was fun. But then they hit high school, and something changed.
All of a sudden, the high hopes for being the super cool youth pastor/dad popped as the dart of reality was thrown my way. I wrote a blog post on our family blog called, Raising Teenagers is Nothing Like Ministering to Teenagers. In the post I shared my surprise as to how different I thought it was between being a parent and a youth pastor. I’ve had to learn some difficult lessons. But even more, I know I need to learn more.
For a number of years, I’ve watched from the outside as YP’s/Pastor older then me juggled the work of parenting and pastoring. They always looked like they had it all together. They led dynamic ministries while raising what appeared to be incredible kids. I’ve heard stories of conversations, trips, and events that were shared by parent and pastor, and I longed for the same. But now with two teens in the house and one quickly approaching the teen years, I have to wonder if what I saw on the outside was true of what was happening on the inside. And if it was, what did they do differently.
I get that there is a separation between being a parent and pastor. But is there a point at which you can marry the two together, applying what was learned as a youth worker to what is being done as the parent.
So here’s my hope. My hope is that there are others in a similar situation of being a parent to teens while still ministering to teens, who read this and think, I can get in on this one.
I want to know…
- What are you doing to bridge the gap between parent and pastor?
From the teaching to the discipline. From the mid-week fun to the end of week ugliness. From mission trips that end on a high to the family argument over a missed curfew.
What works? What doesn’t?
If you don’t have teens yet, what are you doing to prepare for that day?
Are you feeling or thinking the same thing? I think if we as youth workers are honest and share what we’re dealing with, we stand to become both better parents and better pastors. So, please take a few minutes and share!
How are you bridging the gap between being a parent and a pastor?
Jay Higham is a veteran youth worker of over 28 years; having worked with students in the local church and Christian camping settings. Jay is currently serving as the director of family ministry at a church, located in West Virginia. Jay has been married to Amy for over 23 years. Together, they are raising 5 kids, (4 boys and 1 girl). Jay is an aspiring author, blogger, speaker, vlogger, and social media junkie. He is passionate about student ministry, family ministry, and training youth workers to love and serve their students with passion and excellence.