How much should we involve our kids in the ministry?
This is a question Josh and I wrestle with at times. If you’re a parent who serves in any form of ministry, you probably have the same thoughts.
I grew up in a missionary family. When we moved onto the field, my dad told us kids, “You will always come before the ministry.” I clung to that promise as a child.
I know another missionary who explained that there aren’t clear cut lines in what comes first: ministry, marriage, or children. He said there are seasons when each of them take precedence.
I see some truth in both these statements. Ultimately, I believe the details of how a family in ministry functions depends on how God is leading each family. I also believe every family faces different seasons of needs and priorities.
So how do we, as a family in ministry, decide how much to involve and how much to separate our kids from this work?
I was recently praying these things over again, and the Lord brought a couple memories into the process.
When I was six or seven, my parents regularly went downtown in our city to bring food to the homeless population. I should say we regularly went downtown. I clearly recall my mom, my younger brother, and I making hundreds of sack lunches, assembly-line style. Every flat space in our kitchen was covered with bread, meat, and cheese as we worked together to make sandwiches. Dad got home from work, and we all piled into the station wagon, drove downtown, and my brother and I sat in the car watching, as Dad and Mom gave out food.
Around the same time, our family made regularly visits to two men in prison. I can still see the waiting room, where the guards would call our names. The four of us would walk into a large community room in the prison, where we’d sit around a table with two men and visit. I don’t know why they were in prison. I don’t remember ever feeling scared or strange in that place. I felt bored at times. But I also remember the smiling faces of the men we visited.
More than 25 years later, I’m still impacted by these memories of our family serving together. And they play a part in helping me decide how much to involve our own kids in the work we do.
Here are some principles Josh and I are learning about this topic.
Our first disciples are our kids.
True for both parents, but especially for me, as their stay-at-home mama. I turn down more ministry opportunities than Josh does, because we believe that as a regular practice, our children are my first disciples. Every day, I’m pouring into them, spiritually, emotionally, physically, academically.
I still serve outside the home, but we make it a point, even in those times, to take care of our kids first.
We protect family time.
For us, it’s family day once a week. We hardly ever do ministry on this day – only in rare cases when there’s a significant need others cannot meet. Couple reasons for that hard-nose principle:
1. There are ALWAYS needs. If we said yes every time an opportunity arose on our family day, we would rarely take that time with out kids.
2. This is a practical way that we demonstrate to Nora and Titus how they are our first disciples. It’s not a selfish action. We believe we’re called to pour into them before anyone outside our family. God entrusted them to us as parents.
How can we serve our kids, even when we’re serving others?
When both Josh and I are involved in something outside the home, we find ways to make those times special for our kids. Sometimes that means Grandma and Grandpa come to play. Other times we arrange a play date with friends or a special outing with a babysitter they love.
We talk about what we’re doing.
For several months, I was working on a community blood drive, which ate up more time than I usually devote to outside ministry. But it gave me the chance to talk with our four-year-old, Nora, about the project. I told her that by telling people about the need for blood and asking them to donate, we’re showing others the love of Jesus.
We involve our kids in ministry.
Our children are both under five years old. At this point, there’s not a ton of ministry they can do with us. But when there are opportunities for us to serve together, we take them. We believe there are important principles in this for even our little ones to learn. We pray they understand how God calls us to love and reach out to others, that as they grow up, they see the Gospel in action.
Example: During the community blood drive, I had to make 50 gift bags for donors. Our Nora waited for a week until I bought the supplies, and then she was thrilled to help put together these bags. It was amazing to see how excited she was to be a helper!
These are some of our principles, but as I said before, every family must prayerfully consider this issue for themselves. How is God calling you to function as parents in ministry? What are some of the lessons you’ve learned and can share with us?