There’s a post that’s getting some great attention in the incredible community at the Download Youth Ministry Facebook Group. And it rang true with me, having two of my kids come through the middle school ministry while I was the youth pastor there.

How do you minister to your own kids when they come into youth group?

I’ve collected invaluable advice from seasoned youth pastors who chimed in with answers. Here’s a compilation of their wisdom on how to effectively minister to your own children when they join your youth ministry. And, if I can add anything, give yourself grace! You’re new at this (probably) and just like any thing you’re doing for the first time, don’t expect to nail it right away. Give both you and your now YOUTH GROUP STUDENT a chance to learn and grow together.

Maintain the Element of Surprise

One insightful piece of advice comes from a youth pastor whose own children were part of their ministry. They emphasized the importance of keeping upcoming youth events a surprise for your kids, just like for the other students. This approach ensures that your children experience the same excitement and anticipation as their peers. Additionally, although they might naturally end up helping with setup and cleanup, try to limit their involvement to when it’s absolutely necessary. This helps them enjoy the youth experience more fully without feeling like unpaid staff.

Balance Involvement and Independence

Navigating your children’s involvement in youth activities requires a delicate balance. Make sure they understand that certain norms, like seating arrangements, apply to everyone equally, and rotate seating to avoid any sense of favoritism. It’s crucial to engage them in discussions and activities without making them feel singled out. This involves calling on them for answers in group discussions without putting them on the spot, striking a balance between inclusion and pressure.

Prioritize Family Time

Youth ministry can be all-consuming, but it’s vital to remember that your children’s lives don’t revolve around it the way yours does. Dedicate at least one Saturday a month to family time, completely unrelated to ministry activities. This time is crucial for maintaining a strong, personal connection with your children outside the church context. Furthermore, when faced with scheduling conflicts between youth ministry and your children’s events, open and honest communication is key. Plan and discuss these situations in advance to manage expectations and foster understanding.

Respect Their Space and Autonomy

As one pastor who recently saw their children graduate from their youth ministry advised, it’s important to give your kids space. Avoid using them as sermon illustrations and let them initiate interactions. Recognize that they spend more time at church than other kids, so occasionally offering them special opportunities can be a positive way to acknowledge their extra commitment.

Involve and Empower Your Leaders

Bringing your youth ministry leaders into the conversation about your children’s involvement can be incredibly beneficial. Encourage leaders to take your kids under their wing, allowing them to experience the youth group as any other member would. This also means letting other leaders handle disciplinary issues and provide pastoral care, so your child doesn’t always see you as both parent and pastor. This approach can help your children feel more integrated and less singled out.

Maintain Clear Boundaries

Lastly, advice from Katie Edwards highlights the importance of treating your children like any other youth group member. Avoid placing additional expectations on them simply because they are your kids. Allow them to build their own relationships with small group leaders and respect their privacy. Each of your children may want different levels of interaction with you during youth activities, and it’s important to honor their preferences. Sometimes, having a clear conversation about when you are in “youth pastor mode” versus “parent mode” can help set these boundaries. Even allowing your kids to call you by your first name during youth events can lighten the atmosphere and reinforce these distinctions.

These insights from the Download Youth Ministry Facebook Group have been incredibly helpful in my journey as both a parent and a youth pastor. This community is a fantastic resource for anyone involved in youth ministry, offering support, advice, and a wealth of shared experiences. Remember, while the journey may be challenging, it’s also one of the most rewarding aspects of ministry. Blessings on your path as you navigate these unique dynamics in your own youth group!