I’ve gone public many times stating that I would much rather be known for being a great husband and father than being known for a youth ministry leader. Pursing a healthy family in the midst of ministry is a goal, drive and passion.

This weekend I was speaking in NY and I missed my 16 year old daughter’s volleyball tournament. Having 3 kids who have played sports their entire life (from childhood into college) I’ve tried to be vigilant to not miss their games. My best guess is that I’ve made 85-90% of all of their games, but the 10-15% often haunts me. My kids have seen the effort I’ve made and definitely offer me grace when I have to miss (they are 22, 19 & 16 years old).

Yesterday I was talking to a younger youth worker (actually, there aren’t many who aren’t younger anymore) who asked me what I do when I have to miss a child’s special event. He pushed for specifics and I told him I’d think about it and write it in my blog …so, here you go Steve, this is what I try to do:

  • I communicate my genuine disappointment in having to miss the event: my wife and I spend time every week planning our family calendar so that we don’t miss events. But, when it’s impossible to make an event I definitely express my disappointment to my kids and let them know that I’m sorry/sad for missing.
  • I call before, during and after event: This may get obnoxious to my kids, but I want them to know their dad is engaged in their world…even when he’s not there. (The “during” part is getting text updates from my wife during the game).
  • I watch the video of the event: my wife video taped Saturday’s volleyball game and I’ll watch it within 24 hours of returning home (regardless if my child watches with me or not).
  • I make positive comments on what I saw in the video: All my comments are positive, and once again I make comments about “wishing I was there.”
  • I make extra effort to attend the events that aren’t special: I will attend my daughter’s volleyball practice this week (and I also attended last week knowing that I was missing Saturday). I don’t go to all the practices and/or rehearsals, but I’ll often attend around the times when I miss.
  • I pray that my kids will remember the high percentage of times I was there and not the low percentage that I missed: presence communicates, but it’s not as loud as lack of presence.

What I have learned during my 29 years being employed by a church is that not everyone in the church or on the staff values family as much as I do. It’s definitely not easy putting your family ahead of your job…especially when your job never stops. Focusing on your own family requires effort, sacrifice and difficult decisions. I hope this post helps at least one youth worker. Each day with your family is a gift that you don’t get to do over.

What do you do when you have to miss an important family event because of your job and/or ministry?