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Tag Archives | Cody Fields

Youth Ministry & Parenting: Should we bring our own kids to camp?

Fields' kids 2As I write this, two of my three kids are at camp. The 24 year old is on a youth ministry staff where she has been in charge of running this particular camp, and her 21 year old brother went to help out (a last minute counselor cancellation).

My kids know camp. My kids love camp.

They should… they are children of a youth pastor.

They tagged along to camp before they could walk and have seen just about every time of camp/mission trip/overnighter there is. I loved having them there and they loved being there.

FAST FORWARD: Today, fortunately, all 3 of my children love and follow Jesus, value the collective gathering we call church, have deep/meaningful friendships, love their family, and even enjoy their parents (which talking about that is the easiest way to get me to cry).

I realize all of that could change at any time.

I talk with youth workers almost every day, and this summer it seems like I spoke with more insecure youth workers/parents than normal. My use of the word “insecure” is different than you might imagine–I don’t mean they couldn’t look me in the eyes. I mean they were insecure in their parenting/youth ministry decisions.

PAUSE: I understand the fear of raising kids in the ministry… for Cathy and I, working with teenagers was a form of birth control early in our marriage. I always wondered, “Are my kids going to be freaks because they grew up in youth ministry?”

Here was the most common question I heard: “Are we doing the right thing by bringing our own kids to camp?”

I’m sure there are many who disagree with me, but that specific question is always met by an immediate “yes” from me. Yes. Yes. Yes.

A significant part of who my kids are (now, as young adults) is because they were constantly surrounded by amazing people (teens & adults) in fun environments (like camp!). I believe one of the key factors in their faith development was watching older “kids” live and fail in their pursuit of Jesus on these trips. As PK’s, my kids went to school on other kids.

Today, many of our friends will ask how we infused a heart for the world into our children (they ask because all of my kids frequent Africa). I’m not exactly sure, but I know that every Spring Break (from when they were in the womb all the way to teen years) they would join us as we ministered in impoverished communities in Mexico. I’m not positive that’s why they have a missional world view–my theology leaves a lot of room for God’s Spirit outside of our parenting decisions–but, I know taking them along contributed.

I realize that this broad-sweeping “yes, take your kids with you to camp” begs more questions and it’s definitely not as simple as I’m making it sound. But, as you evaluate your summer and consider next summer… I would encourage you to make your kids part of your camp. Don’t feel guilty for bring them. Don’t second-guess yourself.

Okay, bring on the questions (parenting and youth ministry) and I’ll do my best to answer some of them.

Enjoy your parenting… they’ll leave the house before you know it (our youngest leaves in 24 days, 3 hours and 18 minutes). Dang, more tears.

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A letter to parents (who drop their kids off at college)

We are in a season where many parents are dropping their kids off at college. For most of my years as a youth pastor I didn’t really understand the significance of this rite of passage.

I do now!

I know it too well. I’ve done it twice and I don’t look forward to doing it a final time in two years.

Leaving my kids at college as I drove away has been by far one of the most difficult things I’ve ever experienced. I now have a new sense of empathy for parents who go thru this.

There’s a strong feeling of loss. Loss triggers fear. Fear ignites pain. Pain…well, pain sucks.

Last year, when we took our only son to college I wept like a baby. I included this photo because I wanted you to see my shirt (look closely)… those aren’t stains, those are tears.

My red, swollen eyes tell the story of feelings that were difficult to control.

I write all of this because I believe that churches/ministry leaders have a great opportunity to come alongside parents during their grief. If I had to do it all over again, I’d send the following letter to parents of college freshmen (who are moving away).

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Spankmeyer,

I wanted to write to let you know that our church [youth ministry, team, etc] is praying for your family during this season of transition. I don’t know the exact pain/joy/emotion you are going thru, but I’ve talked to enough parents to know that sending your child off to college isn’t easy. We are supporting you in prayer.

As a church family we rejoice and grieve with you.

During this first year of college our Student Ministry will be in touch with your son [daughter] and we will be cheering him on, encouraging him to plug into a church, and letting him know that he’s loved.

As you know, you’re not alone in your feelings and there are many parents who have gone before you in this transition. I know that if you ever wanted to talk to another parent who has “been there” I can facilitate that connection. Please let me know.

It has been our privilege to have had your son in our youth ministry, and we will continue to come alongside your family and help provide for your spiritual needs.

Please know that you’re love and we’re excited to see what God is going to do in/thru Jason’s life.

Please let me know if I can help in any way.


When the fall season rolls around, there is so much to do in the average church and those going off to college are often forgotten. I want to encourage you not to be “an average church” and take a minute to care for these families in transition.

It’s a big deal. Let them know you understand.

Question: What do you do to help families with this unique transitional season of life?

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3 Thoughts from a Ministry Dad

Several times over the last seven months I’ve made either Twitter, Facebook or Blog comments about my 19 year old son’s step-away-from-football-and-college to serve orphans and street children in Kitale, Kenya (post one & two).

He came home yesterday! Praise Jesus.

The photo (below) is from our first of many meals where we’re downloading his experience.

My oldest daughter returns home Monday night after being in Africa for 3 months (post college graduation). With two of my three kids gone this summer (and my youngest wishing she was in Africa) I’ve taken some time to do some reflecting on our parenting style as well as raising our kids in a ministry environment.

I’m working on a list of some of the steps that I’m glad Cathy and I made while our kids were growing up in ministry. One of these days I’ll share the list, but here’s what I was thinking about while I was waiting at the airport for Cody to arrive.

1. TIME goes by very fast
When our kids were little, this didn’t seem like a true statement. We were always tired, got little sleep, and felt like we were a high maintenance family. But, now of the verge of being an empty-nester (our youngest is a junior), I’m stunned at how fast time appears to go.

2. Ministry always requires more TIME
When you think about how quickly time goes, this 2nd statement can definitely trigger some family-tension. Since ministry never stops (because people always have needs) we’re constantly making decisions about who is going to win the time battle… the ministry or our family. With Cathy’s tenderness and help, we always tried to make sure that our family won. I realize this can be difficult if “healthy family” is not a high priority within your church setting.

3. Make sure your kids know they don’t have to work for your TIME
When my children were younger, I was haunted by something a youth pastor’s child said, “I’m excited to be in youth ministry because I’ll get to see my dad more.” When I heard that, it broke my heart and I made a commitment that my kids would never say that. At church, I made it very clear that my kids had total access to their dad. They knew that if others were waiting to talk to dad…they didn’t have to wait. Not everyone agrees with our approach, but that’s what we taught our kids.

If you’re a parent, who is serving in ministry, there is great hope for your kids! Cathy and I are convinced that growing up around incredible, fun and godly adults was an incredible blessing for our kids. I realize you’re always being forced to make ministry and time-related decisions, and my prayer is that you’ll make more right decisions than wrong decisions (you’ll make some of those too)… actually, I pray you’ll make a lot more right decisions.

The issue of TIME is definitely a battle, but it’s one worth fighting.

Here’s another post I wrote about family & ministry.

Also, at this year’s National Youth Ministry Convention (Youth Specialities), Cathy and I will be teaching an extended seminar on Ministry & Marriage and my daughter and I will be teaching one about Raising Kids in Ministry. I hope you’ll join us!

Question: What are the concerns you have about raising kids in ministry? Share them HERE.

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It’s not an honorary doctorate…but, it’s enough (and better)

Yesterday I went to visit one of my favorite groups at church—they’re called “The Stuffers.” The Stuffers are a group of senior citizens (age 70-90’s) who meet on Friday morning to stuff the weekend bulletin and do any other type of “busy work” that the church needs.

Prior to her death in January my mom was a regular part of this group. My mom loved being there each week because they’re a lovely, caring group of people. I would drop my mom off at the group, walk in, give hugs, get love and appreciation and leave inspired.

As my mom was dying, this group was so tender and gracious. They displayed their understanding of eternity and how near they each are. They were the teachers and I was the student.

When I came to visit yesterday they had a surprise for me. They knew my son Cody was in Africa and they took an offering for him ($262), had a Oswald Chambers devotional that they inscribed, and letters they had written to him. Most of these people have never met Cody but “knew him” from his bragging grandma.

As for me, they presented me with the certificate below and bestowed upon me an honorary member of the Stuffer’s Group. What an honor!

This group of saints have taught me a lot! They are so loving. They obviously have a different pace of life that they live and their emphasis on people is so refreshing.

When I was a full-time youth pastor, I would walk around this group asking who was ready to join me on the youth ministry team. I wasn’t very successful, but the few who joined our youth ministry team were incredible assets. These fine folks help represent the diversity within the body of Christ.

Question: Who are the people within your church body who might not “fit” the stereotypical youth worker profile who you should be inviting to join your team? My bet is that you and your teenager will learn a lot.

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Miss these 2…big time!

Mom…first Mothers’ Day without you! Miss you deeply…I know that you’re enjoying being in the presence of Jesus. Happy eternal Mothers’ Day mom.

Cody…we are so happy that God is using you across the world! I know you’re loving Kenya and God is using you in great ways. 7 months is a long time and your mom & I and your sisters miss you a ton. Can’t wait to see you in a few months. Your mom always says, “He’s such a good boy!” You are loved my son! Wishing you were here to celebrate with your mom…she is so proud of you!

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IS THE 'AMERICAN DREAM' DYING? Today's teenagers seem to want more than college

My 19 year old son took a leave of absence after his first semester at Azusa Pacific University because he felt God called him to do something radical (APU is a place that encourages students to take faith-risks). Cody is currently in Africa for 7 months and I really think he represents a growing generation of young leaders who aren’t necessarily following the tradition route toward the American Dream of their boomer parents.

Some of the stories and photos reveal that these young adults are making a significant difference in the world.

It makes me wonder (maybe more now than ever) if the concept of a “mission year/gap year” (taking a year off before starting college and serving somewhere around the world) has legs. I don’t know. I think it’s working for my son Cody (and a few others that he’s with).

Not sure this concept is for everyone, but it’s making me do a lot of thinking.

Here’s a few blog snippets from these young leaders:

[Cody's blog] Two weeks ago I went down to the slums in Shimo and invited some parents [and children] to come to church with us…. Lucy’s mother is an alcoholic with more children than she can count or even remember. Two mothers… children, and random kids who just started following the white people… to church. Sitting in church watching a mother whose life was overtaken by alcohol was nothing like I have ever seen before. Her tough outward appearance was broken down as she began to smile and laugh. During the service her palms pressed against her eyes as a last result to hold back tears. I don’t know what she got out of the message or if her life will change… but my prayer is that she will know that she is loved and has a Maker who adores her more than she could ever imagine.

[Jade's blog] My first encounter with jiggers, I have heard of these before but have never seen what they can do. They are bugs that burrow into your feet from not wearing shoes, walking in the mud and such. They get into your skin and then lay eggs. The way you get them out is by digging into the skin with a needle.

We wrapped Lucy’s feet and went back to the house to grab her some shoes. We walked back and had Cody come with us because we knew that it would bring a smile to Lucy’s face. Sure enough she saw him and lit up, she sat with him in the shade and you could tell she was so content, she was joyful, and she felt loved.

It’s too difficult for me to separate my “dad hat” from my “youth worker hat”. I’d love to hear your perspective. Do you think we ought to encourage older high school kids to take a year off to do something significant before they enter college?

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MY SON LEAVES TO AFRICA TODAY… for 7 months… yikes

My heart is filled with joy and loss as my 19 year old son leaves today to spend 7 months in Kenya, Africa. After experiencing one incredible semester at Azusa Pacific University (and loving every day of it), he’s following the whisper of Jesus calling him to do something radical. As I write this, a dozen of his APU buddies drove down to pray-him-goodbye (APU has been incredible for him!).

Surrounded by a community of friends, Cody raised all the needed support to fund this life-changing mission. He’ll be working with hundreds of orphan children who live on the streets, sniff glue (to stay warm and alleviate the hunger), and wander the streets looking for hope. So many ministry opportunities!

This is his 4th trip to Africa and continues to be drawn to those in need of help. He’s not alone, so many of his buddies bleed compassion. I continue to be amazed by this generation of teenagers. As research continues to promote the sad news that the church and youth ministry is failing, I’m thrilled to see so many real-life examples of kids sincerely following Jesus.

1. If you think about Cody…pray for his ministry.

2. If you would like to go to Africa with me on an “exploratory trip” (with the intention of taking some of your teenagers on a future trip) send me an email (info@dougfields.com) and I’ll compile a list of interested people. I’m not sure when I’ll be going, but I want to expose youth workers to this unbelievable setting and opportunity for serving (we’ve been taking teenagers there for years).

3. Africa is a big-step, but if you want an easier first-step to develop the leadership and hearts of your students, consider joining us this summer at our student leadership conference at APU…it’s going to be awesome!

4. If you’re a parent and/or youth worker, don’t lose hope, the church may be struggling to retain young people… but the bride of Christ will prevail.

5. If you think about me…pray for my loss. I am going to miss my son/best-buddy/friend so much.

Since I’m new to blogging and have a lot to learn…I’m thinking this may be too personal and not that helpful. Oh well, it’s me, my family, and big on my heart right now…

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