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

  1. Jacki Rutledge August 9, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. Our kids are 6 and 2 and they have been with us to every conference, camp and event. Sometimes it is really hard to bring them and continue to minister to students at the same time, but it is something we committed to as a couple when we decided to have kids. This summer was a bit hard and I questioned it for the first time, but reading this was an encouragement that helped me remember why we are doing it in the first place. Thank you for the impact your words have had on our ministry over the years.

  2. G August 15, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

    How do you convince your pastor this is a good thing, too?

  3. Aaron Buer August 16, 2013 at 8:17 am #

    I love this. Our student ministry staff brings our kids to our summer camp and I think it’s great for so many reasons. One of the reasons is that camp is, for some students, the only chance they get to see a loving family, all year long.

  4. Heather August 16, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    This is a good article. I have always struggled with this. When I bring my kids, 4 of them, along with me and my husband, the youth pastor, to camps/retreats/mission trips, it is hard for me. I like to try and be very present in whatever activity I am doing, whether it’s taking care of my kids or interacting with youth group teens. When I am trying to do both, I never quite feel like I’m doing well at either. I spend the time wishing I was more aware of my kids, or really able to connect to the students. I usually go home feeling less connected to the group as I would like. It is true though that my kids are seeing teens they look up to, and their growth and struggles, which I love. Maybe is boils down to being able to let go of some control. Thanks for posting this, it is encouraging. Any more advice on the topic would be great!

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