It is no secret that certain careers can mean relocating more often than others. Ministry is one of those careers. On average, a pastor keeps a church or ministry for 3 years. While serving the Lord in ministry may mean traveling or moving often for some, it is not all. Nor does it have to be difficult and miserable. And although so many amazing ministry wives are super resilient and vigilant with their families, many (including myself) have asked, “How can I make moving easier for my children?” While some pastor’s wives have been blessed to serve in one location for more than 20 years, there are other ministry wives that would love a permanent home and ministry life. Yet, create and make the best with every opportunity they have! God is so good! And while you may be seeking to see if you have left any stone thoughts or ideas upturned, rest assure your attitude and demeanor will set the tone far more than a particular thing you “do”. You know your child better than anyone else. If your family is on the move (whether your decision or not) it will have some challenges. Even when the move is essential and everyone agrees it is for the best, your family still may shed a few tears. Truthfully, in ministry you give your all and a piece of you goes with it. You have hopes and vision for people, the church and the community; it’s hard. Mom, preacher’s wife. Woman of God, you are enough!
Ministry Mondays: 5 Tips For Moving to a New Ministry or Church With Kids
1. Bathe It In Prayer
Nothing can be prayed over too much! And while we do not always understand why God does what He does, we can know it was already factored into His divine plan. When we are making a move, whether large or small, we should always be in true fellowship and leading of Christ. Bathing it in prayer is not just for the decision though. It is for the previous ministry, the new ministry and most importantly your first ministry, your family! Pray for their hearts to trust and lean on the Lord, pray for words of wisdom on how to deal or respond to comments and questions that arise, pray for a great welcome to a new church and how you can help initiate that straight out of the gate in your new ministry and/or location. Also pray about current relationships and how you can nurture those and possibly salvage a vibrant and stronger relationship with your children and their friends/mentors. Bathe your new en devour with prayer in every faucet!
2. Allow Space and Adjustments
Processing. Everyone and every person processes change differently. Although so many changes can happen in, and throughout our lives, it does not necessarily make them easier. Allow your child/ren space to not just understand, but react openly and honestly with you. You will not only allow them to express themselves safely, but know how you can make the adjustment easier or the transition lighter. Don’t downplay the difficulty of leaving loved ones and friends.
One great way to do this was to initiate keeping strong and thriving relationships that already exist. Encourage solutions to concerns and work together on coming up with a reasonable adjustment solution. Depending on the distance, it could be purchasing a yearly planner and setting up a couple meet ups half way or at a mutually decided destination. Either way, give space for processing and solutions for the adjustments that will be made.
Another great option is to encourage your children to journal. With the weeks up to moving day, there may be some places they want to visit again, some postcards they want to pick up of their favorite places, journal thoughts that are racing or take extra pictures for keeps. A Journal is great place to keep it all together in one spot.
3. Nurture Things That Will Be Missed & Initiate Keeping Relationships
In the adjustments solutions, continue to encourage your children to keep the friendships and grow their circle with more great friends and influences. With today’s technology it is easier than ever before. However, our favorite is still snail mail. Actually, who doesn’t love a great personal to get and give mail? Sending Lego pieces, neat game codes, a candy bar or just a simple holiday package will keep a relationship thriving. It could also mean meet ups or vacation stops! Although change is difficult, it can be beautiful too! More than anything, it will be influenced by your attitude. If you are intent in keeping relationships thriving, your kids will be encouraged to do the same.
If it is more of “places” or just the overall change, one thing that has been a great help, not even on purpose was we always pick “Our Spot”! We check out several destinations that seem wonderful and tend to find a spot that is a favorite and it becomes “Our spot”. This is different for everyone. Perhaps it’s a family restaurant, find a new one in your new location! Or a small town coffee shop to meet a friend, find a new destination. As hard as change can be, small connections made in your new location will make it feel more like home and make adjustment easier. It will also give you a few favorites to look forward to on hard days or to meet up with previous friends and/or mentors.
4. Be Intentional to Get Them Connected
Connect. Connect. Connect. Whether it is sports, clubs, the library, local classes, the farmer’s market, local garden clubs, 4-H, scouts and/or home educator groups; make it a point to get your children plugged in! I love the fact, that with a little extra initiative, we can help our children plug into their new destination before we even arrive. If you know where you will be serving next, you can check out many things online. Quietly, you can even ask about any families in your next church with church similar in age to your own. Before arriving, it is even possible to set up a lunch for the kids to meet, a local play date, a town tour of their favorite places, and so. All of these things are just a few ways you can make a new ministry move thrive straightway when you arrive. And while your children may not be ready to just jump in or get acquainted immediately, a very relaxed atmosphere will give them a feel for what is available when they are ready.
5. Include Them in Your Ministry
Including your children in ministry can be as simple as having them help you plan a welcome picnic, assigning a simple ministry job for each child, and/or being a nursery worker helper. This was the single piece of advice that we received over and over again when serving in ministry, except it was assign each child a ministry job, and do the same as faithful people join the church, It is what makes us dedicated to one place and builds faithfulness to commitment to “your church”. While there is much truth to it, there are many elements to consider and can understandably be reevaluated.
None the less, our children were happy to have their “job” at church. Jobs included, but were not limited to, straightening the hymnals, refilling the envelopes, refilling the tracts stations, bulletins, wiping the door knobs, spraying down the pews, vacuuming, washing dishes, making coffee, taking out the trash, shoveling, planting, mowing, weed eating, painting, managing the mics and sound system, to nursery helpers and Youth Ministry Assistant. Depending on the age of your child and their level of maturity, jobs can be joys in ministry. Serving alongside your children in ministry is such a blessing; young and old! (I never understood the concept of undermining your children, talking bad about them to everyone and then wondering why they do not want to stick around or serve with their parents. While this is not common; sadly we have seen it while serving in ministry.) Your children, if loved, guarded and nurtured while in ministry, can be your greatest assets at the church, not just your home. Do not apologize for your children, help them grow into the Godly individual God intended them to be. And in the occasional case (often a hidden church issue) that your new ministry is not accepting of your children, run, kidding, well maybe. Before you lock in, pray. Perhaps a new ministry would be best anyways. Children are the future of the church. (And it might have been the very reason they could not find another pastor.)
6. Encourage Them to Go the Extra Mile in Securing Previous Relationships
Bonus is #6, Because, I really believes this not only builds character, but handles self doubt over the long haul. (Noted with experience.) One of the beautiful things of growing in the Lord, is the doors God opens for you! Unfortunately, to jump into one beautiful ministry, it may mean leaving another. When you secure those previous relationships and encourage your children to grow and engage in those relationships with the right balance; you are encouraging them to remain thankful, but hopeful of the relationships God will bring.
With experience, I recall how excited our children were to meet the friends they did at our new church assignment. While excitement overflowed, we still would get together yearly with a handful of friends from our previous location. What a joy! They could update our kids on all the new things God had done, while our children could explain all the new things God was doing in their life. Surprisingly, even with little “extra” contact, we still find time and ways to see or “pop-up visit” friends from almost 20 years ago. It is such a joy! While some relationships bloomed and the kids can pick up right where you left off, ( Even I love low-maintenance friends) there have been times where the relationship changed completely because the child/kid had changed so much or did not make contact back. However, the ability was always there and it left NO regret on my children’s part for the friendships to stay connected. That is peace and will be something your child is thankful for.