On June 24, my wife Nicole and I welcomed our son Haddon into the world. Words cannot even begin to describe the beauty of seeing our son be born. Of course, the many stories of contractions, rushing to the hospital, labor, pushing, and pain are all true. But nothing could prepare us for the pure joy of holding our son in our arms for the first time.
As we expected, life changed dramatically. Our son, on whom we had been waiting to meet for 41 weeks, was finally here! We could hold him, kiss him, play with him, give him a bath, and rock him to sleep every single day.
But those first few weeks were not without their struggles. Life at home was busy, demanding, challenging, and tiresome… especially for my wife. We both experienced sleepless nights, unmet expectations, angry arguments, and all around exhaustion.
But as with any difficult thing, there was a unique gospel-glory in our struggle.
I also knew that our ministry as a couple would have to change. My wife is one of our Youth leaders, and I knew we would have to get creative if she wanted to continue ministering to her girls. We knew we would have less time for friends, less time with just the two of us, and less time on our own. We had just brought into the world an entirely new person, whose needs we had to consider and prioritize.
Our newborn son has definitely influenced and even changed the way we view Youth Ministry. It has even affected the way I minister to the students we have in our ministry. I constantly find myself asking the question, “If Haddon was here tonight, what would I want him to know/believe/do in light of our time together?” Though that question usually frames our nights together, it has a whole new meaning knowing that someday, by God’s grace, Haddon will be a man who learns what it looks like to follow Jesus. I know that most parents feel exactly the same way about their children. How am I allowing that truth to influence the way I plan, teach, shepherd, and work? Do I love and serve our students the same way I love and serve my own kid?
Having a newborn at home changed the way we did ministry, but it did not make ministry impossible. Sure, Youth nights look a little different for our family, and our expectations of what life should look like shifted, but Jesus is already using our newborn for the sake of His glory.
My wife has had incredible opportunities to share wisdom/success/failures with both of our neighbors, who just had newborns of their own. Our other Youth leaders have had amazing opportunities to step up and serve in ways that they did not before. Interestingly enough, our Youth are getting a good picture of the messiness of ministry, and the messiness of life. Haddon isn’t always quiet, our house isn’t always clean, schedules don’t always sync up, and ministry is never as seamless as we’d like. But that’s the way life is. Our Youth get to experience how real, gospel-centered community works and how the body is called to love and serve one another in the midst of the messiness and chaos of life. Ironically enough, the other day Nicole said, “I can’t even remember what life was like before Haddon! Having a newborn at Youth is craziness. He poops, screams, throws up on people, and often times doesn’t fall asleep in the pack-and-play in your office. But I can’t even imagine doing ministry without our little dude. He’s already one of our Youth!”
Ministry with a newborn in tow is definitely not easy. There are sacrifices we’ve had to make, meetings we’ve had to re-schedule, dinners that don’t work out, rugby games we miss, and text messages we forget about. Although my priorities and schedule may have shifted, my calling to make disciples of our Youth – to see “God’s Kingdom come in Vancouver as it is in Heaven” – has not. The mission my wife and I began with is still the same. Our vision is still the same. And Jesus is still the same. We simply had another person we were entrusted to shepherd.
My advice to young parents would be this: though you both may wear different hats as a husband, wife, mommy, daddy, Youth Worker, teacher, or coach, your calling as a disciple of Jesus hasn’t changed. We are called to lay down our lives for the good of our families and our brother and sisters in Christ (1 John 3:16). We are called to put the wants and needs of others before ourselves. We are called to follow the teachings and lifestyle of our Rabbi. We are called to be with Him, do what He did, and live how He lived. We are called to make Jesus known, even with a newborn at home.
This is the fifth article in our series, “The Phases of Youth Ministry,” in which we explore the blessings and challenges of ministering to students during various seasons of life. Read past articles in this series here.