Youth group leaders, Sunday school teachers, nursery and playroom volunteers. If you’re like most people in roles that have children at the center of the work, you probably feed off of the special energy that young people bring to the table. Maybe you love helping little hands master a new skill. Or hearing a child’s take on Bible verse that makes you appreciate the lesson in a whole new way. Whatever it is you love about ministering to children, the work you do is helping them find their spiritual way in the world. And that’s a big deal!
So what happens when the time you dedicate to care for your church kids starts to bump up against the your own family time? Do you feel overwhelmed by the amount of time your work takes? Whether it’s planning curriculum, attending meetings or just giving it your all to the kids in front of you?
You’re not alone. At some point, everyone in a "helping profession" feels at least a little bit burned out. Mother’s Day is a great time to think about how to balance your role as a parent with the demands of giving your best self to your ministry.
Instead of taking a break only once a year on Mother’s Day, consider how you can resolve the tension. You CAN and care for your church kids while being there for your growing family. We’ve got a few ideas to help you get started.
Take Time for Yourself
No one can give of themselves continuously forever. That’s a recipe for disaster. You know what they say on airplanes about putting your own oxygen mask on before trying to help others? That’s true about self-care, too.
At least once a week, schedule an hour of time when you don’t think about anyone but yourself. Take a walk in the woods. Soak in a bubble bath. Do a crossword puzzle in a cafe. Focusing on yourself regularly will give you some space to make sure your own needs are met as you care for others. You should never feel guilty about taking this time! When you’re rested and at your best, you’ll be able to give more to all the kids you love.
Get Your Children Involved
If you’re worried about missing time with your own family while you’re working with your church kids, try bringing your children along. It’s easy to include them in the fun when they’re close in age to your group. But you can also find ways to deal with disparities. Older kids may enjoy acting as your coteachers or helpers. Having them along on your volunteer efforts is a great way to teach them responsibility and charity.
If your children are much younger, you may be able to set them up with modified activities. Or give them small jobs like "paper passer" and "attendance taker" before setting them up with a snack and a book.
Try a Job Share
If you’re not sure you can continue to devote as much time to your ministry as you did before you had kids, take a cue from the business world and propose a job sharing strategy. Is there another parent who would like to split the duties? Perhaps you could alternate weekly meetings, or split responsibilities among an enthusiastic group of volunteers with different skills.
For example, say you love designing Sunday school lessons but can’t be there every week to deliver them. Maybe you need a partner who just wants to spend time with the kids. This could evolve into a great way of getting more people involved in your church while allowing you some more time for your family.
No matter what your role in the church, know that your work with children is incredibly important and valued. And know that, even so, it’s okay to take time out when you need to. Think about ways to streamline your volunteer work and include your family in the activities, and you can strike a balance that lets all the kids in your life get the benefit of your time and energy.