Pregnancy in youth ministry: Nope, I am not talking about your teenagers, I am talking about your ministers. Starting a family is an intimidating thought to begin with, but trying to balance it with ministry is even more difficult. Imagine being a woman in ministry: having to deal with morning sickness in Sunday School, the pregnancy leave from the ministry, the breastfeeding at church camp. Trying to figure out the whole pregnancy thing brings so many questions, but mainly How can I do this?
Women ministers, are you pregnant or thinking about starting a family? While I have never been pregnant myself, I have done some research and talked with the fine ladies in our Facebook group. Please chime in with additional advice in the comment section!
While You’re Pregnant
- Decide how you’re going to inform your pastor, the church, and the youth group. It is probably not the best idea to post it on Facebook and let everyone go crazy. It will be much more professional and personal to do it in person.
- Start preparing your volunteers to take charge of the ministry while you leave on pregnancy leave. As the pregnancy progresses, you are going to have days where you are not going to be as reliable as you once were. Prepare them so that if you have to leave the lesson to relieve your bursting bladder, they will be able to pick it up.
- Make a plan with your husband. How is this all going to look when the baby gets here? Will one of you take a little extra time off? What is your schedule going to look like once the baby gets here?
- Realize that you can’t do the same activities you could before. But just because you cannot zip-line or ski does not mean your students cannot! There are ways for you to be able to go on trips with them without having to do the activities; and if you just can’t go, no one will blame you. Do not feel like your level of commitment lessens—your students will understand why you do not want to tube on your pregnant belly (well, you might have to explain it to the middle school boys).
The Pregnancy Leave
- Know your laws about maternity leaves. Investigate what that looks like and talk to your church about how they will accommodate that.
- Do as much preparation as you can in as much advance as you can. Will your church hire a temporary youth minister, or will you have to equip volunteers to run the ministry while you are gone? Whatever you choose, you will have to decide early on in your pregnancy; you do not want to have to decide these things and prepare volunteers to do your job when your hormones are raging, your back is hurting, and you feel exhausted and burned-out from a baby kicking your insides.
- Decide your level of commitment beforehand—how involved will you be? Will you be around and available to volunteers, or will you be strict about your maternity leave? Will you even come near your church during this time? You will need to decide these things. Typically a maternity leave means “no contact,” but will that work for your ministry? Most importantly—stick to your plan! There will be people calling you up while you are still in the hospital unless you make it clear exactly your level of involvement during this period.
- Do not be afraid to ask for help; you are performing life’s greatest miracle and need time to recover as well as spend time with your precious newborn. You do not need to worry about a ministry on top of breastfeeding. Relax and trust that everything will be fine while you’re gone.
After You’ve Returned to the Ministry
- Realize that it will take some time to adjust, even after you return to the church. Many women struggle with their emotions following having a baby.
- Do not be discouraged when you find you cannot commit the same way you used to. Fortunately you work for the church, a building full of God’s saints. Even though the church may not always be pretty, no one can resist a baby. No teenager will be mad because you missed the mud tug-o-war because you were taking care of your baby. In fact, having a baby might unite your students in ways you never expected. Realize that you have a youth group full of babysitters who will take your baby off your hands (and if not your students, their parents will be willing to help). Every woman I have talked to has talked about how great their church was to them throughout their pregnancy and after the baby was born. Trust that it will be fine.
Remember: You can be a minister AND a mom. You will show your youth how to prioritize and balance God, your marriage, your new family, and your ministry. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead your motherly senses. 🙂