Youth Ministry with a Toddler in Tow

     As a woman, working in full time youth ministry for more than a decade, one question I get asked often by both women in ministry, and caring pastors who employ them, is something similar to this...

"How can a woman (in youth ministry) make the flexibility of youth ministry work for them when they have a child? What if they have no family in town to help?"

I've been doing this whole "Mom in FT Youth Ministry" gig for awhile.
Here is my oldest, signing up for his first youth group event
as he looks forward to moving up to the middle school ministry this summer!

     With a widespread flu epidemic going around, and many office chairs and school desks empty these last few days, I've really been thinking about this. When you have a child, it definitely gives a working mom, a lot to navigate, juggle, and figure out. Sick days, even more so. An out of the blue fever spiked by your littlest baby, never seems to happen on your day off. How do you handle child care when you work full time?  I've sat at Starbucks on many an occasion with moms on maternity leave who are wrestling with the same question. There are many panicked, wide eyed, and stressed out working moms who feel a heavy tug from their work Icalendar and an even heavier tug towards staying home.
    Let me share a few ideas on creative child care options, working from home, and last minute sick days when you are a mom in youth ministry. The best tip I learned after having baby #1 is to take it one small chunk at a time. There is no way I can sit down and figure out a baby sitting schedule for every single event coming my way.  Who is going to watch the kids for that mission trip two years from now? If I try to plan  childcare for every single youth event or trip on the horizon, steam will come out my ears and it will drive me insane with anxiety.  I can figure out day to day staff meetings, and a generic weekly schedule fairly easily once I find a sitter, but for the big trips and events, take it as it comes. One event and trip at a time. Somehow, it will work out!
     So you need a baby sitter? Maternity leave is on the horizon and you are wondering what to do about childcare? I am 11 years into this working full time in youth ministry as a mom thing. I have had many "creative" child care options come to fruition. Here are some creative solutions to your child care needs:

1) Trade Room and Board for a Live in Nanny
This is what we did for child #1. We had an extra room and got wind of a girl who was living with a church family and helping them with childcare in exchange for room and board. When their needs changed (around the same time I was having my first baby!) we offered her the same deal. She watched the baby Tues-Wed-Thurs, I worked from home 1 day a week and took my day off on Mondays.  On youth group nights, we took the baby with us or put the baby in the church nursery. If that doesn't work for you and you need a paid nanny, look at ENannySource.com or ask around. There are many students at our local Christian college who currently nanny or have friends who do. It seems to be a nice gig for girls who are still trying to figure out what they want to do for their future career.

2) Did you say FREE? 
There are some ladies who have a huge heart for youth ministry, love your church, love you, and want to help. They are the people who love babies, but maybe do not want to volunteer in your youth ministry with TEENAGERS! Over the years I've had many a trusted grandma or mommy friend watch my baby (usually they only want to watch one, sometimes two if you are lucky) watch my baby for FREE while I ran a youth event, or during weekly staff meetings. Sometimes they are youth group parents, and I would pick up their teenagers from their house and trade kids! I'd take their kids with me to a youth event, and leave mine there for free babysitting. This is something you can't just expect or ask for. You have to delicately and generically put it out there as ways people can "help" or just wait til you get that "I'd love to watch your baby anytime" offer. Pray it up, put out some feelers, and of course be discerning. Not everyone is a good fit for watching your baby, so of course be choosy and don't come into a position expecting this to happen, but so far, I've been blessed to see it happen a lot! So thank you to the Miss Karen, Miss Judy, Miss Sandi, Miss Paisley, Miss Julie, and others out there who have invested into my family and ministry this way!

3) Pay Teenagers
There were many years in a smaller church where I led both Jr. High and Sr. High, and had no gigantic kids program or nursery care on the same night to take my kids to. My husband loves volunteering in youth ministry, so he does not stay home and watch the kids unless he has to. We lived super close to church (as in a parsonage, on the SAME campus) and would pay a Sr. High student to watch our kids during Jr. High youth group, and pay a trusted Middle School student to watch our kids during Sr. High youth group. It's rare to find a really good middle school age sitter, so again, be choosy! We were just blessed to have a few "wiser than their years" students in our ministry (Yup that's you Katie and Emma!) who babysat our kids each week.

4) Craigslist
Did I really find childcare on Craigslist? That sounds awful to admit, but I did! It was a God thing. I found someone who seemed legit on Craigslist, and when I emailed her, I was surprised to find that it was a lady I already knew and was friends with from church! I had replied to my own friend's ad. Had we simply talked a little more at church, I would have found her, but it took God using Craigslist to make that connection happen. She watched baby #2 from 8 weeks old til she was preschool age. A good reminder that God has your back.

5) Fish around. 
My friend and I were on a walk one day and she was talking about quitting her FT job to stay home with her little one. She mentioned applying at Starbucks so she can make a little part time money to supplement their family income. I was preggo with baby #3 and a long story short, I supplement her income by paying her to watch my baby. She helps me out a ton with convenient and loving childcare, and is one of my dearest friends! It is a win-win situation.

    There are tons more ideas to share for childcare options in regards to working from home, taking kids to the office, sick days, trips and events. Also, not to ignore the delicate subject of leaving paid youth ministry and becoming a stay at home mom. That is an important one to pray about and make decisions when you are not crazy and irrational with post-postpartum hormones. Hopefully this post gave you some ideas if you are a mom or soon to be mom in youth ministry. If you have ideas to share or questions in regards to ministry with kids in tow, please leave a comment. I would love to read them and chat more about this topic.


  1. Gina,
    Thanks you! As my husband and I start thinking about starting a family, the question of "how do I do FT youth min with kids?" is one that is often on my mind. You inspire me!

  2. Thanks Julie for stopping by my blog and for the kind words! You made my day! My goal for my blog is to encourage women just like you.


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