The Middle School Milestone

Earlier this summer, for the first time, one of my own kids was with me as a camper for Middle School camp. This morning, I took her to middle school orientation. I spend a lot of time around middle schoolers, so the mix of excitement and nervous fear in the building today wasn’t too surprising – but it’s been “interesting” making adjustments to actually having a middle schooler of my own (who thinks 11 is way more adult than her father does, by the way).

Emily’s looking forward to getting back to school and is excited about the schedule. We got to walk through the building this morning, finding classes and seeing friends who haven’t connected much over the summer, as well as meeting teachers. She seems to have a really good group of teachers, so as a parent and a youth pastor, that’s something for which I’m very grateful.

And just as my daughter’s entering a new phase, I think I am too. For 12 years, I’ve done ministry with other people’s kids, but now, the first of my own kids will begin a wave that will have them being more present than they have ever been. Here’s what I’m hoping:

I hope having my own daughter in my primary ministry group won’t cause me to hold back in challenging my students to fully chase after God. It’s one thing to encourage someone else’s little girl to listen when God’s telling her to go into dangerous situations on His mission, but what about my own daughter taking that risk? Will I still be willing to nudge my students toward the God-led risks they need to take? I think so, but I have a lot more skin in the game now – my own flesh and blood…

I hope I can be even more present for her peers without sacrificing the special relationship a daughter should have with her dad. As a youth pastor, I want to take advantage of every opportunity to help young people see Jesus, but I don’t want to manipulate my daughter’s relationships toward my own ends. She’s not my little spy into the world of youth culture. I have to admit, sometimes I feel a little awkward as a mid-thirties guy showing up at a Jr. High band concert/football game… If I didn’t know my own motives, it could be a little creepy.

I hope I can be the dad I need to be and the pastor I need to be. The tension between what my family needs and what my ministry needs is not an easy tension to manage. I hope I can leverage that tension well to propel both my kids and the other people’s kids that I’m privileged to serve into the life Christ dreams for them.

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