Moving creates high-level stress for any and everyone. As a family in church leadership, sometimes moving adds another layer of tension because families do not just change homes and cities, but church communities. At Ministry to Parents, we are passionate about helping ministry leaders Care for Your Soul, so we asked a wife of a church leader, Melissa Istvanik, to offer her ways on how to avoid ministry burnout as a family in transition.
Unpacking The Boxes: Family & Ministry Transitions
Transition is all too familiar in ministry life. When packing and unpacking the physical boxes of a move, you often end up packing and unpacking your heart, emotions, and mind.
In 25 years of ministry, our family has served in eight different churches. As a young couple, the transitions were not always easy. However, when we had to transition with children, we realized that we were not only setting up a new home and ministry, but we also needed to set up our kids. It was our responsibility and privilege to transition our family mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Allow me to share the steps God gave us to be successful when transitioning from one ministry to another.
When transitioning, it is important to prepare your kids. Some transitions are easier than others. Our last two transitions began with a conversation that Daddy lost his job because the church was making changes. Prepping our kids for that long emotional ride was important.
No matter the situation, be honest and open with your kids in age-appropriate levels that they understand. Allow them to ask questions. Be willing to say you don’t know if you do not honestly know.
Your kids can develop a sense of trust if you do the hard thing and prep them. Telling your children involves not just sharing the truth of your story, but it also includes sharing the truth of God’s word. This will remind them that God will take care of you.
There is a purpose for each transition. God doesn’t move you on without purpose. One of the greatest things we have learned is to pray for God to show us the “why?” God may be moving you on for bigger and better, or He may have been protecting you from something that was about to happen.
When God starts showing you the “why,” make sure to share that with your kids in an age-appropriate way. Our kids are now teenagers, so sharing the “why” and purpose of the most recent transition allowed them to be on the journey, too. It allowed them to own the transition and not resent it. The journey of ministry is not just the story of mom and dad moving on, but rather the call of God on a family to somewhere new to follow His purposes.
The actual move is often so hard. Make it as smooth as possible by involving the whole family. Even small children can pack the toys they want and box up the toys they will see soon. Our most recent move went so smoothly because I didn’t even have to pack my kid’s rooms. They packed their boxes because they were prayed up and prepared. I gave them helpful pointers on how to pack but allowed them to own the preparation. It saved me so much stress.
When we arrived at the new home, they were willing to unpack their rooms. Since they prepared and participated, they willingly took ownership of their new home and rooms. Amazingly, they have kept their new rooms so much cleaner! I believe it is because they have seen—and now understand–the value of ownership in this process.
In the midst of transition, parents need to remain positive. Positivity is not always easy. Personally, our last two transitions wrecked me at first. We were even homeless at one point during a transition.
How do you stay positive? You pray for God to show you His goodness so you can see it clearly. You pray that on days you’re not strong, your spouse will be strong. It is the only way to be positive.
I can remember being in transition and not knowing what we were going to do next. I was trusting God but also hurting on the inside. During one of those dark moments of hurt, we decided to go for a free day at the beach to spend time as a family. As we walked along the boardwalk, a man approached and gave us an entire book of ride tickets for the amusement park at the end of the boardwalk. We took that moment to stop, pray, and teach our kids about God’s faithfulness to us as a family. We couldn’t afford to enjoy the rides, but God in His goodness provided us a day of family time that would remind us He is in control.
Being positive about the transition with your family is so important. No matter the negative thoughts you may have, do not let them taint your kid’s view of God, the church, or people. Kids have a childlike faith, so don’t rob them of it by responding with negativity. God is doing a work in their hearts during transitions, too.
When you get to the other side of your tough transition, take a moment to praise. Take the time throughout the transition to praise, but when you get to the other side, make sure to look at all the ways God provided during that time. Take time to seek the why, and praise Him when you discover it. Praise him for the small and big things! Point out all that God has done for and through your family. It will allow your kids to grow in God and cultivate a grateful heart.
During one of our transitions, God allowed my husband and I to read Joshua 4. It is the passage where God told Joshua to build a monument out of stones as a place of remembrance.
God has been good to our family, despite some hard transitions. I wish I had someone who helped me through these transitions. I would have welcomed godly counsel and advice to lead me through how to help my husband, guide my kids, and just survive it. My prayer is that these words will you if you find yourself unpacking boxes of physical, emotional, and spiritual transition.
Melissa Istvanik is has been married to her husband, Dan for 19 years. They have served in youth ministry together for 20 years, She serves beside her husband in the student ministry by counseling students and moms, leading a small group, and more. God has additionally worked in her heart and called her to help and mentor other youth pastors’ wives through her leadership with Leading and Loving It and as a member of the ministry council for National Network of Youth Ministry.
Need more? Download M2P’s FREE Minister’s Transition Kit. It includes:
- How to Enter a Church Well
- How to Leave a Church Well
- 7 Ways to Guide Children in Transition
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