Q: I’m a youth leader and my spouse volunteers with me. I really enjoy sharing this common passion with them but sometimes it’s frustrating when we take the work home with us. Do you have any suggestions?
A: Stephen and I were group home parents for six months and did youth work in very close proximity every day from 6am to 10pm. If anyone understands how you’re feeling it’s us. We’ve also done our fair share of volunteering together in youth ministry.
The benefits of having your partner or spouse as your co-facilitator include:
- Someone who understands – They know exactly what you’re talking about when a parent or group is frustrating (or a joy!)
- Someone who’s in your corner – They’re on your side even when you make mistakes. They also probably know you better than anyone and are therefore well placed to give you feedback in a way that you’ll accept.
- Someone who shares your passion – It can be fun to share some things together. You don’t need to do everything together, but you can also find one evening a week working towards a common goal is quite a positive experience for your relationship.
As you’re already aware there are also some challenges. These include:
- Taking your work home with you – You might spend all evening getting more and more wound up about what happened at group instead of being able to come home and switch off.
- Strain on the relationship – You may not be in a great place at home at the moment and receiving feedback from your other half might not be a positive experience for your relationship.
- Not wanting the same things – Sometimes one half feels like they’re just doing what the other half wants to do. In my experience, in faith-based youth ministry the wife is often the ‘girls leader’ while the husband is the youth pastor, so the wife gets automatically included as the second volunteer. This isn’t always best and, while some relationships do well to have a shared interest, sometimes it’s not your passion and you’re doing it because it’s what you feel like you’re supposed to do.
OK, so really it’s just one tip with many parts:
No relationship is perfect but make sure you’re good communicators and in a steady and stable place in your relationship before doing youth work together. Youth work, while awesome, is stressful enough without additional pressure.
- Be prepared to communicate about what went well during a session and what could be improved. Don’t take it personally, but also know when your partner needs some time before sharing about the colossal mistake they made at the front of the group in the last session.
- Share if you don’t want to continue to volunteer in a youth ministry or program. Be honest about your willingness and interest in being a worker or volunteer for their youth program. You might find more joy doing other things and only volunteering occasionally.
- Take the time to ask your partner or spouse if they would be able/willing to help – don’t just assume it. Stephen is an awesome Girl Scout volunteer but I only ask him every so often so I usually get a yes, rather than expecting him to fill the role of weekly volunteer.
Be patient. You’re going to get it right sometimes and you’re going to make mistakes when working or volunteering together, but your youth work shouldn’t come between you and your significant other.
Your relationship needs to come before your youth programs, otherwise neither of you will be any good to anyone.
Question: How do you handle doing youth work with your partner? Or does your partner not volunteer at all? What tips do you have? Let us know in the comments below.
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