Moving Boxes: Ministry Family Transitions

Moving Boxes: Ministry Transition

MOVING BOXES, MINISTRY FAMILIES TRANSITION…Transition is all too familiar to me. Our family is about three years into a new house, job (church), and city. We are landing at our 9th church in close to 23 years of marriage and ministry.

When packing and unpacking the physical boxes, you also pack and unpack your heart, emotions, and mind. Over the years, we have done the transitions before we had kids. The last four transitions, however, have been with our kids along for the ride. We have realized that we are setting up our home and our kids. We have the opportunity and privilege to help successfully transition our family mentally, emotionally, and physically. Here are the steps that God has shown us to be successful when transitioning from one ministry to another.

When transitioning, it is essential to prepare your kids
. Some of the time, it has been more accessible 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 is essential. Be honest and open on age-appropriate levels that they understand. Allow kids 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 with prep them. Telling your children the truth is not just from your mouth but also from sharing the truth of God’s word. This will remind them that God will take care of you all.

There is a purpose for each transition. 
God doesn’t move us on without purpose. One of the most incredible things we learned was 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 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 teens, so sharing the “why?” and purpose of the most recent transition allowed them to be on the journey, too. It will enable them to own this transition and not resent the change. The ministry journey is not just mom and dad moving on, but a family being called somewhere new to follow God’s purposes.

The actual move is often challenging. Make it go as smoothly 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 much more smoothly because I didn’t have to pack my kids’ rooms. They packed their boxes because they were prayed up and prepared. I gave them helpful pointers on how to pack but let them own the preparation. It saved me so much stress.

When we arrived at the new home, they were also willing to unpack their rooms.   We allowed them to take ownership of the preparation process. Since they were prepared, they now have ownership of their new home and rooms.   Amazingly, they have kept their rooms so much cleaner, too. They have seen the value of ownership in this process.

When going through transition, parents must be positive. 
It is not always easy. I know personally that our last two transitions wrecked me at first. We were even homeless at one point during one of the transitions. 

How do you stay positive? You pray for God to show you His goodness so you can see it clearly. You pray that your spouse will be strong on days you’re not strong. It is the only way to be positive. I remember being in transition, not knowing what we would do next, trusting God, but just hurting inside.

During one of these 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 us and handed us an entire book of ride tickets. The book was full of tickets for the kids to ride the rides at 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 it, but God, in His goodness, wanted to give us a day of family time that would remind us that He was still in control.

Being optimistic about the transition with your family is so important. No matter our negative thoughts, do not let them taint your kid’s view of God, the church, or people. Kids have a childlike faith, and we don’t want to rob them of that because we are responding with negativity. God is doing a work in their hearts during transitions, too.

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.

When you get to the other side of your tough transition, that is the moment to praise; take the time throughout the transition to praise, but when you get to the other side, look at all the ways God provided during that time. Take time to seek why He chooses to move you on, and praise Him when you discover it.   Praise him for all the small and big things! Point out to your family all that God has done for and through your family. It will allow your kids to grow in God and cultivate a grateful heart.

God has been good to our family, even though there have been a few complex transitions. I wish there would have been someone helping me through these transitions. I would have loved to have someone lead me in how to help my husband, how to guide my kids, and even show me how to survive through it. Hopefully, these words will help you process and unpack your physical, emotional, and spiritual transition boxes. 

Melissa Istvanik is a 5th-grade teacher at Calvary Christian School in Naperville, IL, a suburb of Chicago.  She has served beside her husband, Dan, for more than 25 years.  She has spoken at the National Youth Worker Summit and was the East Coast youth ministry spouse mentor for many years through Leading and Loving It.  She has written in the past for Ministry to Parents. 

She and her husband are raising two teenagers of their own, Jenna and Kaleb.