I am an “accidental” ministry wife. After graduating from college, my husband started off as a kindergarten teacher, so when he later accepted the offer as children’s pastor several states away, it was a transition that made sense, but one I was not prepared for.  Neither were my children.

Memories of seeing my two little girls sitting on chairs in our tiny apartment of that first move still bring waves of emotion. Tears streamed down their little faces as they watched strangers moving their toys and belongings into an unfamiliar place.

 So confusing for a 2- & 3-year-old.

 So uncertain for a 27-year-old mama who didn’t know how to help them.

Change is difficult for everyone, but there seems to be some complicated layers to ministry transitions. Especially when your children are involved. There is nothing like watching your kids struggle in different ways and at different times when you just wish you could speed up the process to settle into familiarity and the happiness that you pray will eventually come.

Fast forward 15 years and our family has grown, both in size (there are now 6 of us) and through several transitions: moving across states, different cities, big churches, little churches, home churches and serving in nearly every position offered in a typical church setting. Each change produced unique blessings and difficulties, becoming especially challenging as my children grew older.

Sifting through all the failures and successes of our years in ministry, I discovered a handful of reminders that help me to walk with my children through transition. This simple alliteration came to mind as I pieced together the different experiences and what I wish I could have shared with my 27-year old self: Reach, Reassure, Resource, Release and Rejoice.



With each transition comes a time-consuming and sometimes overwhelming number of tasks. Just getting everyone and everything safely from one place to another is enough to make your head spin. But there is much more going on with the family unit than those external things, so it is critical that we take pockets of time to slow down and reach for our kids.

Connection with our children can be most obvious and yet most difficult when our entire world gets turned upside-down. The whole family experiences a wide range of emotions: grief, loss, excitement, hope, anxiety and fear. Having intentional pockets and intentional moments where they feel connected to the family, accepted through the process and providing a sense of belonging are the foundation of stability during transition.

  • Listen – be a safe place and create space so they can process.
  • Share your fears, sadness, and excitement with them.
  • Use touch and closeness, such as hugs, holding their hand, looking them in the eye or sitting hip-to-hip.
  • Gather for a few moments to pray together each day.
  • Involve them in the process and ask for their opinions where you are able.
  • Slow down to let them know “I am here”.



Just like the safety bar on a rollercoaster, we can give them some sense of security in small ways. While the Lord remains our ultimate security, children also feel secure when we can show them that we understand where they are and their need for a place of safety. 

  •  Keep consistency in rhythms and routines as much as possible. The smallest of things count so it’s helpful to plan ahead of time which ones you will maintain and which you will have to release.
  •  Allow times with comfort items – pets, blankets, stuffed animals, fidget toys, ect. (“and fluffy cows”, my daughter would say)
  •  Find words or phrases that can be a part of your family’s shared language. For example:

“Though this seems like a mountain, God guide us one more step.”


“When we feel (insert emotion), we choose to trust God to (insert biblical promise).”

  • Protect your together time by placing limits on how much you are doing outside the home. This is tricky as we feel the pull of saying goodbyes to those we have loved and served or the draw to become quickly acclimated into a new community. Ask God to show you where to put limits so that you can serve your family well.



We are unique in the way that we process through times of change. Resourcing your kids means offering them things that will reveal purpose in the transition and reaffirm purpose within them. This is not a way to convince them that this move is going to be a “good thing”. Rather it offers a way for them to experience both grief and joy while finding meaning in it.

  • Grieve loss through making photo albums, memory boxes, writing a story or letter to give friends.
  • Connect with a new place and new people by throwing a “Discovery Party” – with questions, games and activities that help start new relationships.
  • Give your children a special gift with the intention of planning or looking forward, such as a goals/dreams journal.
  • Provide opportunities to meet with a counselor or mentor.



Observation and intuition enable us to understand each child’s strengths and abilities in a way no other human on the planet can. While no mother has perfected this, God gives us not only the ability to know our children well, but also to understand there is timing and seasons for releasing them in their giftings.

  • Set boundaries – there were times I had a 6-month “no volunteer” pact with my kids where we (with exception of my husband) would not volunteer when at a new church and have the freedom to observe and “be” for a while.
  • Release your expectations. Do you have expectations of their behavior or their healing process that might need to be set aside? I’ll let the Lord clarify this one with you.
  • Highlight their strengths. Remind them of what they are good at, not just tasks to serve at the church, but the character qualities God has designed within them.
  • Let them test the waters with new ideas and new things. My 7-year-old son once decided on a “ministry of mints” as a way to introduce himself to the people at a new church. He would walk around with a bag full of mints and greet people along with offering a mint. (“Which made talking to them more fun because now they don’t have bad breath”, he would say)


Moments of celebration draw us away from dwelling too long on the difficulties in these situations. The healing process can feel long at times, so highlight those moments where your family is experiencing victories.

  • Praise them for their courage and trust in the Lord.
  • Encourage the small steps you see them taking.
  • Create “hope squares” – writing hopes on sticky notes and posting them up in a place everyone sees regularly. Make a point to celebrate when you see one come to fruition.
  • Plan enjoyable experiences and moments of laughter.


Be encouraged, friend, that God is near to your children, and he knows them well. You are going to make it through this season. Let him guide you each step of the way in the specific areas where you can walk with them on this journey.  

I love how Romans 12:12 gives a final wrap-up to these thoughts; a great reminder for all seasons, whether we are in transition or not.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12




Book Suggestion:

Start with the Heart by Kathy Koch