One of the shifts that seems to be taking place in the church today is in the area of parenting as it relates to the pastor. Parenting in general is under a constant evolution, and much of it, I am sure, is for the worse. But when it comes to pastors, I am encouraged. We have all heard stories of pastor’s kids walking away from faith and the church because they saw a very ugly side of the church, or their father or both. I know of a pastor who regularly walked away from family Christmas time simply because a church member wanted to talk for a little bit. Today, it seems there is a greater respect for family in the life of pastors. Sometimes ministers make an idol of the family, and this is equally wrong.
Engaging your children in the ministry does not have to be scary or even difficult. While my three sons are still young (8, 6 and 4), I have learned a few things about getting them involved. I hope to learn more as I pastor them and the church.
Make it fun.
There is a certain decorum when it comes to what happens in the church facilities, I get that. But when my sons must come up and work on a project with me or if our time gets interrupted with church needs, I will bend those just a little. Once a dad day turned into a ‘dad needs to go by the office for a while’ event. My second son was really wanting to ride his bike. So, he got to ride his bike. Through the halls of the church. On another occasion, my sons went with me to shop-vac a leak on a Saturday. They really enjoyed turning up their music through the Sanctuary speakers as loud as they wanted. I am the first to make them act a certain way during worship and church gathering times, but when we can, we have fun.
Watch what you say.
If you talk about the church and the members like they are a burden you will teach your children that the church and the members are a pain. So, when I am asked where I am going by my son’s I let them know that I get to visit a friend in the hospital. When we go up to work an event, we are excited to do so, and it makes a huge difference. I love college football and Law & Order because my dad loved that, and he shared it with me. You can do the same when it comes to the church and the work of ministry.
Find where they fit.
Once we went to the local nursing home to visit with the Alzheimer patients. It makes my sons uncomfortable. I did force them to be polite, but I did not make them stay next to the patients. Instead, they joined their mother cleaning in the kitchen, and we celebrated that. One day they will understand a bit more about what it means to visit folks in situations like that. Today, I just celebrate them finding a place to serve. We do this with members all the time. We never force our shy members to give announcements or our adventure guys to bake the cookies. Everyone finds a place, and we help them do it. In the same way, you know the strengths and weaknesses of your kids. It should be easier to help them plug in.
Duty before passion.
There is some work of the church that just needs to be done. In these opportunities, I teach my sons about responsibility and doing things that I don’t necessarily want to do. Sometimes, it is just a conversation about it at home. Other times, I take them along and have fun “doing something not fun with someone who is fun.” I want them to learn that the Church and ministry is not about making them happy; it’s about being faithful.
You are father before you are a pastor. Also, remember, if you are a great pastor and a horrible father, you fail.
Published July 20, 2017