By Mark Lee
I absolutely lost my religion.
I don’t even know how it happened. All I know is that the scene ends with me collecting every electronic device they owned and throwing them into the garbage can (the stinky, maggot-infested, outdoor ones) while all of them cried for mercy in the back of the van. If ever I would do anything to send my kids to therapy, this would be it. They would certainly grow up to hate me and the church. Way to go, pastor!
Now, I knew that as long as this behavior was not my norm, the children would soon forget all that had happened. After all Christmas was coming. So, I gave pause and thought of three different characteristics that would keep my family healthy.
1. Having a dad who isn’t grumpy
Do you know why I got angry with my children? Because I was angry at the church. I was angry at the people who were leaving my church. I was angry that people were saying my teaching wasn’t deep enough. For some reason, I was just taking it out on my children. Bitterness and unmet expectation in ministry can be a dangerous carryover into our family lives especially during the planting stages where a home office offers little separation between the two.
So, I decided early in our church plant that I would pray. I am ashamed to admit that I never had a very consistent prayer life until then, and God had to use the weight of circumstances to bring me to my knees. Both a young church coupled with young children can bring out anger we never knew was there, and if we are not dependent upon God, we can transfer our frustration to our children instead of casting our cares on God.
2. Having a dad who doesn’t yell
Why do we yell? Ironically, we do this not because we think the person doesn’t want to hear us but rather cannot hear us. And so, raising our voice is the obvious solution. However, many times raising our voice has exactly the opposite effect of what we intend. It only serves to embitter the heart and sometimes embolden their resolve.
One of the hardest things about being a parent? Acting like a parent. Sometimes I want to act just as immature as my children. But it’s my job to always use kind words, and it’s my calling to use a softer tone. Paul says, “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” I know it’s tempting to lose your tempter with that one particularly difficult child, but the test of a family culture is often times seen in how we treat the one that tests us the most.
3. Allowing my family to find their own calling
Early in our ministry, my wife led in many different areas of ministry, but instead of creating unity, it only created discord. After every meeting, I would badger her about why the team decided “this” and why she opted not to say “that.”
That’s when I realized it is not my wife’s job to pastor this church. It is mine. My children weren’t called to plant this church. I was. It’s my job to be at all services, not theirs. It’s my job to care for the staff, not my wife’s.
So, I tailor-made a volunteer role that best suited the church’s needs and her spiritual gifts. Her volunteer role is now to care for me. She brings me tea to care for my voice. She prays for me before service. She encourages me after the day is done, and I love it.
As for my children, I love going to church as a family, but that is not the key to our family culture. I don’t need them to build Vantage Point Church. I need them to listen to God. If God is telling them to attend another church, then as teenagers, they may attend another church. If God is calling them to serve in another area of ministry or to serve less frequently, then they are free to do so.
The key to any healthy culture is the leader. When the leader is at peace, everyone is at peace. When the leader is grumpy, everyone is grumpy. So far, it has worked for us. What works for you?
Published February 18, 2020