Without question, the foundation of “training up a child in the way he should go” begins in the home. Being a pastor and a parent is not more difficult than any other parent in society. Like all parents, pastors are responsible for laying the groundwork for the spiritual welfare of their children. The complication comes when the roles of pastor and parent are seen in contradiction to each other. In reality, a pastor demonstrates his merit as a minister through his effectiveness as a parent.
As a parent of four pastor’s kids, I realize that I stand on the strong shoulders of my godly parents. In the spirit of Psalm 78, I hope to continue a pattern for my children and their children to follow. Only then will we as believers make any relevant change in the family structure of our society. I’m not counting on the Government or the courts to correct the failures in the home. But, I’m optimistic that it can begin in homes of God’s people.
In light of the magnitude of our shared task and in the spirit of a fellow traveler on this journey, I’d like to submit Seven Suggestions to Parents of Pastor’s Kids that the Lord is still showing me.
- Allow your kids to be kids. Your kids probably won’t stay up late nights parsing Greek verbs and won’t wake up in the morning quoting from your sermon. They might run through the church hallways, talk too loudly, misbehave in Sunday School, or giggle during the service. You must train and discipline them as a parent, but don’t hold unrealistic expectations of them because your name is on the pastor’s desk.
- Teach your kids to love the church. After all, Jesus loved the church. We need to love what He loved and help our children learn the value and importance of the church. There are some business meetings and deacon’s meetings that your children don’t need to hear the reports about. At the same time, look for opportunities to reinforce for them what is good about the church. Allow them to celebrate the spiritual victories the Lord wins, to appreciate the kindness of God’s people, to enjoy the fellowship of the saints and the support of the faithful. Help them see the privilege of the mission in which we participate and the unique vision that your church pursues. In many ways, your children will learn to love the church when you demonstrate and communicate that you love the church.
- Model authentic faith in the home. Don’t be a ministry phony. Let them see that Christianity isn’t just your vocation, it’s your life. Practice what you preach. Your kids will be the first to spot pious hypocrisy.
Never forget that you are your children’s pastor, too. You are their spiritual leader in the home and in the church. That makes you BOTH dad and pastor, and those don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Don’t sacrifice one role in order to accomplish the other.
- Work as hard at being a good father as you do at being a good pastor. Your kids don’t need a buddy as much as they need a father. Ironically, ministry often lends itself to poor parenting. Just look at many of the “heroes” of faith in Scripture. How many great leaders in Scripture were also good fathers? Frankly, you could be a huge success in ministry, but if you are a failure as a dad, you are still a failure. Our children should not be casualties of our calling. God is not to blame for your absentee parenting! We cannot afford to always ask them to “understand” why daddy has to miss your ball game or dance recital again because he has another committee meeting. Your son or daughter’s Sunday School teacher is not your child’s parent. It is not the responsibility of the church to rear your children. Neither are your kids the children of the church. You should not allow church members to parent your children, correct your children, or discipline your children. That’s your job. Church members are not your children’s foster parents. Don’t ever delegate or relegate your children to well-intentioned but misplaced busy-bodies in the church. You are responsible for your kids and you are responsible to your kids.
- Be a godly husband. Maybe the greatest gift that you can give your children is to love their mother. Show your sons how a man should love his wife and how they should respect their mother. Show your daughters the kind of man you want them to hold out for in a husband. When pastors love their wives like Christ loves the church, we train our children to love both Christ and the church and to model the relationship we hope for them to model in their home one day.
- Protect your kids from unrealistic expectations from church members. I can handle the occasional pinch on the cheek, the not so subtle “but you’re the pastor’s kid” comments, or even the various “I knew you when you were this tall” nostalgia; but there are lines you cannot allow well intentioned church members to cross. Your kids are not in some kind of elite church member status. People have a right to expect them to be faithful, but you should guard them against overly aggressive members looking to hold your kids to standards they would never expect of their own.
- Be careful about playing the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of your children. You did not call yourself into ministry, and neither should you attempt to call your children into ministry. If God desires to call them, He is capable of doing that Himself. But, frankly, if it is not God’s will for my children to go into ministry, I don’t want them doing it!
We need to see godly pastors who are also godly parents. You CAN be both. The church waits to hear about it and the world needs to see it.