June 17, 2011

Raising Ministry Kids Who Love the Church, Part 2: Ministry Kids Are Children Who Need Parents

Want to catch up? Read Part 1 here.

Ministry kids aren’t much different than other kids. They need someone to hug them, discipline them, listen to them, teach them, take their temperature when they are sick, show up at their school plays, and cheer at their soccer games. They need parents who know them better than they know themselves and who pray with and for them daily. All kids need this.

However, ministry kids may be different from other kids because their moms and dads sometimes forget that their kids need parents. The work of the ministry is time-consuming, energy-draining, and so vitally important, that it is easy to forget that your kids need you to be their parents.

One summer, my husband, Rob, had planned a church outing to a baseball game. Our family gathered with the church members, some of them bringing friends whom we were eager to meet, and found our seats. Just as the National Anthem was beginning the evening, fireworks went off. Our 3 year-old was reduced to terror. He cried, and even when he stopped crying, he sat in his dad’s lap, shaking with fear. I could read on Rob’s face the dilemma: stay and be a pastor—meet the visitors, fellowship with the people, make sure the event went smoothly—or leave and be a parent. Thankfully, my husband is a pastor who loves his children, and that night he chose parenthood. We packed up everything and went home.

Many of these dilemmas (some big and some small) await families in ministry. So, how can we make sure we are being the quality moms our ministry kids need?

Know Your Children. We who are in ministry are people-people. Generally, we go into ministry because we have a burden for others. We are good listeners. We are encouragers. We ask questions. We are interested in people. Make sure your love of the people in your ministry extends to the little people in your home. Be intentional about finding out their hearts and knowing their burdens and concerns.

One ministry-mom that I know has a weekly coffee-talk with her husband for the purpose of identifying what each of their four children needs. (The family version of an elders' meeting!) Together, they discuss sin patterns that they see in each child as well as areas where each should be commended. Some of your ministry energy should be intentionally devoted to knowing your children.

Love Your Children. Once you are intentional about knowing your children, you can identify meaningful ways to express love to them. This can be as simple as showing up at a piano recital or basketball game. The things that are important to them should have weight with you.

The ministry brings some special strains; it’s not a 9-5 job or a stress-free one. Even in the midst of pouring your life into Christ’s church, your children need to know that they are valuable and loved.

One of the ways you can do this is by practically setting a few limits that guard them and your time with them. These can be simple: Don’t answer the phone during dinner is one of ours—and was also one of my parents’ rules when my brother and I were growing up. This small limit clearly communicated to me as a child that I was loved enough to get focused parent-child time at least once a day.

Sometimes, love for your children will take greater wisdom and more drastic action. Rob’s college roommate was the child of frontier missionaries in Papua New Guinea. They loved their children by leaving Papua New Guinea to return to the US when their kids were in high school. These parents knew it would be best for their children to be settled in the states in order to prepare for college and career. This didn’t stop them from going back to Papua New Guinea, where they are again ministering, once their youngest child went to college. They are zealous for the work of the gospel, but also aware that their gospel work includes parenting their children.

Being a mom is ministry—exactly the kind of ministry your kids need!

In two weeks, I'll return to this topic with the third and final part: Ministry Kids Are Kingdom Workers Who Need Encouragment.

2 comments:

  1. It is difficult to keep priorities in balance. This ministry/family balance is an important one. I think more lay church leaders should encourage their pastors to spend more time with family. It can be a powerful example to others who don't know much about Christian family.

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  2. As a pastor's daughter, I appreciated your post. I remember being shocked the first time someone suggested to me that being the child of a pastor meant being neglected by your parents, or held to an impossible standard. Even more recently, I've had people ask me "What's it like, to be a pastor's kid? Do you ever find it hard to take correction from a dad who's a pastor?"
    I think it speaks positively of my parents that questions like that didn't make sense to us. How were we any different from anyone else? Growing up, my papa was always very accessible to us. We converted our detached garage into an office, and he was always there, 15 yards away from the house. He works longer hours than the average man-- no 9-5 stuff -- but was almost always ready to look up from his work and come to us when we needed him. He made time for us when we "needed" to play catch in the front yard, and made time (in later years) for me and my sister's bouts of emotion... "Papa, I have a question about a guy..." sob, gulp, sob. :-) There were times when we understood that he had to prepare for an unexpected funeral or needed time for prayer, but that was never to the neglect of his children. When people ask me what it's like to be a pastor's kid, I tell them the truth-- that it was (and continues to be) a great blessing in my life. People expected us to grow up either as wild hoydens or legalistically "perfect" children... they were surprised when we were neither.
    You are right-- there is a definite balance between family and ministry. In some ways they are linked, but at other times they must stay entirely separate. When my dad is in the pulpit, I view him as my pastor. When he is preaching the gospel, I am not thinking of him as the man who tucked us into bed when we were little, or prayed w/ us, corrected us and guided us-- I see a man who God has called to preach and teach, and who could offer amazing insight into scripture. (and lend to us from an extensive library... I have gone out to his office countless times to ask for one book, and left with ten on the same subject) That flows into our daily lives, of course. He will come into the house excited about a quote from John Owen, or asking me to look online for a little known biography. (but I've always assumed that most christian fathers do the same thing!)
    I love being a pastor's child, and when people ask me things like "So, seeing what it's REALLY like, do you think you would want to be a pastor's wife?" I can wholeheartedly reply "Yes!"

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