My second pastorate was a church I had the privilege to serve twice. The first time was as a Student Pastor and the second time as Pastor. On my second go around, I remember well a conversation I had with a well-meaning and intentioned lady – part of great family for which I have a huge appreciation and respect. One particular morning she approached me about my “parenting” skills. See our oldest daughter (only child at the time) was a voracious reader – put a book in her hands and she’d be still and quiet from cover to cover. Jo and I purposely chose to allow our daughter to read (a book) during the morning service in an effort to keep a young elementary student still. Oddly enough, she could tell you about the service and sermon over lunch. Guess she learned those multi-tasking skills honestly. I was more or less scolded that morning for my parenting skills. There was an expectation (by a church member) that our oldest child would sit still while visibly engaged in the service – to encourage others and demonstrate respect in worship. Isn’t that what preacher’s kids do?
I have to admit I was kind of ticked at the questioning at first. But, I understood where she was coming from and really appreciated the fact she talked to me instead of “other” people about it. Anytime there is an incompatible expectation, it’s an opportunity to explain, negotiate, and discuss why you do what you do. Here are some thoughts that might be helpful to ponder and consider:
- Allow your minister and spouse to parent their children. Give them space to choose how to instruct and care for their children. There are many ways to raise a child. Allow your minister to raise their family in a way they believe best even if it’s different from your methodology. If we can’t all agree on doctrine, how can we ever agree on parenting?
- Treat the preacher’s kids as you would any other kid in the church. Don’t hold them to a higher standard than your own. Please don’t place them on expectation’s pedestal.
- Remember they’re stuck with their parent’s calling. I think this is really important to grasp, understand, and appreciate. Many a preacher’s kid simply yearns to live in a perception called normal. Fishbowl living is tough – especially when you didn’t have a say in choosing it.
- Ministers want their children to love the church as much as they do. Help the preacher’s kid love the church. The heaping of well-meaning harsh expectations upon a minister’s child will only serve to drive them away from the church.
- Preacher’s kids don’t have to do or be at every activity the church offers – give them space, permission, and let them skip from time to time. Allow the minister’s family to create a “normal” schedule of family involvement.
- Remember pastor that you and your spouse have the spiritual responsibility to raise your children and not the church. Accept wisdom for wisdom and opinion for opinion – and learn to distinguish between them. And just a side note, when it comes to raising kids you’ll have many more opinions than wisdom – so apply lightly.