Anticipating the hotel and water park en route to an annual conference last summer, our youngest child, Karly, blurted out, "I'm so glad Daddy's a pastor because we get to do fun things that most kids don't!" My husband and I lifted a silent thank you for her exuberance, then followed it with a prayer that her love for being a pastor's kid would never die.
We've heard the stories of pastors' kids gone astray, and we're often reminded by the jokes of well-meaning parishioners. But we long to beat the odds and raise happy pastor's kids who harbor no resentments towards the church, hoping one day to hear our adult children say, "I'm glad my dad was a pastor."
To work toward that goal, parents in ministry must instill the following principle in their homes; family life will always revolve around God but not always around the church. While we are called and commanded to serve the church, we can't allow it to consume or dictate our lives. The following is a four-point plan to carry out this philosophy.
Leave work at the office
We can't take breaks from church without taking a break from God. Pastors' families need time off from church for normal family activities,
though we can still center our recreational times around God by talking to and about Him. This sends PKs the message that life is about God whether we're at church, home or on vacation. An afternoon of biking, camping, sledding, swimming or raking leaves also relays to our children that the church doesn't own Daddy.
Not part of the job description
Explain to your children why you emphasize biblical practices. For instance, when the kids and I are on our way to church Sunday mornings, I often say, "You know, even if your daddy wasn't the pastor, we'd be going to church because God wants us to." Likewise, when we refer to Plugged In, Focus on the Family's magazine that provides media reviews from a Christian perspective, we let them know that our movie-watching decisions have nothing to do with being a pastor's family but everything to do with being followers of Christ. "If Dad were an engineer, we'd be setting the same standards." When we enforce boundaries, we remind them their restrictions are based on our love for God, not on their father's job.
The pastor's wife needs to realize that her attitude is a powerful influence. Whatever feelings Mom holds regarding the pastorate will probably be adopted by her children.
Wives from all walks of life get disgusted with their husbands' jobs, bosses, long hours, stress or lack of compensation. Coaches spend evenings out recruiting new players, Pilots are gone for days at a time. Plumbers are summoned on the weekends. Herein lies the kicker: "It's oka±, if kids turn into adults who dislike basketball, resent flying or haven't the slightest interest in fixing a toilet. It's not okay if our kids turn into adults who resent God because the church took their father's first priority. Instead, convince the kids that their dad's job is the greatest by pointing out the perks, such as his flexibility to coach afternoon soccer or the fact that he's rarely gone overnight like truck drivers or businessmen.
"One thing [my parents did right] was that Mom never made church out to be a place that took Dad away," said Andrea Tweeten, an adult PK now married to a pastor. "I never felt like church ate up all my dad's time.
When meetings or emergencies do call Dad away, Mom can ease the frustration at home through her choice of words. Saying, "Daddy had something at work to tend to" is better than bemoaning "He's at church again." Mothers play an integral part in keeping resentment at bay by ;,ortraying the church as a friend, rather than a controlling foe.
They call him "Dad"
If the pastor's focus is on himself or the church, rather than God, he will fail his kids. And any efforts by the mother to portray a positive outlook may be in vain if Dad neglects the family. He needs to remain mindful of his family's sacrifices and prioritize their interests as well.
Joy Young remembers her pastor-dad 'oing just that. "I had a passion for rnimals, so Dad bought two horses for us. Every Monday he and I would ride the horses to the mountains. We had great times up there just talking, eating, and of course, giggling. That has always meant a lot to me because I knew I was more important to him than church."
Dad can reveal mutual respect by stepping into his child's world not as a pastor but simply as Dad. When Dad enters the domain of his children, say at a school function or Little League game, he shows his job is not the only important one in the family.
Of course, the best means of ensuring that our kids will not resent being a PK is to go to the One who chose you for this position. God is more accurate than the best of our parenting strategies, and He covers over a thousand pastoral, parental mistakes. Yet we often forget we have 24-hour access to the Parenting Expert. If we ask Him, He can place a love and appreciation in our children's hearts for their special status and even allow them to enjoy being a PK.