The children of pastors face some special challenges. Previously, we thought about how churches can care for their pastor’s children.
But it is not just the congregation that bears responsibility in this area. Pastors also need to think and act intentionally. Our actions or inactions are powerful influences.
My young pastor wisely wanted to think about overcoming those challenges while his children were still young. So I offered him these reflections based on years of experience.
Word to Pastors
1. Think long-term. When your young children are grown, will they love or hate that you were a pastor? Will they be embittered toward the local church? God calls you to shepherd his sheep. And the closest sheep to care for are your wife and children. Passing the gospel to your children is vitally important—more important than being at every church meeting. What will your children say as adults about how you acted around your family? Did you love them when you were at home? Did you model gospel repentance? As a pastor, my children may hear my public words, but they care more about my private life.
2. Be intentional about your children’s behavior on Sundays. Just because you are ministering on Sunday does not give you a free pass as a dad. You are still responsible for your children. You need to think about this responsibility not because you fear man, but because you are called to manage your household well. On Sunday, you are not just a Christian worker but also an example of a gospel family. If your children are young, should you secure help for your wife? What will your children do after the service while you are talking? Partner with your wife and your elder team in talking about this challenge. Don’t overcorrect out of fear. Don’t under-train out of passivity. Be intentional as an example.
3. Praise your congregation to your children. Your children hear what is said at home. Paul actively gave thanks in his letters for problem-filled churches. So can you. You and your wife are gospel warriors. In an appropriate manner recount spiritual victories around the dinner table. Deliberately articulate why you are thankful for your church. Your joy is contagious. You could also bring them along at times. The shut-in might be more overjoyed to see them than you.
4. Don’t talk about church conflicts in the hearing of your children. Guard their walk and purity. In 20 years, you want them to think well of the local church. Even the most dysfunctional church is precious to Christ. And though they may not want to belong to this particular church when they are grown, you do want them to love the bride of Christ. Complaining about church problems in the hearing of your children is gossip and will sour them on the church. Problems are a part of church. Church is always messy.
5. Train and deploy the elder team. An elder team ought to have time where they can shepherd each other about any child-rearing concerns they see (Acts 20:28). Take time as a team to talk about how you are caring for your family members. Make sure none is overworking to the neglect of his family. This care should flow from an attitude of acceptance and love. Any discussion should stay among the elder team. Once you deploy among the congregation, you need to be each other’s greatest defenders.
6. Focus on the heart. Managing your household well doesn’t eliminate all family issues. It means you handle those issues well. It is the father, not the child, who is called to be an example. How do we handle teens who are growing into an adult body and trying to decide if they want to grow into an adult faith? We focus on the heart. We give grace for growing pains. We spend time listening to them. We show we are their biggest fan. In short, we love them more than we love appearing like we have it all together.
7. Guard your special family times. Special times like vacations and dates are a chance to build family identity and make emotional deposits in your children. They connect your hearts together. Guard those times carefully. Are special family times written on the calendar first? Do the elders have a plan to handle the inevitable emergencies that will come up during those times? God has given many gifted ones to minister to the church body. He has only given your children one father and mother.
Watching and Listening
Pastors, someday your young children will be adults. From what they see at home, would they say you love Jesus? Would they say you love them? “By this all people (including these children) will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
God has called you to shepherd his flock. Your children are part of that flock. They are watching you and listening to you at home. Use that influence well.