A question for y’all


Any pastor parents or pastor kids out there? How do you keep kids from resenting the heck out of the fact that you’re a minister? Anyone have any luck with this? Are there any pitfalls we should avoid?


9 thoughts on “A question for y’all

  1. Well, we’ll see.

    My kids are still at that age where they think what I do is kind of cool. I get to stand up in front of people with a microphone. I have an office in the same building as their preschool.

    At some point that scale will tip to them being ridiculously embarrassed by me. We’re not there yet, so I will share some things we have started doing (and not doing).

    First of all, I don’t talk about them publicly. There are plenty of sermon illustrations out there without me using tales of potty-training disasters in my preaching. I once heard a preacher talk about his “chunky” son while the son (an 8th grader) was in the sanctuary. My stomach turned and I promised myself I would not do that.

    Also, I let them be who they are. We are a loud and wild family. I do not serve in a loud and wild church. However, my wife and I work hard to stick to the same set of expectations we have for any other public place. In the same way I don’t describe my wife as my “partner in ministry” (I think you should only be allowed to do that if you serve as co-pastors.), I don’t consider my children to be part of the ministry package.

    Related to that, I don’t expect them to do everything. When we go to the soup kitchen my oldest will fight a man twice his size for a spot in the serving line. He wants to be in the action, not putting napkins on the tables. He loves to serve, and we love that about him. Asking him to sing in the children’s choir, however, would be a recipe for disaster. That’s not who he is.

    Finally, we stay interested in the things they are interested in. We snowboard together, build dangerous bike jumps together, fish together, and enjoy Chicago together. We don’t use these activities as opportunities to bring along church members and minister to them. We do them as a family because we dig hanging out together.

    Sorry for the length of this comment. Great question, and important issue.

  2. Well, I’m both, but I’ll answer as the PK. All three of us kids ended up very active in church as adults — all ordained: one pastor, one elder, one deacon — nice symmetry. My brothers lead stewardship committees, teach SS, even write SS curriculum. How did this happen?

    First, I like all of what Patrick said above. We had great family vacations every year with no church business. But mostly I think it was because my parents really loved the church — both of them — and we experienced that love through them. They kept their discussions about anything ugly at church among themselves so we kids didn’t hear it. It wasn’t until I was a pastor myself that I heard some of the stories. But really, we grew up in a great church, too, so that helped.

    BUT (and this is a big one for me from the parent side) my mom was a stay at home mom part of our growing up and a part time public school teacher the rest, so she was always available. And Dad, bless his heart, worked night and day and weekends and all at the church and wasn’t. Since that was more the norm then, it seemed OK to me that Dad worked so much. And it wasn’t like I didn’t know where he was going or what he was doing, so it didn’t feel so distant. And we did go to all the church events together, I have to say.

    I don’t know. I think it’s a crap shoot, personally. You do your best, hope for the best, pray a lot.

  3. “I once heard a preacher talk about his ‘chunky’ son while the son (an 8th grader) was in the sanctuary.”

    Gheez! I’m feelin’ for that poor kid.

    lj, three out of three! That’s pretty good. They must have done something right. I can imagine that keeping the ugly stuff among themselves helped a great deal.

    Strangely, I thought that her being the child of 2 pastors would be doubly hard, but I think it takes some pressure off. Neither church expects her to fully participate in everything. At least one of us can be flexible with our schedules. And we both have very laid-back congregations. Very non-judgmental.

    I’ve gotten in the habit lately of telling my daughter about all of the cool people who had pastors as (usually) dads: Jane Austen, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye (although that didn’t turn out so well…), Emily Saliers. We talk about our friends who were pastor’s kids. I leave out John Ashcroft and Condi Rice. No pressure on her or anything…I just find it amazing how many interesting people came from pastor parents.

  4. I am struggling with having my kids in church with me. I am a single dad, and when my kids are with me, they want my time (wow, imagine that!). And my son is four, and very clingy at this point. I love it.

    Except when he decides to hang on the liturgical garb, and all of a sudden I feel resentment. Not the feeling I want to have around my kids.

    Then I stop and listen to those around me. The older members of the congregation that think it is great that I can preach and hold my daughter. Or read the Gospel as my son hides behind the pulpit.

    Thank God for Grace-givers amongst us!


  5. Just briefly – as a PK, I think that I was able to avoid resentment for the most part because my mom was always very casual about her job. She didn’t treat it like it was more important or weighty than any other demanding job a person might have. This carried over into my own attitude on ministry. I understand that its a calling – but for Reformed people, so is everything else. Its a particular calling, but in a lot of ways, I think its healthy to think of ministry as a job. I think (hope) it also encourages people who are inclined to overestimate me because I’m wearing a stole to rethink their expectations a little. Maybe if we don’t treat the job like its only for superheroes, we won’t be expected to be superheroes.

    Also, having worked at a car dealership for example, I haven’t encountered anything in ministry (yet) that was even half as hard. Its one thing to work hard and long hours for something meaningful. Its quite another to do what most people do – work hard, long hours for something that isn’t that meaningful at all. I always keep that in mind when I think or talk about my calling.

  6. Doug,

    You worked in a car dealership? I thought I was the only one to make the transition from the lot to the pulpit.

    I was in F&I, a business manager. You’re right. It was a lot of work. I had a migraine almost every single day of the job. And those were some long, grueling hours.

  7. I am the mom of one 17month girl and in 2 months we will be adding another little one. I’m a pastor of a small church with few children. Raising my kids to feel a part of the church family is a very high priority. They are as much a part of my life and ministry as the church itself. Dad keeps them busy during worship, but I make a point of including all children in worship. When a 4 year old wanders up in the middle of the hymn to ask a question, I stop, get down on their level and answer it. My hope is that my children will see how much I value all people, no matter what age and that I’m never too busy for their important questions…

  8. RevMelissa,

    That’s wonderful. I sure that’s more of a lesson for that 4 year old than a thousand sermons. Raising a child in a small church has been one of my greatest joys in life. These little congregations do a very good job of it.

    Congratulations on your pregnancy! May you have all the strength (and maternity leave!) that you need in the months ahead.

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