I am almost afraid to write this post. Some of you may be looking for advice or answers, and I’m not sure I have any to give. But, I can share my experience and write from my point of view.
I grew up a pastor’s kid. My dad didn’t make a lot of money and often had to supplement his income as a pastor with other side businesses. He loved doing woodworking, collecting and selling stamps, and also worked other jobs at times. I could choose to criticize all the bad things about being the child of parent in ministry, and I could make quite a list. Or, I could choose to find the blessings about being that child. It’s amazing how children in the same home can see things so drastically different. It seems there is always a child that thrives in that environment, one that loves participating in the ministry, one that ends up pursuing a ministry of their own, and one that really struggles.
I know that there are expectations of people in ministry and often their children end up facing the same expectations. Those expectations can be hard to live up to. For me, I was often teased for being a pastor’s kid, pointed out as being different, not liked for being a “brown-noser”, made fun of for my out-of-date clothing, and any mistakes I made were highlighted more than other’s mistakes.
I got to see the flaws and mistakes that my Dad had and made, and it was obvious that it wasn’t the way a pastor should act. However, I also learned as a child that a person could still fully love God and be loved by God in spite of those mistakes. We find the same thing all through the Bible. Just take a look at the life of King David. Look at all the horrible things that he did in life – and, he made many mistakes as a parent, too. But, he is hailed as a “man after God’s heart.”
Even though my dad was often busy preparing sermons, helping people in our church, and trying to support our family financially in extra ways, he was almost always at home. My dad wasn’t gone to a 9-5 job everyday. I could go to his office anytime and talk with him. I often went along with him to craft shows when he would sell the items he made. I got to be with my parents a lot!
My husband grew up a missionary’s kid. His father was extremely dedicated to God and his ministry. He invested many long hours helping other people. He also did his best to find personal connections with each of his children to spend time with them and interact with them. And, yet, there are children who fit each of the categories I mentioned in the beginning.
Here is my take away from the perspective of being the child of a parent in ministry: I know my parents aren’t perfect – that’s okay, I know my parents loved me, I know my parents did the best they knew how, I know my parents love God and tried to instill that same love into my life, and I know I don’t believe all the same things that my parents believe – that’s okay.
So, now for the flip side of the coin. I am also a parent to children while being in ministry. And, yes, there are the same differences in our children as well. We had children who participated in aspects of our ministry, we have children who don’t believe the same things we do, we have children who struggled with having people in our home all the time, and we have children who now enjoy helping other people as much as we do.
Did we, as parents, do everything well? No. Did we make mistakes? Yes. Would we do things differently if we had them to do over? Yes. Did we learn from our mistakes? I sure hope so. Do we love our children? Beyond words!
Juggling family and ministry can be very challenging. God has put such a love into your heart, that you want to share it with as many people as possible. But, sometimes, ministry interferes with family. There were times when we would be in the midst of our family time and it would be interrupted by phone calls or people coming to our door. A hard thing to learn as a parent in ministry is how to say “No” to others in need at that time and when it is appropriate to forego your family time for an emergency.
As a parent, you want your child to know they are loved and you want good things for them. You also hope that they are able to learn to share that love with others they encounter. Unfortunately, sometimes as parents, we think we have to sacrifice our family for the ministry. I don’t think that is the sacrifice God is calling us to, but I do understand why many believe that. We think “giving our all” to God includes the hurt and pain that our children often experience without us even realizing it.
As parents in ministry, we need to become more aware of the impact our ministry is having on our children. Don’t forget that your children are your greatest ministry!