This is an unedited and anonymous guest post. Views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of this blog.
Firstly, I just want to say from the outset, I love my dad. We’ve had our difficulties in our relationship, but by God’s grace and our mutual love for the Gospel we are united more today than ever before. So, although being a pastor’s kids was hard for me, my brother and my two sisters, I am writing this whilst holding in view the life transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus which meats us all in our weakness and need.
It’s impossible to write everything I learned on reflection of a 30 year period. So here’s 3 things to be mindful of if you are a pastor with kids. I’ve chosen 2 positive angles and one negative:
1) Your kids will learn your model of ministry
My whole life I have only lived in areas of deprivation. Leigh (in the borough of wigan) was our stomping ground until I was about 9 then Salford until I was about 19 when I met my wife and moved to another armpit called Oldham, which is where I live and minister now.
My dad became pastor of a church in Salford in one of the roughest communities called Eccles. Given the nature of that ministry, it wasn’t unusual for me to walk into my kitchen and there be a local homeless smack head having a brew with my dad at the table, or even men who were between homes staying with us for a short time cause they’d been kicked out by their parents. I loved it, actually! Someone new every week, it seemed. It became a running joke with my mates that my dad was mates with smack heads and drug dealers!
So for me, church was always for the poor and any other church I went to where there was no focus on the poor I felt uncomfortable and suspicious. I will always be thankful for that aspect of my dads ministry. It’s a model of ministry I’m hoping to achieve as I pastor here in oldham and be an advocate for in the future.
Our kids may or may not end up in the ministry when they are older, but they will be shaped by the model of ministry you value and uphold. It was shocking for me as I entered into ministry to find that areas of deprivation were being neglected by the Church. I just assumed that it was the norm. If you’re a pastor, maybe be willing to asses the philosophy of ministry you’re presenting to your kids.
2) Take your kids to work
My dad took me with him everywhere he could. He took me to conferences, home visits, even just cleaning church. My dad wasn’t too precious about the church building and I loved getting free run of it. I went on the drums, the keyboard, the guitars and he was pretty happy with that. I look back now and I see that it was a way my dad got to spend time with me too. He didn’t see me as a hinderance to his his routine, but as much as he could he allowed me to be part of it.
Too often, as pastors, we can focus too much on getting the kids out of the way so we can do work instead of seeing them as a vital part of ministry. Taking that further, Martin Luther called his kids his “little parish”. Assuming our kids are a hinderance to what we need to “get done” and calling it “sacrifice” is missing out on the opportunity to disciple the most important people God has put into our lives.
We took our youth on a large Christian camp in the summer. We take a mixed bag of young people including some lads from gangs and pretty difficult backgrounds. My wife and I take the kids every year with us, and every year my oldest 2 son’s are the best evangelists there. Am I nervous when they run off and sit with them to play their card games? A little bit… Do I get nervous they’re going to hear bad language and repeat it at school? Maybe… But my 6 and four year old make them feel welcome, wanted and even a little bit like protective big brothers which has created a family feel and allowed the lads to trust us because we’ve trusted them with something very precious to us.
I appreciate my dad taught and modelled what this looked like.
3) Your kids need the Gospel
I didn’t come to know Jesus for myself until I was about 17. Up until this time I’d become really confused about what being a christian actually was. Like I said, my dad was able to show compassion, mercy and extend grace to those who would be classed as less fortunate, but for me and my siblings it seemed to be different. Like I said, the quantity of time spent together was there but sometimes I felt like I was treading on egg shells and when I’d do something wrong, my dad was quicker to slam me for it than he was his smack head friends.
The dynamic seemed a little confusing and I, rightly or wrongly, assumed that he somehow valued them more than me. I know now, this wasn’t the case. But 15 year old, unregenerate chav/skater boy me knew no better.
I was sat with my mates one morning in their house smoking weed and listening to slipknot when there was a knock on the door. One of my mates looked at me with a shocked look on his face. As soon as he said “It’s your dad, and he looks mad”, my heart sank and I was scared to my very core. I’d seen this before with my older brother, and it was my turn. We got back and he made me read an email from his churches ex youth worker (who’d got off and gone to America) explaining that before he left, I’d told him I was smoking weed.
The colour must have drained from my face cause I felt sick, embarrassed and to be honest, pretty betrayed. My dad then let me know about it… He screamed he shouted he told me I’d never be a footballer (I was due to have trials for man united at the time) and I just felt disowned. You might think this was a one off, but he often would fly off the handle at the slightest annoyance, he dealt like this with my brother and now me.
My point in telling you this story isn’t paint my dad as abusive or anything (he was a dad reacting like most of us do!) It’s to highlight that it seemed my dad’s homeless smack head friends received more mercy, grace and patience than his own kids. My point is we must be willing to meet our kids in their mess, their chaos and their sin with the same kindness and love we show those in our ministry. Pastor’s our unsaved kids need to know Jesus and we must be ambassadors of that love and grace that is found in him. It’s not just reserved for those “we’re called to do ministry with”, in fact, your kids should get first dibs on your mercy ministry!