If you are in the ministry and raising kids, there are some things that you and your kids face that others don’t. I’ve been in ministry for almost 40 years – my two sons have been in ministry all their life. When they were 12 and 13 years old their dad (the pastor) died very suddenly. So I know about being a married parent and single parent in ministry.
Today my sons are married, raising their own kids and still serving God with all their hearts. There are a lot of things I learned raising kids while in ministry, but here are my top 5:
1. Foster their God-relationship. God doesn’t have grandchildren. In other words, your children can’t live by faith through you. They need their own relationship with Him. He wants to be close to them, fulfill His plan for them, and shower them with His goodness. When I was a Bible school instructor, I saw “second generation faith kids” who couldn’t believe their way out of a paper bag because their parents, in an effort to make things better for them, did everything for them so the kids never had to go to God for anything. Don’t let that happen to you! Make sure you create an environment of knowing and believing God in your home. Help your children develop a daily devotional habit. When they’re very young, that can just be reading to them from a story Bible every day and praying with them before bedtime. Let them know how much God loves them, how He has a divine plan for their lives, and how important it is to put Him first every day by reading His Word and praying. Memorize verses together as a family (let me suggest 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 as a great place to start!). As they get older, maybe they’ll ask you for things – encourage them to believe their heavenly Father for it instead of their earthly father (He’s a better source anyway, and it sets them up for a lifetime of faith). Always point your children to the Word.
2. Let them know they’re a priority. Too many ministry kids end up resenting the ministry if their parents pay more attention to ministry than they do to them. Here’s a revelation: your kids need you more than the people you minister to/for. Other people can do your ministry job, but no one else can be the parent to your kids. That moves them up in the priority list (God first, spouse second, kids third, then ministry, job, etc.). Your calling is important, but your kids are more important. God knows you have kids! Let those kids know they are a priority in your life. Attend their sporting events, recitals, activities etc; have family night once a week; go on mom or dad dates; drop ministry obligations to come to their rescue – you get the picture. It’s an attitude more than anything. Even when correcting your child, let them know their behavior needed correcting, but they are perfectly loved and cherished by you.
3. Include them in ministry. When my kids were young and we were pastoring churches, each of them had a job to do when we got to church – they arranged chairs, emptied garbage, set out ministry tools – whatever needed doing. As they grew older, their responsibilities became greater, and they were a vital part. Make ministry a family team endeavor, and give them a lot of verbal thanks when they help. It gives them purpose and make them a part of God’s work. I’ve been so blessed to watch my granddaughter, ever since she was little, go to grocery-giveaways at her church and help by loading bags – when you asked her what she was doing she’d say, “Helping people win!” What is better than raising up God’s next generation to serve??!
4. Watch Your Words. Another reason kids end up resenting ministry is because of the way their parents talk about it. I’ll just put it plain: don’t talk bad about people in front of your kids! (Or anywhere, really – lol). Your kids should think that everyone you deal with is like Mary Poppins – practically perfect in every way. If you’re hurt or offended, take it to God and don’t talk about it around your kids. If you resent people, your kids will learn to resent people; if you magnify the unfairness, rudeness, hurts, disappointments, or losses, they will think that’s what ministry is about. But ministry is about knowing God and sharing Him with others! It’s a blessing! So around your children, focus on all the benefits of ministry. I used to tell my kids all the time what a blessing it was to be in ministry, majoring on all the blessings of obeying God, having people care about us, work with us, give things to us, or special trips and God-winks. Doing that will help your kids and it’ll help you too!
5. Beware of the Fish Bowl. The phrase “living in a fish bowl” means that everyone is watching you and what you do, 24/7. A lot of ministry kids feel a lot of pressure to live up to everyone’s expectations because people are watching them. I believe it’s important to defuse that pressure. First, don’t you put it on your kids – don’t tell them they have to be examples or measure up in any way because they are a minister’s kids. Don’t even let that be a thing! And if someone else tries to put that pressure on them, let your kids know that they don’t have to live up someone else’s expectations – they only have to love and obey God (and their parents of course, according to Ephesians 6:1). Keep the focus on pleasing their heavenly Father (not other people) and keeping their joy. That will be a life lesson that serves them well.
Karen Jensen Salisbury teaches “Parenting With a Purpose” seminars around the world – for more about her ministry, online parenting courses or other parenting materials, go to www.karensalisbury.org.