Did you know, according to recent research, that 45 percent of pastors' kids will end up in counseling for the rest of their lives? Did you know that 40 percent of pastors' kids do not attend church because of what the church has done to their family and that 80 percent of pastors believe ministry has negatively affected their children?
With statistics like these and being a PK—pastor's kid—myself, it's not surprising why so many sons and daughters of pastors, ministers and missionaries here at home and around the globe are struggling and, in some cases, outright abandoning their relationship with the Lord. We don't have to look further than in recent months, where the world has been exposed to the family struggles of Creflo Dollar, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn and others whose children continually live with the pressures of living in a glass house.
With the recent death of pastor Rick Warren's son, never has there been a time when leaders need to recognize the spiritual assault that their families face every day. Leaders of ministries like yours, large and small, struggle to keep their homes together while their children wake up every morning to the face of an evil enemy waiting to wreak havoc on them—targeted attacks that are designed to ruin them as well as to distract mom and dad from being effective ministers of the gospel.
I strongly believe our adversary is rapidly stepping up his game to take out what could be the final generation of spiritual leaders—our very own sons and daughters. Pastor Warren believed wholeheartedly and with unwavering faith that God would one day heal his son, Matthew. Was it God's plan for the Warren family to experience this tragedy? Absolutely not! The Warrens believed that God's plan would be to use Matthew to tell of his own struggles and victories. I too believe this was God's plan.
But sometimes the struggles that pastors and ministry leaders experience at home can make you question God's ultimate plan, just like it did for Pastor Warren.
The following are four simple, practical safeguards that pastors, ministers and missionaries can implement daily to keep that wall of protection around their homes:
1. Spend time with your kids. I recently watched an interview where Billy Graham was asked if he were to do it all over again, what would he do differently? Without hesitation, he replied, "I would have spent less time doing ministry so that I could spend more time with my family." Dr. R.T. Kendall, who recently pastored one of the most prestigious churches in the world, Westminster Chapel in London, recently said that it is only by the grace of God that his children still love him, considering how much he neglected them to pursue his ambitions. If he could turn back time, he said, he would have denied the offer to pastor such a historic church in order to spend more time with his family.
It's time for our spiritual leaders of today to get a clue! Most pastors understand that family comes before ministry, yet there are always excuses for why they do the opposite. Before God established the church, He established the family. This is so important that I feel compelled to say it again: Before God established the church, He established the family. Pastors must learn the art of time management disciplines, where family time has just as much time blocked out as ministry responsibilities.
2. Honestly listen to your kids. During my research for my upcoming book, I found that most sons and daughters of pastors, ministers and missionaries believe that their parents are not paying attention to them. Mom and dad are so focused on their call to the ministry that they forget that they are also called to their families first. Your family is your first priority above all other things. Take time to listen to your children with the same heart of compassion as you do with those you don't know. Your children can sense if you're listening just to brush them off or if you're genuinely listening to offer solutions that make a difference in their lives.
3. Compliment them just because. This is a biggie! Pastors are great at publicly and privately complimenting staff, volunteers and those who serve well in ministry. But at home, they forget they have a family that has equally sacrificed for the ministry—and, in many cases, much more. Yet mom and dad take advantage of the fact that they have children who have given their best but receive no accolades or recognition.
The result is, at some point they look elsewhere for emotional satisfaction that many times leads them away from their faith. Learn to take time to compliment your children and encourage them by letting them know how much you appreciate their involvement.
4. Love your kids unconditionally. The greatest mistake pastors can make is to keep reminding their children of their sins. Pastor, the best way to chase your children away from their faith is to keep throwing their failures back in their face. Pastors have a tendency to show more grace toward strangers than they do their own children. The same unconditional love you show toward others is the same unconditional love you must show to your children. They will always struggle with personal issues, but so will you. And the same grace and unconditional love you expect God to show toward you is the same grace and unconditional love you should show to your children.
I recently heard a pastor comment on the homes of pastors that are broken and shattered behind the scenes. He asked, "If that guy's house is a joke, why would we give him God's house? If that guy can't keep his family together, then why in the world would we pay him full-time to tell us how we should raise our children?"
These are hard but honest questions that need to be asked. People are looking for leaders who understand what it means to lead a family into God's best. A pastor once told me that he has no responsibility to help his children once they turn 18 years of age. My response to him was to show me where the expiration date is in the Bible. As pastors, we have a responsibility to train up and lead our children until the day we die, plain and simple.
My encouragement for all pastors, ministers and missionaries is to take an honest assessment of your homes and ask God to help you in areas you know you can do better in. Yes, it takes honesty. Pastor, minister, missionary—God is ready to help you make the changes necessary in order to lead your family into God's abundant favor and blessings.
Richard M. Salazar Jr. is an author, public speaker and humanitarian. He is also the founder of Rich Communications, which is the home for his writing projects and two radio shows, Real Life with Richard and Leah and Cross Connection, which have been heard in the greater Southern California areas. Richard holds two degrees in marriage and family counseling and in organizational leadership and is currently working on his doctorate in strategic leadership. Richard is also a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors and is a certified specialist in sales and public relations with Achieve Global. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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