Note: This is part one of a two-part series. For part two, click here.
A church planter once confessed to me, "I'm struggling with this call. I don't know if I'm willing for my son to grow up hating the church."
His statement took me back to dozens of pastoral nightmare stories of preacher's kids who have walked away from God and the church because they felt forgotten and forsaken by parents who loved the church more than they loved their children.
Do you worry about that for you kids? I did!
I wanted both: a fruitful ministry and children who grow up to love and follow Jesus.
Here's what we faced and what we did to raise pastor's kids who grow up to love and follow Jesus. Which of these strategies will help you?
4 Challenges Ministry Families Face
Do children in a ministry home suffer for their parents' sacrifices? I'm sure some do.
Pastors, like other ministry leaders, can get caught in the tug-of-war of time competition between home life and church life.
After all, we who bear the mantel of ministry are human. We're often underpaid compared to secular professions with similar hours, responsibilities and education.
And we have the same desires—desires to succeed at our life's work, desires to impress our peers, desires to please God by the work of our hands.
We're human. And humans make mistakes. Sometimes our progeny pay the price.
2. Tired ... and Sick
In our first two years of church planting, I was so tired that every time we went on vacation, I got sick. It was the only time I dared let down, and when I let down, my immune system stopped fighting.
The turning point came when Lori said, "If you're going to get sick tomorrow, I don't want to go on this vacation." I kept my resolve up all week, and when I felt a sore throat coming on, I fought it off.
No more vacation colds for me!
3. Territorial Weight
In those early days, whenever we left town, a weight was lifted off my soul.
When we got back into town, I felt it again within 24 hours.
Some might think it was all psychological. I'm convinced it was spiritual. We know from the book of Daniel that there are territorial demons. If Satan can take down a pastor, he'll have won a battle.
4. Highs and Lows
Leading a church with few (or no) people and few (or no) resources while battling the forces of hell for the souls of men is about as challenging an assignment as there is.
In ministry, the highs are higher and the lows are lower.
One day someone comes to Christ. The next day, your best donor departs for greener pastures.
On average, the core of a new church turns over three times during the first three years. Navigating a start-up church to maturity can be like riding a roller coaster on the underside of the tracks!
2 Incredible Things God Does for Ministry Families
So, do kids suffer? They can. Do they have to? I'm convinced not. Here are two bonuses we've enjoyed as a ministry family.
1. Amazing Vacations
During New Song's first 10 years of ministry, I took a significantly smaller salary than my peers in similar-sized churches. Most church planters do this. After all, we're the most committed members of the church, so we make the largest sacrifices.
Did my kids suffer because of this?
They didn't think so.
Soon after New Song went public, a long-lost friend happened to be in town and heard about what we were doing. He called me up and took me to lunch. He ran a Christian camp. I said to him, "Ron, I'm sorry we've never come to your camp. As faith-based missionaries, we just haven't had the money for a vacation like that. I promise, we'll make it there one day."
He responded, "Hal, the money we raise for scholarships is the easiest money we raise all year. I'd love to have you come, and you can come for free."
That summer we had an amazing vacation!
That vacation was superseded only by the free trip we took to Disneyland, and the two free trips we took after that to Disney World. Oh, and the free trips to Yosemite, Yellowstone and Puerto Vallarta.
The truth is, God provides in incredibly loving ways for ministry families. I not only know this personally, but I've seen it in the lives of my pastor friends.
As a result, our children grew up experiencing the generosity of God, which they know is better than a substantial paycheck.
2. Time Flexibility
I have a friend who says, "The great thing about being self-employed is that you can work whenever you want. The bad thing about being self-employed is that you can work all the time."
When you work 60 to 80 hours a week, your church should give you the flexibility to take a few hours off when you need to.
Mine does, and as a result, I went on field trips with my kids. I attended all their soccer and T-ball games. I even helped coach a soccer team one year—which was an unmitigated disaster (but that's another story that has nothing to do with time and everything to do with my lack of knowledge of the sport of soccer.)
If you surveyed my kids today, they'd say they love the work I'm in, because it enables us to do so many things together.
This article originally appeared at pastormentor.com.
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