My husband and I raised five creative, opinionated and gifted children while serving in the local pastoral ministry for 38 years. Our children were subjected, on a daily basis, to the highs and lows of ministry life. I believe that my children are who they are today because of the manner in which life in the ministry shaped their character, formed their hearts and propelled them into their destiny.
However, I will quickly admit that it is not easy to raise children under the spotlight of ministry, nor is it easy to be a pastor's kid. It is certainly not for the faint of heart! But over the years, not only from raising our five children, but also from observing the lives of other ministry families, I have come to believe that it is possible to raise healthy, well-adjusted children even though they have that infamous "PK" attached to their identity.
As I remember the years of intense ministry life and how they impacted my resilient children, these are among the important lessons that I have learned.
First of all, spend time together as a family away from the ministry spotlight. Although church activities can be all consuming, make sure that your children experience life away from the intrinsic expectations that the ministry requires. My husband coached community baseball for over a decade while I was involved in Community Theater and the local homeschool group. Our children were the beneficiaries of the refreshing break that these activities offered to our often-overwhelming ministry lives.
Secondly, talk about the ministry with your children. When something happens that affects them, as it inevitably will, talk to them about it. Don't ignore issues, challenges or difficult people. Give your children the freedom to talk to you about how they are feeling and what they are going through because their mom and dad are in the ministry.
Thirdly, don't talk about the ministry with your children! Have a home life that is gloriously free of church concerns, people's expectations and ministry demands. Just be a family and enjoy life together! Turn off your cell phones during the dinner hour and don't check your e-mail from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Let the people in your church know that your family is your number one ministry!
Fourth, teach your children that people matter. Instill a heart for the unsaved in your children and give them an awareness of cultures and people groups who need the Lord. Have your children volunteer at a soup kitchen, a nursing home or in other community outreaches. Invite missionaries to stay in your home and make sure that the children are around the dinner table as the missionaries share their experiences.
Fifth, teach your children that the people at church matter. Our children taught Sunday School, worked in the nursery, went with us on hospital visitation, helped deliver meals and served as greeters and on the worship team. There is a deep, inexpressible joy that is cultivated when a family serves the Lord together! Often, when Craig or I would be involved in deep conversation with a church member after Sunday morning service, our children would be anxious to go home and eat lunch. I remember bending down to their level, taking their little face in my hands and whispering the code "EGR" into their little ears. This phrase was the McLeod family language for "Extra Grace Required." Even our little ones learned how to translate that important missive and knew that the grace that they offered was important to God.
The call of God on the life of a man or a woman is the call of God on a family, but, remind yourself often that your first ministry is to the little ones that call you "Mom" or "Dad."
Carol McLeod is an author and popular speaker at women's conferences and retreats, where she teaches the Word of God with great joy and enthusiasm. Carol encourages and empowers women with passionate and practical biblical messages mixed with her own special brand of hope and humor. She has written eight books, including The Rooms of a Woman's Heart, Defiant Joy!, Holy Estrogen!, No More Ordinary, Refined, Joy For All Seasons, Let There Be Joy! and Pass the Joy, Please! which releases on February 1, 2018.Her teaching DVD, The Rooms of a Woman's Heart, won the Telly Award, a prestigious industry award for excellence in religious programming. You can also listen to Carol's "Jolt of Joy" program daily on the Charisma Podcast Network. Connect with Carol or inquire about her speaking to your group at justjoyministries.com.
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