My parents aren’t perfect. I could easily write a list of things Dana and I are doing differently than my parents did in raising me, but they still definitely did a lot of things right. Out of my three brothers and two sisters who all grew up as pastors kids along with me, today every single one of us is actively involved in ministry in our various churches around the US.
I’ve heard so many unfortunate stories about pastors kids where this is not the case. It almost seems like it’s the norm for pastors kids to reject the lifestyle of their parents for something less honoring to God. Why all my brothers and sisters and I have active relationships with the Lord, I’m not sure — it’s totally by the grace of God. But personally, looking back, there are probably some things my parents did that kept me on the right track.
1. They home schooled us. I’m not saying this is the best education choice for everyone, but I do think it was right for us because it established my parents as the primary influence in our life. If they had given my peers the opportunity to take that position, I’m sure everything would’ve turned out much differently for me.
2. They made us memorize scripture. And boy did we memorize a lot of it! In fact, each Friday we had to recite a sheet of new verses as well as and old sheet of verses before we could have lunch of Fridays. I’m not an advocate of withholding food as discipline, but it worked for me. Today I recall and use those scriptures more in my ministry and personal life than I do everything I learned in Bible college and seminary combined.
3. They used us to serve the church. Since my dad’s church was relatively small growing up, there were plenty of opportunities to serve and my parents used me and my siblings to do so frequently. As kids and teenagers, we regularly led the music in the worship services, taught Sunday school lessons, passed offering plates, handed out bulletins, and more. I grew up with a mentality of serving the church, not expecting to be served nor to consume from it, and that attitude has carried over to today.
4. They modeled what they taught. My parents were the same people at church as they were at home. They didn’t just talk about ministry, I saw it first-hand all the time. I don’t even know how many times people in need would move in to our small parsonage with us, sometimes booting me out of my room and on to a cot in the basement. They often used many real life moments to discuss spiritual truths and brought examples from scripture into our situations at hand.
5. They gave us freedom to ask questions. No one wants to be forced to adopt someone else’s belief system. A process of ownership needs to take place sometime. I know most pastors probably feel like they’re safe and available enough for their kids to ask honest questions, but having worked with many of those teens in the past, I know they don’t always feel the same way. Thankfully, with my parents, not only were no questions off-limits, but they even initiated the tough questions and were humble enough to say, “I don’t know.”
Having identified these things as influential in my own walk with the Lord and my service in ministry, Dana and I want to emulate these with our own children (with the exception of home schooling — we haven’t decided definitively on that one yet).
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