For so much of our children’s lives, we are the conduits
through which God works, protecting, guiding, comforting, and teaching our
children even as the Holy Spirit draws them toward repentance and salvation.
It’s a big job—a scary one at times—but it’s also a comfort
to see and know in real time what God is doing and to understand, at least to
some degree, what He’s working to accomplish at each age and stage of your
There is fulfillment, too, in knowing that even when you
can’t prevent hardship or heartache, you can be there to soothe, teach, and
send them back out, the Father’s hand almost visible in theirs as a result of
the prayers you’ve prayed in earnest and the faith you’ve extended in response
to Who you know God to be and what you believe He can do.
Then they leave.
No longer mere minutes away, your children do most of their
living and breathing and choosing beyond your field of vision, beyond your
reach, making their own way in a world where the Enemy prowls, seeking to
destroy them (1 Pet. 5:8).
It’s a helpless feeling—at least, it can be—one with which
the royal official mentioned in John 4 was, no doubt, familiar. Separated from his
critically ill son by more than a day’s journey, he did the only thing he could
do for the son he loved from that distance.
He begged Jesus to intervene, to breathe life into his child.
And Jesus did.
Of course, the official didn’t have any tangible proof of
this in the moment—thank you, Lord, for smart phones and FaceTime—but he took
Jesus at His word and began the long journey home, every step an exercise in
patience, every thought a battle against doubt, every mile an obstacle to
overcome before his faith would become sight.
Can you imagine the agony?
If you have grown children, my guess is yes.
Listen, I know, no matter how many prayers for protection I
pray, my children are going to experience difficult things in life—Jesus
promised as much (John 16:33)—and I don’t begrudge God the opportunity to
glorify Himself through my children in whatever way He deems necessary. I truly don’t.
How could I when He didn’t begrudge us His own Son?
All I ask—I beg—is that God complete in my children what He began when they confessed their need for a Savior and surrendered their lives to His Lordship, keeping their faith strong to the end, for their good and His ultimate glory.
Jesus will do it, of course. He promised as much (John 6:37-40), but I’ve a long journey ahead as a parent, every step an exercise in patience, every thought a battle against doubt, every mile an obstacle to overcome before my faith becomes sight.
It can be excruciating.
Even so, I will trust Him, not only because I really have no
other choice—His being omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, and sovereign,
things I most definitely am not—but also because I, like the royal official, believe
God is faithful (1 Cor. 1:8-9).
That’s why we go to Him in the first place, isn’t it?
When I think about the sickening abuse of political power in
our country and others, the undertow of race and sexism that continues to pull
at the feet of millions yearning for equality, the babies who are being killed
in the womb and the desperate mothers who let them go, sexual perversion that
rots into poison a God-given blessing, the twisting of God’s Word into easy-to-swallow
lies, blatant disrespect between generations, apathy in the Church, etc. and then
look at the piddling little sum I have to offer by way of solution, I get
discouraged. Not just down, but don’t-want-to-get-out-of-bed,
pass-me-that-cupcake, binge-watch-til-I’m-numb level sad.
I mean, what if circumstances only get worse?
What if abusers keep abusing and never get punished?
What if the ignorant continue to judge?
What if this ship we’re on sinks because we’re all too busy
saving our own selves to right it?
God will still be
glorified—maybe not the way I’d like, via wide-spread transformation of sinners
into saints so obvious and absolute even those who refuse to be rescued are
forced to admit that God is good and the Gospel is true so things end up getting
better for everyone—but God will be
If not here and now while those of us who belong to God can revel
in the spiritual victory this side of Heaven, then someday, after time and
opportunity for lost souls to repent have passed, whichever works best for the
Father (Eph. 1:11, Phil. 2:9-11).
In the meantime, we deal.
Well, I’m learning the key to contentment right here, right
now is in focusing not on what I have to offer, but on the miracles God can
accomplish through a surrendered life and making a conscious effort to give Him
mine, day in and day out.
I may never feel the kind of happy I long for this side of
Heaven, but even this lack can be a blessing when viewed from the right
“…And if He rescued
Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless man
(for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his
righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)…then the Lord knows how
to rescue godly men from trials…” (2 Pet. 2:7-8).
You see, friends, this ache in our hearts over the depravity
of man and its byproducts is natural for those who walk with and by the Holy
Spirit. It’s not an annoyance to be
ignored, a distraction to be dulled, or a burden to be eased, but evidence that
we belong to God, a blessed reminder of Whose we are and the perfection we have
to look forward to when all is set right.
The empathic pain of God’s children is not a curse or
punishment to be endured, but motivation to pray without ceasing, love others
even when it hurts, rejoice when a lost soul is found, and celebrate when a
wayward sibling returns home, a divine privilege that expires when this breath
that is life blows past.
Although my children did
enjoy most of what came with being a minister’s kids—instant identity, a chance
to serve early, an extended family of believers ready and willing to invest in
them and help their parents, the opportunity to be part of something bigger
than themselves, a front row seat to what God was doing in the congregation and
community, etc.—they might have been wiling to give some of it up just to avoid
all the yuck.
I hate that.
What’s more, I hate that the yucky stuff they experienced is not unique to them. Apparently, it just comes with life in the ministry fish bowl.
Want to bless the kiddos who are still swimming? Consider the following insights and suggestions
from twelve grown ministers’ kids who survived the fish bowl to tell, their
love for Jesus and the Church intact.
Ministers’ kids often
feel isolated. It only takes
a few non-invitations and quickly shushed conversations for ministers’ children
to understand they are different and can expect to be left out from time to
time. Add to that disappointment a few
forced or assumed volunteerings that further separate them from their peers,
and you’ve created a lonely kid.
problem by giving them special privileges they don’t want or need and making an
example of them when they fail to live up to your expectations, and you’ve
built a wall they must scale just to make and keep friends. In their efforts to scale this wall and prove
they are just like everyone else, many ministers’ children overcompensate,
further alienating those who work with them and their peers.
kids are not spies for their parents.
They probably tell their parents what they see and hear because that’s
what kids do with their parents, but it’s very unlikely they were sent. Their parents have enough to deal with
without looking for something else, and if their parents do misuse the information they receive, that’s on them, not the
child. Besides, if you can’t say what
you were saying or do what you were planning to do in front of your minister’s
kid, you probably shouldn’t be saying or doing those things anyway.
Just treat ministers’ kids like you would treat anyone
else. Give them time to develop
according to God’s plan for their lives without the distraction of a
spotlight. Respect their individuality. Most importantly, be real. Invite them to watch as you let God transform
you into the image of Christ, polishing that which resembles Christ and
chipping away the rest, so they’ll know it’s okay not to be perfect yet even as
we aim for perfection together with God’s help.
Minister’s kids are more
self-aware than you think and harder on themselves than you’ll ever be. Odds are, if you’ve thought something
about your minister’s kids, they have, too, and are just hoping they can work
through or cover up what they consider to be glaring inadequacies in themselves
before those inadequacies are noticed and yield consequences. They know their actions affect their
parents. You don’t have to tell
them. They feel it every day and
probably hear it more often than you think.
When your minister’s kids need correction and your relationship to or with them makes it appropriate for you to do the correcting, correct them the same way you would any other child. Give yourself time and space to cool off, take a moment to prepare your heart so you don’t misrepresent our just, but loving Heavenly Father, and then say and do only what must be said and done as privately as possible.
Don’t project. Don’t extrapolate, and don’t drag things out. When it’s all over, give your minister’s kids the same clean slate other children enjoy for free. Ministers’ kids who are made to work for that clean slate—and many are—often struggle to believe they are truly free in Christ. Some spend the rest of their lives trying to earn grace, and some just give up. Those who give up often leave the church altogether.
Ministers’ kids may
be reluctant to trust. Many have
been burned personally. Almost all have
watched their parents suffer. Go
easy. Don’t force it. Once you’ve earned their trust, you’ll get
friends, whatever else they may be, whatever else they may have done,
ministers’ children—of all ages—are just sinners in need of a Savior and the
social and emotional space to get to know Him better among brothers and sisters
who illustrate His mercy and grace.
me. Just like you.
please, please, “love your (minister’s
kid) as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
If it’s God’s will for a person to become a minister, then
it’s His will for that person’s children to grow up in a minister’s home, but
life in that fish bowl isn’t easy, folks!
For a scene from my
own daughter’s life, see Understanding
and Loving Ministers’ Kids Part 1.
Many ministers’ kids grow up carrying the weight of a calling
not their own. Want to ease their load and love these young people well? Here are a few more insights and suggestions,
courtesy of 12 grown ministers’ kids who still love the Church and Jesus with
all their hearts.
Ministers’ kids are
just kids. Ministers’ kids move from immaturity to maturity as time and
experience provide opportunity without skipping any steps or stages, succeeding
and failing in sporadic rhythm like everyone else. Although some may exhibit
behavior that suggests advanced maturity in one or more areas, this doesn’t
mean they have fully matured in every area. It’s more likely they’ve simply gotten
good at reading and pleasing people.
Interact with ministers’ children on an age-appropriate
level. Don’t lay on their shoulders any burden of expectation that you would
hesitate to lay on the back of any other person at their stage of development
or level of experience. Don’t tell them things they don’t need to know, and
don’t be surprised when they take three steps forward and two steps back like
everyone else. That’s how we learn. Highlight their progress, not their
Ministers’ kids are
not super-Christians. They may not even be Christians yet. Assume
nothing—including an individual call to vocational ministry, as we no longer
assign “priesthood” by tribe—but inform, encourage, and correct them with the
same love and patience you would show any other person who is learning to walk
to and with Jesus.
Remember, it is God
Who convicts, draws, rescues, and transforms sinners—not ministers—and He does it in His wisdom, His way, and His
perfect timing so as to bring about His greatest glory in the process.
It could take a while.
For some ministers’ children, just being a minister’s kid is itself a hurdle or roadblock to their
placing their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and/or growing in their
faith, as many have either had a peek behind the curtain and witnessed less
than Christ-like behavior from those whom the congregation at large considers
to be spiritual leaders or are hesitant to admit they need more information or
help because they don’t want their ignorance or personal struggle to discourage
or reflect badly on their already overwhelmed parents.
Understand, your minister’s family is on a learning curve, too, often counseling and leading others ahead of their own life experience and just praying they don’t trip anyone up. Rest assured, if you are ready for your minister’s child to become more like Christ, so is your minister, for their child’s sake and God’s. Lend your encouragement, support, and prayer as God does His work, not unrealistic expectations and deconstructive criticism.
(To be continued…)
“Can anyone name one of the twelve apostles?”
Ebbing at the altar steps, tiny bodies form a choppy sea
that ripples in all directions, a spotlight their temporary sun.
I scan the throng for my child’s face and find it, front and
center. Eager, her chin is tilted toward
the man giving the children’s sermon, a trusted friend.
Others are wiggling and waving, but she’s thinking hard, wanting so much
“Hope?” the man asks, calling her out.
Her jaw drops. Her
My breath hitches.
She isn’t ready. Anyone with eyes
can see she isn’t ready.
Callous or clueless, he presses, “Surely you know the answer, Hope.”
“P-p-paul?” she squeaks, face white, fingers working
fast. My ears begin to ring.
“PAUL? Hah! Nooooooo.” Hope hugs her tummy and looks for
me. Our eyes meet, and my heart takes
the weight of her shame.
The nightmare continues.
“I thought surely
the youth pastor’s kid would know.” Looking to the audience for consensus, this
trusted brother chuckles.
The man laughs!
Response is mixed.
Some chuckle on cue. Others
shift, obviously uncomfortable, but no one corrects him in that moment, and the
damage is done. A checklist of musts
that God did not write is forever tattooed on my daughter’s heart.
I don’t expect everyone to understand the effect this kind
of behavior has on ministers’ children and their families, what goes on in
their hearts and minds on a daily basis, or the unique burden that these people
carry. I truly think you have to live it
to get it.
Or be told.
This being true, I interviewed a dozen ministers’ kids who are now all grown up. With their help, I offer the following insight into their shared experience and a few suggestions as we move forward together.
Ministers’ kids are not their parents. They may look like their parents, sound like their parents, and possess some of the same mannerisms as their parents, but they are their own people, complete with their own unique set of strengths, weaknesses, needs, and opinions.
When interacting with them, do not assume
familiarity you have not earned. When
attempting to build a relationship with them, start at square one like you
would anyone else. Ask thoughtful
questions. Listen to their answers. Do life with them and build on that common
experience rather than on a shared history with their parents that will never
mean as much to the children as it does to you and their parents. Give them time. If they seem uninterested in building a
personal relationship with you, respect their wishes. Their parents may have a vocational
obligation to minister to you beyond what the Bible requires of any other set
of spiritual siblings, but they do not.
Don’t pump ministers’ kids for information
or use them to manipulate, punish, or get close to their parents. Not only does this not work, as their parents
are most likely pros at spotting this behavior and dismissing those who
practice it as untrustworthy, but the kids are often pros as well. They may not fully understand nuance or be
able to explain what’s happening, but they know in their gut when someone is
being fake or using them. At best, they
will build an emotional wall meant to keep you out. At worst, they will build an emotional wall
meant to keep most people out, just
in case, and arm the battalions, preventing healthy connection with people who
could have become effective mentors and stunting their spiritual growth.
(To be continued…)